I get all my ink done by my friend Matt in Seattle. I still remember flying in, sitting down with him, and saying “I want my next tattoo to say ‘No Man Shall Live For Himself,’ and I want it on my left forearm.” We sat there together and dialogued about it. He asked me what the phrase meant to me, and why I’d chosen my left forearm for it. It was a great conversation. I always have great conversations with Matt! And this one meant a lot to me. It was the first conversation I had about this tattoo.
Since then, so many people have been grabbed by it. It’s a statement. I remember Matt saying that it was a great idea because it’s the kind of phrase that people would Google or use in a library search. He said it was intriguing. And it’s true! I mean, people from 15 to 80 have grabbed my arm and said, “Do you mind if I read what your forearm says?” It always results in a good conversation. I’ve had such a great time with that. I love talking with people about what the phrase means and what it stands for. These conversations happen everywhere, while I’m out and about or doing things in the community. It’s just really cool.
Throughout my career as a pitcher with the Giants, I helped out at the Larkin Street youth shelter. I still go there. I was there the other day! I’ve learned a lot from my time there.
Street kids can be a little suspicious, for obvious reasons. They are smart.
When I was over at Larkin Street after getting this tattoo, talking with these kids and doing stuff with them, I noticed that they’d started looking down at my arm. I would see them turn their heads sideways a bit to read. Then they would look up at me. And suddenly, it was so much easier for them to open up to me in conversation.
Think about it from their point of view. Here comes this guy, me, and they have to ask themselves, “Why is he here? What is his motive? He has a platform. How is he using it? Does he really care about me, or is he just here to represent a baseball team?” Good questions! They are smart for asking.
When Larkin Street kids see “No Man Shall Live For Himself” on my arm, it calms them. It speaks to them. It says, “Now this guy, he really wants to be here with us. He’s tattooed it on his arm! He doesn’t want to live for himself. He wants to be a servant leader. His tattoo says that when he goes and does something, like coming here, he has a motive. He wants to help other people.”
This tattoo invites me in. Those kids see it, and they let me in.
These days, when young kids see a tattoo, they regard it as a sign. To them, tattoos are permanent and significant. Tattoos speak. They say, “This is who I am.” And there’s story that goes with each one.
For young people now, tattoos have meaning. They’re not just something you get while you’re intoxicated or because you’re trying to rebel. They’re not something you do just because somebody else did it. They’re not something you do half-heartedly.
There’s a solid meaning behind every tattoo.
More on this next time. See you Monday.