Sunday, May 26, 2013

What Is Important To You?

As I was taking my Mom to her doctor appointment this past week, we swung through downtown for a caffeine pick-me-up from our local coffee house, Hyperion Espresso.  Rounding the corner, I caught sight of a row of blackboards with colorful chalk writing, just across from the Fredericksburg Baptist Church. 

On a large sign above the boards, the words, Before I die . . . issued an invitation to reflect, read, and record.

Before I Die Wall - Amelia Street

Before I Die is a global art project that invites people to reflect on their lives and share their personal aspirations in public space. This project was started by Candy Chang on an abandoned house in New Orleans after she lost someone she loved.

I could hardly wait to get home and share the news of this artwork with my family.  On this beautiful spring evening we walked downtown and added our hopes, dreams, and goals to the Before I Die wall. 

Before I die . . .

I want to eat anything and not worry about getting fat.
I want to vacation in the English countryside.
I want to see my sons find love.
I want to treat others with compassion, mercy, and forgiveness more often than not.

Dave writing on wall

Mother and Son writing on wall

Our local newspaper, The Free Lance-Star, featured a thorough article on the Before I die project, including the back story of Max Glover, a local James Monroe student, who initiated the project locally.  Check out the full article for news that affirms the goodness of the human spirit.

Please leave a message

chalk in basket

wall with sun flare
Our public spaces are as profound as we allow them to be. The historian Lewis Mumford once wrote that the origins of society were not just for physical survival but for sacred things that offer “a more valuable and meaningful kind of life.” At their greatest, our public spaces can nourish our well-being and help us see that we’re not alone as we try to make sense of our lives. Regularly contemplating death, as Stoics and other philosophers encourage, is a powerful tool to restore perspective and remind us of the things that make our lives meaningful. Each passerby is another person full of longing, anxiety, fear, and wonder. With more ways to share in public space, the people around us can not only help us make better places, they can help us become our best selves.


  1. "Before I die I'd like ONE book to be an ALA Notable, forget the Newbery." Seriously, this is a wonderful post. I wanted to read everyone's entry.

    Our downtown is a public space that is a little friendlier than, say, our Central Park (huge big box shopping complex for those who don't know), which is a faceless place. I look at those people (and sometimes I am one of them) and think, "Are you only interested in buying something? Or are you worried or afraid or not even present?"

    And I too want to eat everything and not get fat. Maybe the day before I die . . .

  2. I know that you have faced loss recently as Persnickety is gone. And more there is more loss on the horizon.

    Since Dave's cancer and stem cell transplant, I am really committed to living life to the fullest. Reading the words of so many anonymous persons, listing wishes and dreams, trying to circumvent fears, and giving a voice to longing, made me feel connected and hopeful.


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