After admiring my children use every last nub of sidewalk chalk, I went out and bought a fresh new tub of the stuff last night. This morning, on the way to violin lessons Mary and Xander pondered all the fun they would have with it this afternoon. “Wait!” one child gasped, “Today is scripture group. We’d better hide our new chalk!” (it’s a well-known fact that the dozen or so kids at scripture group have unrestrained reign of the house and yard while we mommies sit on the couch and studiously ignore them.)

As they began to discuss rules for the chalk, I imagined one of my children standing on the basketball court screeching, “You have to be careful with the chalk! Don’t break it! Don’t waste it. It’s MINE.”

So I began to explain, “Chalk is cheap. Ridiculously cheap. We can buy more. Your friends are valuable.” Clearly, I haven’t purchased enough chalk over the years, but it’s surprisingly inexpensive– $1 buys a nice tub of 10 assorted colors.

“Listen,” I implored, sensing their distrust(after all, we’ve had a winter of chalk famine at our house), “Giving your friends a few pieces of chalk is just like handing out granola bars or lemonade or popsicles(which they never hesitate about). We just do it to be nice.”

Their fears eased, Xander ran to school and Mary proudly greeted her friends with, “I have new chalk! Do you want to draw?” Her generosity was repaid almost immediately by a friend who brought cookies to share.

As Mary gathered the pieces an hour and a half later(in nearly perfect condition) I couldn’t help but wonder what I was holding back in my life. What things I had inflated in value and kept to myself, unwilling to share?

Love. Time. Kindness.

How often have I rushed past someone who needed me, neglected a note or kind email or withheld a compliment that could be easily and freely given? And in times of personal famine, I’ve withdrawn even more– unintentionally starving myself from happiness.

I love to read biographies, and I’m always struck by the time that past generations devoted to letter writing and visiting. They devoted hours to updating, informing and expressing love to their family and friends(I think the Victorians would have LOVED blogs and Facebook). Letters and afternoon tea parties weren’t considered a waste of time but an essential, precious part of daily life.

So, I vow to slow down, offer more compliments, ask more questions, write some love notes, send birthday cards and draw more chalk masterpieces.

Because at the store today, buying corn beef and cabbage, I bought a 50 piece bucket of multicolored chalk($3.99!)– I have enough and to spare.

March 15, 2009



  1. Holman House

    March 17, 2009

    I LOVED this entry, and it’s funny how much I’ve been thinking this very thing. So many applications, but one thing on my mind has been how much I withhold from my kids. For some faulty reason I think I need to save or conserve my love and energy, like I won’t have enough or something. I long to be free, to just overflow and give to my hearts content. What am I waiting for?
    On another note, I should probably tell you how much I appreciate you, and how much value you have added to my life. You have added beauty, wisdom, humor, and have truly made a difference. I feel as though I love you even though I have only met you once!

  2. Patti

    March 17, 2009

    I loved the perspective here. Thank you . . .

  3. Jeanelle

    March 17, 2009

    This just made me smile SO much! I loved imagining Mary’s sweet little voice offering up her chalk. And what a good metaphor! My hangup/slight variation is I am very giving to my friends but sometimes I find myself hesitating with my family. I know I should be more free with them because of who they are and I shouldn’t worry that they don’t always reciprocate (as my friends almost always do.) But I still find myself holding back at times. Thank you for the food for thought. This was great and YOU are great.

  4. Blue

    March 17, 2009

    someone close to me recently suggested that i likely give to others, because i show love the way i want to BE shown love. this idea made me feel a bit introspective. is THAT why i do what i do? so i’ll get something in return?

    upon reflection, i’ve decided thati don’t actually think that’s me. i genuinely enjoy the giving, and am somehow nearly always surprised by the act of receiving. it’s a joyous thing though. and i love joy…as you know i just hope the things i do for others aren’t perceived as a “tit for tat” endeavor.

    chalk is fun. so is being with you. thanks for the moments! ♥

  5. Danielle

    March 18, 2009

    Great post.. I’ve always known you to be kinder than most so don’t be too hard on yourself. and hug that sweet Mary for me!!

  6. m_and_m

    March 18, 2009


  7. Heather

    March 18, 2009

    Now I have something to ponder all day. Thanks!

  8. Kira

    March 18, 2009

    This week with a new baby at home this is timely. A new baby makes you COMPLETLEY give of yourself. I think a loving Heavenly Father knew that would be the easist way for us to love these little babies and bond to them the quickest. You love those you give to freely, that is what the Saviour taught. Thank you for reminding us of that.
    Thank you also for all your messages. I feel grateful to be in your company 🙂

  9. martha corinna

    March 18, 2009

    So true. Your posts always give me great suggestions for becoming a better mother/friend/wife. Thanks!
    Where did you get the 50 piece bucket of chalk?

  10. Michelle

    March 18, 2009

    Smith’s hides the 50 piece buckets in their art section– the toy section has the 10 piecers.

  11. Brooke

    March 19, 2009

    oh no, i’m sure your boys would be horrified to know my kids went upstairs! (i’m still embarrassed.)

  12. Michelle

    March 19, 2009

    oh no Brooke- the kids are really accustomed to having a lot of people in the house and in their rooms. I just haven’t bought enough sidewalk chalk over the years so they think of it as being rare and precious.

  13. gab

    March 19, 2009

    Clicked over from Jeanelle’s blog. This WAS a great post. Thank you!

  14. Jan Russell

    March 19, 2009

    So true, and so beautifully put!

  15. Geo

    March 22, 2009

    What a lovely post. I think I will go out and buy two giant tubs of the stuff and invite my neighbors to contribute to a sidewalk chalk art show. Thanks for the reality check.

    I think I would have made a decent Victorian.

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