She has started an interactive art project called "Before I Die...." in her New Orleans neighborhood on a building which had been abandoned after Hurricane Katrina's devastation.
She says she seeks to transform neglected spaces into a constructive places where we can discover the hopes and dreams of the people around us.
She may be onto something.
The project has, apparently, caught on in neighborhoods around the world.
There are now "Before I Die..." interactive community art projects around the world, including "Amsterdam, Portsmouth, Querétaro, Almaty, San Diego, Lisbon, Brooklyn, and beyond. "
It's a very simple project - including the project materials, which include an abandoned building or wall (with permission of the owner, of course), some sheets of plywood, Chalkboard paint, stencils, spray paint and, of course, different colors of "sidewalk chalk".
People will come back. Again, and again, and again. Sometimes, writing the same thing, and other times different things.
You really can't take away someone's hopes and dreams. They'll just keep coming back to the wall with them.
This whole concept really struck me after a conversation with my friend, Maria Evans who has a delightful blog Kirepiscatoid . She also writes occasionally for Episcopal Cafe, in the "Daily Episcopalian" section "Speaking to the Soul". Here's her Advent Meditation.
Somehow, we got from talking about "what's wrong with the church" (one of our favorite rants) onto the topic of "impatience" (not a hard jump when you consider the partners in this conversation).
She often takes the mundane or obscure and suddenly - without warning - it becomes an essay or a litany or a psalm. My personal favorite is "The Order of Service for Doing Laundry"("Rock of Ages, clean for me, Cheer and Tide I give to Thee.").
Which, perhaps "The Order of Service for Doing Laundry" may well be a better suited match, but you can't stifle the Spirit in these matters.
You might just call some bad juju on your impatient self.
When you read it, please note that the last line is mine. It goes:
"But I am singing, 'Lord, give me patience*,I can't hardly wait. (But, I think you already could have guessed that.)
and give it to me now. Right now, right now, right now'."
I suggested to Maria that I think impatience has to do with our ever-increasing awareness of the limits of our own mortality. I think even little kids have this deep awareness. I suspect impatience is a manifestation of this subconscious or unconscious sense that we want to get everything "in" before we "check out".
Dreams and hopes and longings can not be stifled forever. They are the working of the Spirit.
So, I had this thought as an online Advent Meditation: What if we started a "Before I Die...." chalkboard project in this cyberspace neighborhood?
It would be a wonderful community effort to name the impatience of our hopes and dreams and longings in this Season of Expectation.
I'll start off the question, and you all write your answers in the comment section of this blog. Hey, I'll even suspend my policy about "No Anonymous Comments" for this project.
Unless, of course, you say something hateful or hurtful, and then I'll erase it faster than you can say "sponge and water" or sing, "Rock of Ages, clean for me, Cheer and Tide I give to Thee".
Just to grease the wheels, here's what some folk have written:
Before I die I want to… sing for millions, see my daughter graduate, eat a salad with an alien, see the leaves change many times, be someone’s cavalry, straddle the International Date Line, cook a souffle, hold her one more time, make it in the hip hop, help numerous children, see what I’m like as an old man, tell my mother I love her, make peace with Ohio, abandon all insecurities, be completely myself, evaporate into the light…
Before I die.... I want to stand on the beach in front of the ocean and sing and dance naked in the moonlight and be completely unashamed.
Okay. Your turn. Here's you're "chalk".
Have at it.
"BEFORE I DIE........."
I want to ____________________________.