I grew up in the Midwest and there was nothing better than a warm Spring day to shake off the chill of winter and enjoy being outside. As the days heated up, the countdown for school letting out for summer began. My childhood memories of summer are full of things like sleeping in, chasing fire flies, swimming pools, games of kick the can and decorating the neighborhood with sidewalk chalk.
Not all children are as fortunate as I was, we certainly weren’t wealthy but I always had everything I needed and then some. Over the past few years, I’ve become increasingly aware of just how very fine and fragile the line is between those who have and those not.
I can’t say that I’ve experienced it first hand, but I would imagine that summer days are just as easily filled with boredom and feelings of hopelessness rather than joy and lightheartedness if your family is on the verge of poverty.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by what feels like a state of scarcity in our world and to convince ourselves that the problems are too big for us to influence or change.
The Power of One
My friend, Jennifer Broderick, an artist in Ohio is an amazing example of how “just one person” can make a difference. Earlier this spring, a neighborhood with sidewalks decorated with sidewalk chalk art caught her eye, as did the evidence of a lack of financial means. Over the course of a few weeks and more than a few walks, the sight of children playing outdoors and the smiles on their faces was the start of something big.
Toward the end of April, Jennifer posted some pictures of her driveway which was covered in big X’s and O’s; it turns out that she had started leaving packages of chalk and notes of encouragement outside her house to inspire the children in the neighborhood to continue to play outside. Her post motivated more than a few artists from across the country to contact her directly and offer to donate chalk and money to help her with this inspirational project.
A few instant messages later, I placed an order for a package of big, fat pieces of sidewalk chalk in assorted colors and thanks to Amazon’s most excellent product recommendation engine, the order also included a gallon of Miracle Bubbles and a dozen wands. I thought that the bubbles would be a great extra surprise and something the kids would enjoy.
The image of kids playing with the bubbles was so delightful and distracting that I neglected to update the ship to address with Jennifer’s information and the order was on its way to Pennsylvania thanks to Amazon’s exceptionally fast fulfillment process.
Two days later the unopened box occupied the space next to my piano and my intention to send it to Jennifer was thwarted by news that caused an unwelcome turn of events in my own financial situation. In light of my change in circumstance, it seemed like spending money to ship the chalk and bubbles wouldn’t be prudent.
For the next couple of months, I enjoyed following the progress of Jennifer’s sidewalk chalk artists as their works of art transformed her neighborhood into an outdoor art show.
Project Sidewalk Chalk had evolved from Jennifer leaving sidewalk chalk on her front stoop to a full-blown community outreach project. Throughout the summer, she is attending numerous events to hand out individual packages of chalk to over 300 children within the community. Each donation includes a warm personal note from Jennifer explaining a little about the project and to spread the message: “Remember to be safe, make art and share it with the world.”
In the meantime the sidewalk chalk I’d purchased was still taking up space in my living room and I continued to debate with myself over spending the money to ship it.
What was holding me back? The bubbles. I knew that the shipping cost for the chalk and the bubbles combined would be more than what I had paid for the entire order, it didn’t make sense to pay return shipping on the order for the same reason and so the box continued to take up space.
Last week I had an “aha” moment! The bubbles and the chalk did not have to stay together and if I just shipped the chalk it would be affordable and although my personal situation hadn’t changed it felt like the right way to spend a few dollars. I wrote Jennifer a note, drove to the local shipping store and sent the chalk to Ohio with a prayer of thanks and a smile.
The only thing left was to figure out what an empty nester was going to do with a gallon of Miracle Bubbles and a dozen bubble wands.
Facebook to the Rescue!
I took a picture of the bubbles and accessories and posted it in “Lower Makefield is a Great Place to Live,” the Facebook group for the community I live in.
Almost immediately a woman from the area responded, “I’d be…I have granddaughters that love bubbles.” I sent her a friend request and an instant message to make arrangements, it quickly turned into an “It’s a small world” kind of moment.
She had been blowing bubbles with her grandchildren a couple of days before; they enjoyed it so much she used up an entire bubble wand and she was planning to buy more before they visited her again. Her youngest grandson is 15 months old and has Downs, she was also using the bubbles as a way to potentially help him to gain fine motor skills by reaching out to grab at them while one or more float in front of him.
As we made the pick up arrangements, we discovered that not only do we share the same zip code, our houses are less than 5 miles apart, her husband was a former patient of my chiropractor and she and her husband did some work with a lawyer who rented office space from my chiropractor when she owned the building. Crazy!
The bubbles are now in the loving hands of a grandmother and her grandchildren. 124 pieces of sidewalk chalk made it safely to Ohio.
Jennifer privately shared a few pictures of children who had already received their gift; they were adorable! We want to keep them safe, so I can’t share the pics publicly – but I’m sure you can imagine the smiles that surrounded the “Thank You” sign as they posed with their sidewalk chalk for the camera.