When Edi Rama was elected Mayor of Tirana, Albania in 2000 he did something no politician had ever done. Formerly an artist and art professor, Edi had dozens of buildings in town painted bright colors. They had all been gray for decades under the previous dictatorship.
Leaders of other European countries were in uproar and asked him to resort to a more neutral look. “I told them no,” Rama explained. “When colors came out everywhere, a mood of change started transforming the spirit of the people … People started to drop less litter in the streets. They started to pay taxes. They started to feel something they’d forgotten … Beauty was giving people a feeling of being protected. This was not a misplaced feeling — crime did fall.” His TEDx talk, “Take Back Your City With Paint” has been viewed over half a million times.
Jesus was once asked how a human can enter the kingdom of God. “You must be born again,” he answered. This phrase has gotten a bad rap, and I understand why. It conjures thoughts of judgmental individuals using the Bible as a hammer to hit people over the head.
The concept of a dull, drab, gray city full of corruption and fear becoming a bright, multi-colored, vibrant, safe place may be a truer, though sorely inadequate, analogy of what it means to be reborn into the Lord’s domain. In fact, souls who are seeking might actually want to move there.
Alexander Woollcott once said to his fellow alumni of Hamilton College, “Some of you are successes and some are failures. And only God knows which are which.” But like the analogy in “Living Color,” a life that goes from darkness to light, from bleak to vibrant is compelling evidence that someone has found God and been transformed.