Everyday at 8:28 I leave my apartment and walk for roughly twelve minutes toward the train. Everyday I pass the same landmarks; the park, Dunkin Donuts, four churches, three dental offices, two salons, and one library. Everyday the same routine: jiggle the key in the stubborn lock, cross the street by the ugly yellow house, smile at the grumpy old man on the park bench (even though he never smiles back), realize that I should have left 10 minutes earlier and start walking a little faster, arrive at the station just in time to catch the 8:41 train.
At first glance there is nothing spectacular about this. But about three months ago I started seeing little notes on the sidewalk. Spray-painted in yellow and usually consisting of three to four words, these mysterious sidewalk signs were suddenly making my boring twelve-minute walk a lot more interesting.
Initially there was only one sign: “Today is your day.” Short and simple. Forgettable even. But I found myself beginning to look forward to my daily walk just so I could see this little note, as if it were put there solely for my enjoyment.
Then more signs started popping up on both sides of the same street. Some were on the sidewalk while others were on stone or brick walls:
I began to wonder if this was a project by one of the Tufts students (I live right near the campus). Was there a young artist in Somerville trying out a new idea on the unsuspecting public? Or was it just some random mysterious person trying to brighten everyone’s day with some good ‘ole positive reinforcement? Could there really be someone out there doing something good just because? And then I thought: why does it matter?
Why does it matter who made the signs or why they put them there? Why can’t I just be grateful for them and leave it at that? (Because I’m plagued with ceaseless curiosity, that’s why!)
On a particularly difficult day, I made the decision to walk
on the side of the street where this sign sits:
It reminded me that there are more important things than my petty miseries. Too often we walk with our heads down, ear buds in, music blaring, ignoring other people, missing the beauty around us. But these bright, simple notes of encouragement shake me awake and make me take a second look, a real look.
Sometimes that small twinge of reassurance is all I need to set me right again. Sometimes it prompts an idea which leads to a night of writing or a long conversation with a friend. Sometimes it just makes me smile and on a day when I’ve done nothing but grumble and gripe, a smile is worth everything.
These sidewalk signs remind me everyday that small
gestures matter. What we say and do to each other
matters. What we think and how we feel about
So I want to say thank you to the mysterious sidewalk sign person. Thank you for making my walk to the train a little happier, for making my day a little brighter, and for making our piece of the world a little better.
We should all aspire to do good things just because; to encourage other people, to respect ourselves, to enjoy the time we have, to spread the love everywhere everyday just because we can– because it feels good, because it helps, because it’s the right thing.