I guess you could call it a sign of the times.
It all started with sidewalk chalk, well actually not. But that was the idea we had. Hopscotch and curlicues drawn along the sidewalk, encouraging passersby to kick up their heels and play.
But this wasn’t what was in the package when our order arrived. Our new chalk was not of the sidewalk variety, it was of the chalkboard variety. “Dustless chalk!” it proclaimed, being of the modern day kind. One box: rainbow, one box: white; perfect for restaurants announcing daily specials to hungry would-be customers strolling on by.
Well, why not? I thought as I ordered such a sign. Not too big — didn’t want to trip people up — but big enough for people to read as they happen by. A few words. Just for fun. As we all take to the streets for our daily amble, pedal, jog or dog-walking excursion.
As all of us stuck in stay-at-home were having trouble keeping track of which day it was, the first sign idea was born. I wrote, “It’s Monday, you’re welcome” and set it on the small table in the front mulch bed. Please excuse the poor chalksmanship and drab color. We had low expectations.
But, wouldn’t you know? When I shared it on Facebook, folks liked it. (Apparently, others were having trouble deciding what day it was, too!) So, inspired and emboldened by Monday, I erased Monday’s for Tuesday’s. And Tuesday’s for Wednesday’s.
And that’s when it became a group effort. Our daughter (who is corona-stranded here with us) suggested “No whining Wednesday, but wining is okay.” And, she suggested, I might illustrate with a little wine glass by the wining, for those who might not be up on their homonyms.
So now this writer started ILLUSTRATING her words. Thankfully, chalk is a VERY forgiving medium. Passersby, being neighborly, kindly tolerated — heck, they even seemed to approve of my kindergarten drawing skills!
So “No Whining Wednesday” became “Thoughtful Thursday.” It was, after all, Maundy Thursday, the day we sit at table for the Last Supper with the one bound to save us. And then we were on to “Good Friday, neighbors.” That day we even received appreciative fan mail on an index card left by the sign.
This was getting serious. The bar was raising as increasing appreciation meant greater expectation. Sober Saturday, though it felt that way to me, didn’t seem encouraging enough, so now I had reached the second stage of sign-making: editing. I drew a line through Sober and wrote Silly, leaving the reader free to decide which their Saturday was. Who, really, was I to say?
But then came Sunday. Easter Sunday. “Serene Sunday,” the sign said. But was it? Certainly like no other Easter ever. All of us separated, one from the other, listening, watching, wishing, sending… Everywhere people were piping in Easter, but it didn’t feel like one.
But the sign proclaimed it anyway; this blank slate of an accidental chalk ordering had actually come to communal life. People riding slowed to catch today’s message. People doubled back to be sure they hadn’t missed it. One neighbor told me she drove out of her way on the way to work just to be encouraged by it.
What in the world? Well, yes, we did have some fanfare for Earth Day. One person even crossed the street to snap a photo of that one.
And Froggie Friday, that was a request. Wouldn’t you know we had frog visitors at the house that day?
Funny, it is only a sign propped up daily; a few chalked words and occasional amateur illustrations, then erased every evening to welcome the new day. It’s an original work of art with a 24 hour time limit. Who’d have thought something so temporary could stand the test of these times? Yet, day by day, it’s the gift we receive; the opportunity to write our way into each new day.
Last Sunday was “Sandhill Sunday! You say, Sandhill. We say, Sunday.” (Our community is called Sandhill Preserve, so there was a certain team spirit invested in that one.) Passersby waved and thanked, cars and bikes slowed to fist pump and smile and the curious circled extra wide to come looking.
There’s just something about an encouraging word or two and a community who needs one. I’m betting you live in such a community and you, my reader, are just such a writer.
We’ve been at this since April the 6th when it was “Monday, you’re welcome.” Expectations remain low and appreciation, high. Suggestions keep rolling in. There’s never been a better time to use your words well.
Something captures us in this story, these characters, and their theme song.
Oh, we’ve read it a thousand times, thanks to Disney. Beautiful princess is rescued by fair prince. No, wait! That’s not this story, these characters, or this theme.
This re-telling compels us because it’s an improbable love story; beautiful Belle, kind, caring, determined, compassionate, loyal, faithful and brave meets grisly Beast, gruff, angry, fearsome, loathsome, solitary and hiding. It captures us anew because she rescues him.
We listen to the flowing phrasing, melting voices, and honey-sweet harmony, even on popular radio, because we recognize this story.
It’s… Tale as old as time
True as it can be
Barely even friends
Then somebody bends
It’s… Bitter-sweet and strange
Finding you can change
Learning you were wrong.
It’s… Certain as the sun
Rising in the east
Tale as old as time
Song as old as rhyme.
Beauty and the Beast.
We want to be the Beauty, but we are the Beast. What a moment it is when, even as beastly as we are, the beauty of Love transforms us. It’s a tale as old as time.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5:8
Imagine walking into a room full of people, totally unannounced, and having one remark, “Ah, it’s amazing what prayer can do!” And they meant you. They didn’t know you were coming. Had no idea to expect you. They weren’t looking for someone to save or rescue them; they were just fine before you came. Yet, when you walked in, you were the answer to prayer. God had sent you, and you didn’t even know it.
Does God have that power? Does He manipulate our days and our ways so that, when a call goes up or when a whisper bears your name, He plants the notion in you to do just that? I mean, does God mess with my mind without my permission?
That doesn’t sound like God to me. He seems more like the type that would come have a chat. You know, put an arm around my shoulder and say, “So, I have some things I need doing and I’d really like you to consider the job.” And then I would hem and haw and say, “Whoa, those are really big things” or “Um, I really don’t have those skills”… “Or are you out of your mind? I can’t do that!” and I would be looking at my Lord, expecting Him to recant or come to His senses. But He’d just smile and wait for me to come to mine.
Could this chat have been going on inside me before this prayer gathering? Could the suggestion have been made and the reasoning taken place that I needed to go gather a few more copies of the Lenten devotional books at the church? Why not do it at 1:00 when I knew this group usually gathered? Totally logical and very efficient. I could just poke my head in and say hello. No big deal. Until I saw the empty seat in the circle, the candle at the center and the smile that welcomed me. Then, what I thought was my idea became God’s idea. We synced up right there on the spot.
How does that happen? That “syncing” – such a fun word to describe the aligning of two things in a way that we can’t see and really can’t explain.
Could it all have been rehearsed and set perfectly in place by a force we don’t understand except maybe in our imagining? We’re in sync because we are the answer to the prayer of the other and they, the answer to ours. And not just one to one. But all of our stories meant to connect and build, one on the other. Just imagine the fabrication of that story. Pretty hard to believe, but maybe, if there was a frequency to which we are all being synced.
That would mean that when, totally by coincidence, someone seeks me out to assist their loved one who needs healing and strengthening and confidence, it’s not coincidence at all. I have been placed there.
What an incredible privilege. What a responsibility! To prepare myself – to take hold of the gifts I have and the skills and knowledge available – for that singular meeting. To be the answer to their prayer, and in a way I can only imagine, they to mine. On purpose.