My parents gave me a silver cross as a graduation present from preschool. My cross was about two inches long and one inch wide. It had small round shimmering white diamonds that rested on a silver backing and hung from a thin dainty silver chain. The chain was made up of tiny silver circles concatenated to create a narrow silver line. The metal was cold and felt smooth and fragile. The diamonds reflected beams of light like a kaleidoscope onto the wall and sparkled in the summer sunlight.
The cross I now wear is gold. It has sharp 90 degree corners and no diamonds. The chain of my new cross is thicker than that of my first, and it has small, interlocked, rough, gold circles. The cross itself is very smooth and shiny, and I can see shadows in the reflection of the cross. It hangs in the middle of my chest, so it is midway between a choker and a pendant.
I often gaped at the stained glass windows at my Church on ninety-second street during Sunday School. I was mesmerized by the striking assemble of deep blue and red and green and purple that shone through the small fragments of glass. However, I was not only entranced by the breathtaking stained glass windows, for there was another illustration that frequently caught my eye. Mounted on the wall was a colossal painting of a pale, gaunt young man nailed to a brown wooden sculpture. Red blood dripped from his pale hands and pale feet. I recognized the shape of the brown wooden sculpture from the necklace my mother always wore; however, her necklace had shimmering white diamonds and not a gory dead man. As I studied the painting, I felt my small palms and imagined how painful it would be to have nails pierce my flesh like the young man; I wondered why he was nailed to the brown wooden sculpture. A few Sundays later, I learned that the pale, gaunt young man was Jesus, and he was nailed to the brown wooden sculpture, which was called a cross, because he had different beliefs than most people. I remember sitting on the faded blue carpet with small red specks in my Kindergarten classroom when my teacher walked up to me and instructed me to take off my cross that I had received as a graduation present from preschool. I was confused as to why I had to take off my silver cross with small round shimmering white diamonds, but I complied and placed my cross in the front pocket of my navy nylon backpack. When I arrived home, my mother asked me why I was not wearing my cross, and I told her what my teacher had said. My mother was furious that I was not allowed to wear my cross, and she informed me that I should be allowed to keep it on as it was religious. However, I did not understand why it was such a grave matter that I was not allowed to wear my cross, for it was only a necklace.
Last week while wearing my gold cross, I was asked if I was actually Christian. Due to my confused face, they followed up the question with, “Or is your cross a fashion statement?”. Why would I wear a cross as a fashion statement? I wear my cross as a symbol of my religion, not because it is a fashion trend. I wear my cross because it makes me feel more connected to God, and wearing it is a reminder that I am never alone and that He is always watching over me. I distinctly remember last year when a few people at school prayed and did the sign of the cross as a joke. I watched them laugh as they incorrectly copied the movements I performed every night when I prayed, and I stood, conflicted, whether to say something or let it go. I did not end up confronting them about what I had witnessed, but I still often remember this occurrence. People often compliment my cross by saying “Your cross is really pretty” or “I really like your cross”. I am not fond of small talk, but I say “Thank You” and continue to compliment them about something anyways. I always wear my cross, and I commonly wonder what assumptions are made when people see me wearing a cross. I ponder about what assumptions they make about me as an individual, but also about Christians in general.
When I was younger, I used to only like my cross because of its small round shimmering white diamonds. I was fond of watching the diamonds sparkle in the light and feeling the chain swing across my neck like a pendulum. I still wear a cross, except I wear it for different reasons. I now wear my cross because it demonstrates my commitment to my faith and is a symbol of Jesus’ sacrifice for humankind. I wear my cross while swimming in the cold ocean, running in Central Park, and writing this essay. Since I received my first silver cross, my face has become more developed, I have grown taller, and my hair has become much darker. I have also become more religious, appreciative, and considerate as a result of my faith. I have learned that Christmas is about giving, you must always be appreciative of your blessings because they are impermanent, everything happens for a reason, and that God has a plan for everyone. I take my religion seriously, and I now pay attention during mass and try to comprehend the sermon and how it applies to me. I have learned the great significance held by the brown wooden sculpture, and it has changed my life.