I don’t actually remember how I first stumbled upon the Sidewalk Chalk Project. I think it was through someone’s shared Instagram story of one of the posts. I clicked on the account. The combination of the bright chalk and the inspirational words drew me in and I found myself scrolling through the page.
The bio told me: Since Memorial Day 2011, haven’t missed a day of chalking positive messages. This was my kind of person… my kind of project. As of today, September 26, 2021, she has chalked 3,772 messages. (And, because sometimes she chalks more than once in a day, her total number of drawings is 4,167!)I am so honored that Susan Melton, the creator of the Sidewalk Chalk Project, took the time to share her story with us. Without further ado, please welcome Susan to the Smile Project family.
Liz: Let’s start in true Smile Project fashion. Share a “Happiness is.”
Susan: Happiness is.. helping other people realize that they matter.
Liz: Tell me about the Sidewalk Chalk Project.
Susan: I started the Sidewalk Chalk Project on May 30, 2011 after struggling with mental health and depression. I was looking for a way to pull myself out of dark thoughts, trying whatever I could. At first I was seeking out and writing positive messages on post it notes and sticking them all over my home. It was after watching the movie "What the Bleep Do I Know" talking about how plants react to positive and negative words that I wanted to put the positive messages on the world so to speak. So I grabbed a box of chalk and challenged myself to chalk at least one positive message every day on sidewalks in my community.
I had only planned on making it a summer project, but when the 3 months was over, I couldn't stop. I carry chalk everywhere I go and chalk in different cities (and states when I travel). Soon 3 months turned into a year, and then another, and another. This project helped me not only look for the positive every day, but put it out for someone else to see hoping that it might just make their day a little better. I started posting the daily photos I was taking to Facebook and someone suggested I create a page, so that's what I did. I invited people to create their own Sidewalk Chalk Project in their own town and have had people join in from across the country and several other locations around the world.
Liz: What does service mean to you?
Susan: Making sure that I follow my purpose—to lift others and help shine a light on mental health and suicide prevention issues.
Liz: How can people get involved?
Susan: You can follow the project on Facebook at Sidewalk Chalk Project or on Instagram at @SideWalkChalkProject. (Author Note: If you’d like to support Susan monetarily, you can message her on those accounts.)
Liz: You mentioned you're based in Northern Michigan, correct?
Susan: Yes. People often ask, what do you do in the winter? I scrape off the snow and I chalk fast!
Liz: Do you have a favorite quote to leave us with?
Susan: If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours!