Thanks to Rev. Roslyn Harmon (of Sweet Potato Comfort Pie and Circle of Healing Ministry) for sharing a moment of grace in Healing Our City‘s Virtual Prayer Tent, which sparked this Great Idea.

Rev. Roz leads a healing ministry in North Minneapolis that has sent Sweet Potato Comfort Pies across the country to individuals, families and communities torn apart by violence and hatred and reeling from grief and loss. The extraordinary volunteers she rallies have worked tirelessly to bring healing pies of comfort to many in Minneapolis, as well, as police and local violence destroy lives and tear apart communities.

In her Virtual Prayer Tent reflection, Rev. Roz recalled a time when she was feeling particularly anxious and overwhelmed. She determined that a walk through her neighborhood might help calm her mind and relax her body.

As she walked along the sidewalk, she came upon a patch filled with sidewalk chalk: art and words drawn and written by young ones still full of hope. She read affirmations accompanied by little hearts; hopes covered in rainbows; dreams and positivity surrounded by suns and moons and stars. Her spirits were lifted as she recognized the Spirit of God sharing these messages directly and specifically to her frazzled soul.

This would make a simple, beautiful, and oft-repeatable community-focused summer project for all generations. Elders can help little ones determine phrases that would offer comfort, hope, and joy – specific to local needs. Parents and youth can help determine which sites might be the recipients (and they can drive and chaperone). And anyone with the agility to do so can get down on the ground to creatively offer words and images of hope and joy. Those whose knees are less inclined can pray, be “color consultants”, and help develop creative combinations of words and images.

Where in your community might chalk art have the greatest impact? Around your own building to welcome folks back is an idea. But what about your local nursing home, schools, or parks? Is there a prison, hospital, courthouse, or food shelf nearby?

What about other sacred spaces – other homes of worship or communal gathering? Might a joint effort build stronger community?

Or, perhaps there is one or more place(s) where the pandemic has left a specific wound, or where acts of injustice or violence have occurred. Let the children – and everyone – learn about these particular, local acts of injustice, racialized terror, or pandemic-based grief. Reflect on what particular words and images might be the most hope-bearing and healing.

Don’t be afraid to repeat whenever God rinses (i.e., after a rain, the chalk might need some renewing). Changing up the chalk art let’s folks know they are remembered and continue to be held in God’s presence.

This can be a joyful task and when accompanied by prayer, scriptural affirmations (Matt. 21:16; Isaiah 11:6), and an intergenerational cohort, the joy can only grow!

You can find a parallel Great Idea involving paper cranes here.