Destination: The park. Lots of joggers, commuters and assorted waterfowl to inspire. Since it's right next to the police station she is cautious about exposure. She has learned that the paths with overhanging branches tend to shield the chalking from the occasional sprinkle of raindrops. Other good places: near park benches, so that a passerby might stop and sit for a while to think about the quote for a minute; on a path leading to the gazebo, since it’s at the center of the park and everyone seems to wind up there at one time or another; or on a path cutting diagonally through the park that the commuters like since it is a shortcut.
The Mad Chalker stalks through the park, staking out the perfect spot; not too near where the last quote was, not where too many people will ask questions. She likes to keep people guessing. This way any casual passerby may get an unexpected dose of inspiration, while the morning regulars can be surprised and not always look for a quote in the same place every time. The quotes aren’t meant to be an attraction, but a little jolt to get people to think. If they were expected, they might not be as effective.
All is quiet. She selects a marbled blue piece of chalk, kneels down, and begins her work.
It will probably come as no surprise to know that I am the Mad Chalker. I have had an inclination towards inspiration (as well as some really great chalk) for a mighty long time. It took some nice weather to finally get me into gear. I began my mission at the end of Spring. I thumbed through my well-worn copy of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron for some juicy, thoughtful quotations. I wanted to make sure that they weren’t too esoteric and that someone walking by would be able to grasp them quickly… not just quotes for artists, but for the artist in everyone. I was also afraid that someone would see me doing it and make me stop (it’s not against the law, but my park is right next to a police station and I could just see an officer asking me questions)… but I figured I had nothing to lose. I’d go out with my chalk, and if someone made me stop, I’d politely contest it; and if it really caused a ruckus, I’d simply go chalk somewhere else. So I stuck my chalk and my tissues in my pockets and went out to the park the first day, a little nervous and very excited. I circled the park a few times, chose my spot, and started chalking away.
My quote for that first morning was, "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you will land among the stars," (attributed to Les Brown). I stood up, looked at it, and decided to add a moon and a bunch of stars all along the path, leading people in to read the quote. Joggers who came by slowed down to look, and then ran onto the grass, which was nice of them. As I was finishing up, a woman and her two dogs came by. She stopped to read it, and wanted to know if I was doing it for school. I said no, it was just a nice day and I had chalk and I needed to draw something. (Made perfect sense to me!) Then I offered her the chalk in case she wanted to draw something; she said no. She walked past a few steps, turned back and said thoughtfully, "What a lovely thought to start the morning with." That was my whole point! Mission accomplished!
Throughout the weeks that followed, I chalked regularly, at least twice a week. When rain or an overzealous hose obliterated a quote, I found a new one to take its place, never chalking the same one twice. I don’t know why, but I just felt like repeating myself would be too easy and I didn’t want anyone taking the time to look down and say, “Oh, I’ve seen THAT one before.” People should have new ideas to think about and challenge themselves with. I began finding wonderful sources of quotes through websites, online friends, and family, and my quote resources grew and grew. Most days nobody noticed when I was chalking; either nobody was around or joggers would step out of my way but never stop. I didn’t really care… I was having so much fun chalking that I trusted that somebody, sometime, must be reading them.
One Saturday morning I did my chalking late. I usually like to chalk on weekday mornings reeeeeeeeeally early, around 6:30, but it had rained a lot and I hated the idea of an unchalked and quoteless park for the weekend, when most people visit the park. I was just itching to get back out there. This time, I wrote, "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is." (by the wonderful Albert Einstein) A shadow fell on the walk, and I looked up to see the same woman and her two dogs, this time with her husband. Again, she pressed me for reasons why I was doing this; was I part of a church group (yes, but this had nothing to do with it) or something else. I admitted that I just liked the idea of leaving inspiring quotes around for people to find. She said that the quote she had seen the first day really had a big influence on her; and she recited it, from memory. When I asked why, she and her husband exchanged glances. He said, "She saw that quote, went home and applied to graduate school." She smiled. "I figured I had nothing to lose." I was shocked, and elated…those quotes were making people think! I give that woman so much credit for allowing herself to take that leap. Again, I offered the chalk to them if they wanted to draw something, but they smiled and declined. As they continued their walk, she said, "This is a wonderful mission.... make sure you continue." And I am. I'd really rather nobody saw me, but it's nice to know it really IS making a difference just the same. I oh-so-casually said goodbye, then ran home and did a happy dance out of sheer joy.
