Hello neighbors. You are loved.

I'm just another fat white schmuck walking to the dumpster, on a gray morning as winter approaches. You wouldn't think about me at all if you saw me, but if you did you'd probably assume I'm grumpy. That's my default setting, always visible on my face, and it's etched into my skin so even when I'm not particularly grumpy, the mirror still shouts that I'm grumpy.

Can't deny it this morning, though: I am a little grumpy. There's a whole lot of stupid in the world, and I rarely rise above it.

Some chalk marks are on the sidewalk between the building and the trash bins. I've never seen the kids who play there, but in the summer months there are often chalk doodles on the sidewalk. It's never anything brilliantly artistic, just kid stuff — arrows and stick-people, occasional words, or some 2000s variant of hopscotch.

This morning there are a few words on the sidewalk, but they're upside-down to me. The trash is heavy and the bag is in danger of ripping, so I don't stop to read whatever's written, until I'm returning from the bins with my hands empty. It's faded, like the words were drawn the day before the day before yesterday. I squint and cock my head to make sense of it, and decide that it says, "HELLO NEIGHBORS YOU ARE LOVED."

I roll my eyes. Is this supposed to be helpful, against COVID and economic ruin and climate change and Donald Trump and everything else that adds up to 2020?

Well, it's not helpful, but I guess it doesn't hurt. Maybe it's kind of sweet, if it was written by a 5-year-old. If it was written by anyone older — and the penmanship is better than I'd expect from a little kid — then it's just naïve, isn't it. Childish rot on the way to the rubbish bin, but ...

It does make me smile a little, so I guess it worked. I'm not as grumpy as I was a few minutes ago. I walk back to take a second look, and to take a picture. Maybe it'll make you smile a little, too.



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