Ribbons of Awareness <

Signs Along the Way… Ribbons of Awareness



They seem to be everywhere and cover just about every cause… ribbons looped in symbolism and worn on lapels, on web sites and most recently on automobiles.  You can see many versions of the latest ribbon campaign as you drive or walk through a parking lot and perhaps even your car sports one.  I’m not sure when I began noticing this modern “bumper sticker” of support, remembrance and awareness but recently I began to see something more in these looped statements.  <><


It might have been the sideways application that caused me to “see” these magnetic ribbons differently.  It seems that not all auto designs have enough rear end sheet metal to allow for vertical display.  Other car owners apparently want you to read the horizontal printed message urging “Support Our Troops” or asking “God Bless America.”  Whatever the reason, the symbolism of the horizontal ribbon display has taken on a more Christian meaning for me as I encounter them again and again.  <><


Now my love of history got the best of me and no sooner had I begun to ponder all these ribbons and I had to do some research.  On my way to the library I had a 70’s flashback and the song “Tie A Yellow Ribbon” was soon bouncing around my head.  Did the song have something to do with all this?  Where did all the current ribbon manifestations in dozens of colorful adaptations to remember everything from HIV/AIDS to Breast Cancer to 9-11 come from?  <><


In May 1973, “Tie A Yellow Ribbon” sold more than three million copies.  Researchers have linked it to folk tales and songs back hundreds of years.  While no one can validate that ribbons, yellow or otherwise were worn historically, the seventies song did manifest as a fashion statement during the Iranian hostage crisis.  A decade later during the Gulf War, yellow ribbons reappeared and in the decade and a half since, they have been adapted/adopted to symbolize hundreds of causes, most recently for the War in Iraq.  <><


If you look at the current magnetic ribbon horizontally you will see an ancient and yet familiar Christian symbol, the fish.  This symbol, the sign of the fish which dates back to the first century was used to secretly identify believers to one another.  The Greek word for “fish” is IXOYS, the acrostic of which reads, “Lesous Christos Theou Uios Soter” or “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior” from the letters iota, chi, omicron, upsilon, and sigma.  By drawing the symbol of the fish, Christians revealed both their identity and the basis of their faith.  <><


While we recognize the cross as the primary symbol of Christianity today, the fish was most likely the first, having been found by archeologists in Christian tombs and identified Christian ruins in Rome.  Apparently the symbol identifying a fisherman to the non-believer and sometimes to a persecutor of Christians, has biblical roots in the imagery of the feeding of thousands from one boy’s lunch of loaves and fish, or Christ’s call to follow him and become fishers of people.  <><


I wonder if in this region of New England where 40 percent of people have no relationship with a faith community if the horizontal ribbons of awareness may be due to more than the shape of a car.  Perhaps the drivers are Christians proclaiming their faith.  Perhaps these symbols, like the silver IXOYS fish on some cars are invitations.  Perhaps they may be signs to fellow believers, more subtle than the silver more permanent symbols of faith.  Whatever the reason, I appreciate the symbol of fellow believers and the symbol of the basis of our faith as I drive.  <><


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