Handle With Care: The Box Project

Usually you can set your watch to the time the mailman comes around my neighborhood, high noon. Tuesday was different, though. Here it was almost one-thirty in the afternoon when I saw him rushing to stuff envelopes and other junk mail into the row of metal boxes across the street from my house.

“You got the mail for Cortez? I asked.

“Yeah, you got a box,” the mailman responded. “But I don’t think there’s anything in it.”

And upon turning the key to open our mail slot – you have to wiggle the key a bit – I saw the box our mailman was talking about. He was right; there wasn’t anything inside, yet when you close your eyes and think for a moment, the box contained something incredibly profound.

Rewind to last week when a press release made its way to my inbox, a brief write-up about The Box Project, started in 2006 by New York artist Franck De Las Mercedes. The press release proudly announced that De Las Mercedes was celebrating his fifth year mailing free, colorful boxes of peace, each a unique and brilliant work of art carefully put together with a stamp that reads: FRAGILE: CONTAINS PEACE.

The Box Project is De Las Mercedes’ way of giving a piece of art, a piece of himself, to anyone who wants one. In return, a person is able to receive a tangible object that contains a powerful message, one that should resonate within each and every one of us. According to his web site, the boxes must be free “in order to reinforce and remind us that things like peace and hope are not only free but also a priority.”

The boxes carry as much symbolism as much as they could influence positive change. You see, like De Las Mercedes’ boxes, each of us is unique in our own right, works of art, if you will. And as the boxes indicate the peace they contain inside, we posses the ability to promote it – and it doesn’t cost anything.

You can literally throw a rock from my hometown of El Paso, Texas and have it land in another country, yet as close as El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua are in proximity, the concept of peace seems millions of miles a way on the Mexican side of the border. If ever there was a place to deliver peace, it’s there.

A brutal drug war has ensured the deaths of thousands of men, women and children throughout the frontera. And it’s mostly a turf war, the winning cartel getting the right to control a key drug trafficking route to one extremely valuable consumer: the United States.

From our vantage point in El Paso, we can only watch and read of the daily chaos taking place in Juarez, each violent act causing shockwaves in both cities. The violence hit close to home earlier this year when a co-worker of mine lost his 16-year-old son – men wielding machine guns riddled a used car lot with bullets, killing everyone in sight.

We can all use some peace. But right now I encourage everyone to not only request his or her own free box, but also consider making a donation to the cause (shipping isn’t exactly cheap, you know). Visit De Las Mercedes at www.fdlmstudio.com and click on the “priority boxes” link.

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