We will be having brunch with friends and then moving on to a theater to see Saving Mr. Banks, a movie I hear is partly about achieving a goal. For a surprise at brunch, I have put together a Christmas stocking full of little gifts for each of the couples we are seeing and tucked inside packets of sidewalk chalk. You may ask—and they may too after emptying their socks—why give this child's toy, some silly chunks of colored chalk?
My answer: Because I read about the book Before I Die. The book spurred me to think about our public spaces, the places we share with our neighbors, and about the internal spaces, the dreams we share with few or maybe no one. To inspire that kind of thinking is part of the reason Candy Chang designed her project. It's a fill-in-the-blank chalkboard on the wall of an abandoned house, now being duplicated all over the world. In chalk, people answer the question of what they want to do before they die. (More here.)
Chang says in an interview (Forecast Public Art):
I used to think of sharing with my neighbors for very practical reasons, but it’s changed into something much more personal. The projects I make come from questions I have. They started out quite practical: ... How can we lend and borrow more things without knocking on each other’s doors at a bad time? How can we share more of our ideas for our vacant storefronts?
They’ve become more emotional as I’ve become consumed with personal well-being and what it means to lead a fulfilling life. And this has made me look at my neighbors differently. We’re not just neighbors in a place, but we’re also neighbors in making sense of our lives. How can we share more of our hopes, fears, and stories? We struggle with a lot of the same issues. How can we help each other see we are not alone?
How can we help each other see we are not alone? That's a good question, one that I want the gifts of chalk to represent. The chalk asks my friends: What goals and dreams do you have? Is there any way I can help you achieve them? If so, please tell me. Or draw me a picture . . . there are many blank sidewalks around my home and yours.
Note (added 2:45 PM): Well, brunch was so-so; the food was lukewarm and the prime rib was so tough I could not chew it. When we had Christmas brunch at the same place a couple of years ago, it was very good. Then, this afternoon, we arrived at the theater to learn that the time listed on the Internet did not match the time the movie was showing. So no Saving Mr. Banks!
Next year, we will go back to our regular plans which include brunch at a Jewish deli, a walk in the nearby shopping center, and a movie at the theater there. Today presents a terrific opportunity to be mindful in the midst of a tepid situation. As my guy said a few minutes ago, "There is nothing we can do now; we'll be sure not to make this mistake again."
It's a sunny day with a beautiful blue sky. Much here is very, very good. And we are now laughing about the way plans can take you straight down the road to the unexpected.