This story ordinarily would end here, with “And they all chalked happily ever after,” but September 11th changed all that for everyone.
When I heard the news that morning I prayed like crazy. Thankfully, my brother and other family members hadn’t gone into work in the area of the World Trade Center for various reasons (which is a miracle in itself). I grieved with the rest of the nation. All around me that day were cries of bewilderment and anger. I knew more than ever we needed peace in abundant amounts to give us hope, so that very day, my online friends throughout the country and I started chalking for peace.
I posted a mission to chalk for peace on my website with the challenge, “Here are two things you can do: Pray hard, and get out that chalk!” with a list of inspirational quotes in case anyone needed a jump start. In the days afterward I heard chalking stories from all parts of America and from Canada, and even from cities in Europe. Some of them faced problems I’ve never had, like seeing someone erasing their sentiments with a wet rag, as if it was common graffiti. One woman was confronted and had to defend her beliefs as she chalked for peace. For me it’s been the same as always: very quiet, with an occasional passerby saying, “Oh, you’re the one who does that.” I had a lovely talk over one of the quotes with an Indian woman who follows the Jain religion, who believes in honoring and safeguarding the lives of all living things. She approved of the message of peace, explaining, “In my religion, you don’t even step on a bug… you put yourself in the place of that bug, and ask how you would feel to be stepped on.” I nodded, as I looked down and noticed that I was standing on the grass, probably squishing all sorts of natural life, while she stood serenely on the path. (Oops.) While she is a Jain vegetarian and I am a Catholic omnivore, we still have the same longing for peace at heart.
I choose my quotes more carefully now than ever. On the morning of September 12th, I chalked “For it isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” from Eleanor Roosevelt, and “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson. I also added the words “pray hard” surrounded by a pink heart to each quote, because you know and I know that all the chalking in the world isn’t going to be what puts an end to war and terrorism, it will be the change in our hearts.
The main point about all this chalking is that everyone, everywhere can do it. YOU can do it, too. You don’t need to be artistic, you don’t need to be brilliant, and you don’t need to be anything but willing. Chalk is inexpensive and there are an awful lot of empty sidewalks in the world! Start in your own driveway or parking lot. Involve your family. Kids love to draw with chalk. Just imagine how beautiful your words would look with their heartfelt drawings of stars or hearts or flowers or trees next to them. Write a birthday message on your best friend’s driveway for all the neighbors to see. Write an “I love you” to your dear one to find as he leaves for work in the morning. Your chalking will make a positive difference in the world. Consider this an invitation to change your world, one sidewalk at a time.
quotes for peace chalking
Here are 2 things you can do: pray hard, and get out that chalk.
If you want to chalk for peace, here are some quotes to get you started:
If we have no peace,
it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
Peace and war begin at home. If we truly
want peace in the world, let us begin by loving one another in our
own families. If we want to spread joy, we need for every family
to have joy.
We shall find peace. We shall hear angels, we shall see the
sky sparkling with diamonds.
Peace is not something you wish for; it's something you make,
something you do, something you are, and something you give away.
We look forward to the time when the power of love will replace
the love of power.
Peace is our gift to each other.
For it isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe in
May all living things live in security and peace.
Give peace a chance.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
Imagine all the people living life in peace.
Where God is not, there can be no peace.
Without peace, all other dreams vanish and are reduced to ashes.
Lord, let me be an instrument of thy Peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light; And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled
as to console;
One little person, giving all of her time to peace, makes news.