Do you know of the Before I Die walls around the USA?

I didn’t until yesterday, when I tagged along with Todd on his business trip to Asheville. (What a great excuse to see the World’s Most Fabulous Grandbaby- and spend the night away from my sweet yet murderous cat who has beenĀ  toiling away at his self proclaimed duty of clearing our neighborhood of chipmunks, which he turns into gifts that he brings in my house. I needed a night off from the horror show.) Anyway, we walked around town and saw the wall, met its caretaker, the slightly disheveled guy who stands around the wall and talks to people and hands them chalk and keeps kids from messing it up with dirty pictures. Todd and I even picked up a piece of chalk and added our own words.

After we got back to the hotel, I googled it. It turns out that it’s part of a global art project created by Candy Chang in New Orleans, after someone she loved died. There are now 4000 walls in 75 countries and 36 languages.

What would you write on the wall?

I loved reading what others wrote. Here are some of them…

Before I die I want to climb a mountain into the clouds.

Before I die I want to pass high school.

Before I die I want to work in a children’s hospital.

Before I die I want to pet a groundhog.

Before I die I want to see my sons live out their God purpose.

Before I die I want to live to see my granddaughter.

Before I die I want to marry Joshua.

 

But my favorite by far was what someone added with art in the blank space.

USE MY PAIN TO HEAL OTHERS

The wall’s caretaker might have been the artist who added that- I’m not completely sure. But he saw me taking it in and walked over to me. He looked like he had seen a good amount of pain in his life. “You like it?” he asked. I nodded.

“It’s really beautiful,” I said.

And true, I could have added, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to pry into the life of this person, into his story.

“You’re an artist, aren’t you,” he said.

“Oh no,” I said. “I mean I love to play at it- it’s fun- but that’s not what I do.”

“Don’t denigrate yourself,” he said.

I scolded myself for being surprised that he used the word denigrate.

“You’re an artist, I can tell. Here,” he said, handing me three sticks of chalk, peach, green, white. “Draw something.”

“Oh no,” I said, trying to give it back.

“Oh yeah, you got to now. Draw something.”

I didn’t want to draw something- add my feeble attempt in front of Asheville- next to his beautiful self portrait, his truth. I wanted to hand him back his chalk and just appreciate his art. Write my own answer to the question of “Before I die I want to”– in words, the medium with which I’m comfortable, where I feel safe.

But then I realized that this is exactly what I want to do before I die! I want to live a life of expressing myself, of being who I believe God made me to be, WITHOUT THINKING ABOUT OR CARING MUCH WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK ABOUT WHAT I DO OR DRAW OR SAY. I want to share what God put in me- as we all do, hopefully- without worrying if it’s good enough for others to see. Without worrying if it’s good enough. THIS IS EXACTLY MY “before I die I want to.”

So I drew my own self portrait.

Which I’m not going to show you because I’m not there yet. I’m still a semi-failure at not caring what other people think of my art, whether it’s my writing or drawing or speaking or whatever. But I’m telling you about it, so you can give me credit for that, right?

What would you write on the wall? What do you want to do before you die?

It’s a good question to ask.

Before I say goodbye, I just want to add HOW GREAT IS ASHEVILLE?!

Where else, at least in this part of the south, can you take an evening walk and see sights such as these?

Happy Weekend, friends! May we all use our pain to heal others!