A church on 116th street in Harlem put up a giant chalk board encouraging passersby to write down what they want to do before they die.
It got my attention.
The first thing I noticed was how little space was allotted.
There was barely enough room to list one item, putting a lot of weight on the decision.
People had started to fill out the lines:
Before I die I want to: Know God.
Before I die I want to: Travel the World
Before I die I want to: Help the Poor
Before I die I want to: Help my Family
As I walked north reflecting on my options I came across a tree with a makeshift sign attached.
“The Future Belongs to Those Who Prepare for it Today.”
The homemade sign radiated warmth and enthusiasm.
Above the message from Malcom X it was signed: #CHALK HEROS
I loved the fact someone nailed a sign to a tree with a quote from Malcolm X. Its part of the eclectic scene in Harlem that you wouldn’t find in Tribeca or Chelsea.
But I didn’t think too much of it, at least not until the next evening when I came across a string of trees, one after the next, with similar signs.
The first quoted TV celebrity Oprah.
The second cited rapper Juvenile.
A third conveyed a personal thought.
I Googled #Chalk Heros and learned its a group founded in 2015 by a woman from Brooklyn named Roszie Energy.
A Youtube video describes how she grew up in a tough neighborhood. “Life wasn’t easy but I made it easy for myself. I created my own reality,” she said.
She says she has now dedicated herself to bringing joy into the word by spreading messages of “positivity.”
During Sundays in the summer she encourages her Facebook followers to meet at sites in Brooklyn or Harlem to create and hang signs.
After passing five or six trees with signs I find it impossible not to smile.
Its a reminder of the passion and energy of the city and how one person can change the environment for everyone.
I loved the simplicity of the last message.
“How amazing is it that you lived to see another day.”
It was a completely different message from the chalk board at the church, which focused on doing things before you die.
The #CHALK HEROS signs by contrast celebrate life.
It doesn’t take a lot to promote “positivity,” but it isn’t free either.
Roszie has set up a GoFundMe page seeking $500 to pay for chalk, wood, nails and hammers. It seems like a small price to pay.
**Published by Ted Merz Nov 4, 2016 **