My Material Life

The Story of the Sidewalk Chalk Fairy

Early last week I was feeling so low about things in the news. One brutal act after another. Then as I was rinsing a dish at my kitchen sink I saw a dear neighbor walk by through my window. She and her family are going through a hard time right now and I find myself wondering at her courage every day. The next day I went to get my mail and I found the following written in chalk on the sidewalk …mml smile chalkThe day after that this appeared …

mml golden slumbers chalk

Now I had heard rumors that such a thing existed. What thing, you ask? Some benevolent youngster with a fine command of the English language, nice printing and a piece of white chalk? No, I’m pretty sure I’ve never encountered one of those, have you? What I’m talking about is a sidewalk chalk fairy. One who sends messages of love and hope and encouragement to those who pass by. It was like an answer to a wish. Because whenever I see that friend and her family walk by I want to send them a blessing. To keep going, to believe that they will find joy again even though their suffering is so great right now and their struggle so hard.

mml ooh chilld chalkNow this next one took me a bit by surprise. The writing was so much looser and in color and with an illustration! I figured the fairy had been spending too much time in the sun or been drinking or had turned the day’s work over to a younger assistant. But those words – you’ll walk in the rays of the beautiful sun – they seemed familiar. As did the other two when I thought about it. Of course the second one comes from an old English nursery rhyme and Paul McCartney has used those words in a song as well. It was then I realized that this sidewalk chalk fairy took her (for some reason I assume she’s a she) material from song lyrics. And why not? I mean that’s pretty smart – why reinvent the wheel? If it works for politicians and their speeches (sharing material that is), then it should work for a sidewalk chalk fairy stuck working through the hottest days of a drought-stricken California summer, right?

mml something's coming chalk

When I saw this one it seemed our fairy had sobered up again (even though she still had trouble keeping that second line straight) and I realized that her repertoire included Broadway musicals.

mml mtrrtmy chalk

Now this is a lovely sentiment, but what song does it come from? Was she changing things up on us? I’m guessing she had her assistant do the illustration; I like that assistant’s work very much.

mml better things chalk

A change in color and probably not a well-known song even though it should be. Good for our fairy. She’s digging deep.

mml stand chalk

Here’s one a bit unexpected in tone with what we’ve seen so far, but so true and so necessary.

mml you can't take me chalk

You may find this all very hard to believe, but I tell you I saw our sidewalk chalk fairy today! And not only that, I talked to her too (and yes, I was right about her being a she). I asked her how long she’d stay, but she couldn’t give me any kind of definite answer. She said there were fewer and fewer of her kind. What with the heat and dryness and all many of the sidewalk chalk fairies are looking for other lines of work or at least moving to areas where they can find cooler sidewalks. She asked me not to tell you anything about what she looked like because she prefers to remain anonymous, but she did tell me one very important thing that she wanted me to share with you. In fact, it just may be the moral of this story. What she wanted me to tell you is this …

When there is no fairy, be the fairy.

Now can you guess the songs these words come from? They are all lyrics, though some are slightly altered.


  1. Kathie Nowka

    Beautiful reminders, and how lovely to do such a thing for your neighbors! Especially hopeful for the youngest members of the neighborhood in these times. Sometimes the simplest things can have the most impact. Sending my best to the “Sidewalk Fairy” and her assistant!

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