Edgewater Church Delivers Message Through Sidewalk Chalk

By Taylor Hyslop and Yesenia Diaz

PostedMonday, Nov. 19, 2012

Chicago winds got stronger, the temperature dropped and a light rain began to fall over the small Mexican restaurant at the intersection of Broadway Street and Bryn Mawr Avenue.

“Okay group, let’s chalk!” Richard Gorman said.

Three young adult chalkers, spread around the neighborhood prepared to face the cold.

“We meet at El Norte at 8 p.m. twice a month to chalk for about two hours,” Gorman explained as he chalks on Broadway Street, “you were meant for amazing things.”

Gorman is the founder of the Community Christian Church in Edgewater. The church started Chalk the Block to inspire a community that lacked engagement with others and encouragement with themselves.

Chalk the Block exists because Gorman said he believes that a new way of living is possible.

“We strive to see the good, the beautiful, the true, even in spite of the ways that [life] has been distorted and perhaps even destroyed,” Gorman said, “anywhere we find it, we celebrate it because it is proof that a new way is possible.”

The inspirational chalk messages that appear along the Red Line create a positive ambiance in the community of Edgewater. Each message can take up to 20 minutes to create. “You are loved” and “What you do matters, live with purpose” are some of the messages displayed down the streets of the neighborhood.

“We chalk to encourage others and let them know they are not alone,” Gorman said, “I believe living for ourselves is boring, but living for others in rewarding.”

Members and participants spread around Edgewater and neighboring areas into small groups. Chalk the Block focuses on Edgewater because the Community Christian Church is a part of the neighborhood. Over the past year Chalk the Block has spread to areas in Rogers Park and Uptown. As people walk down the street they thank the chalkers for the positivity they bring to their day.

“The messages brighten up everyone’s day, it’s comforting to know other’s care enough to spread joy and take time out of their day doing so,” said a resident of the community as she passed chalkers on Granville Street.

Spencer Hall chalked a message that read, “you are made for beauty and purpose.” Hall has been an active member of the church and Chalk the Block for almost two years. Hall handles the social media engagement for Chalk the Block.

“We hashtag chalk the block (#chalktheblock) because it allows us to connect with people that want to know more about our values and focus,” Hall said.

“It’s incredible to hear how inspiring the quotes are to others, people often come to talk to us and share their struggles, and stories. It ensures us that we’re doing something good,” Hall said.

When Gorman arrived in Chicago two years ago, he noticed everyone was looking down as they walked down the streets of Edgewater. It struck him how little engagement people have with one another.

Gorman asked himself how he could encourage others in a world that was highly discouraged.

“There was an apartment down the street that had kids’ sidewalk chalk in front of it. What an idea, you have people who are already looking down. So what’s more innocent and bring you back to a more innocent time than sidewalk chalk. So we decided to go out and chalk encouraging messages,” Gorman said.

Gorman’s main focus for Chalk the Block is to transition people from passive observers to active participants in life.
Gorman said, “we’re not chalking empty messages, we’re also chalking the type of people we want to become.”

Map: Locations where Chalk the Block work can be seen:

View Chalk the Block Chalk Locations in a larger map

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