Monday, May 21, 2012

A Letter to the Chalk Thieves

Dear Owners of My Apartment Complex,

You're outlawing sidewalk chalk? Really?

I can think of no more asinine, meaningless way to spend one's time than to remove an element of pure joy from a child's life, just because you don't want to clean the carpets. It's chalk - it will wash off. Your recent letter to tenants looks an awful lot like a tantrum to me.

Sure, maybe some kids got out of control with it and drew on the buildings. I still see no reason to make drawing with chalk a crime. A smaller measure should have been taken in between these steps - something like contacting the parents and asking them to supervise the kids more closely. (Which I doubt you did, since you won't even call me back to let me know when the A/C will be fixed.)

I've watched two six-year-old kids play out front with their chalk since the weather was nice enough. They've had a blast imagining so many different things, and I - yes, I, a 27-year-old child - liked watching them play and asking about their drawings. I'm sure there are two dozen others living here who love their chalk. They are creative kids, and now you're stifling them.

Perhaps the worst part of this is your reinforcement of a false - but unfortunately common - belief: that the arts don't matter. Yes, maybe that connection reaches a bit far, but it's not a short step in an impressionable child's mind. Schools are cutting art, music, and foreign language left and right, and now parents have to tell their kids they can't draw outside anymore - because you don't like cleaning.

Maybe you shouldn't have installed white carpet, geniuses.

This is a low-income housing block. Chalk is cheap. It allows kids to stretch their imaginations in a way that crayons and paper don't. Chalk is more interactive, and besides, it also gets them outside, which has become a more difficult thing to do, with all the video games, television, and internet in the world. Removing one of the best joys of summer is a crime.

Here's a better idea: have chalk-free zones (such as in front of your office door, since you're such stiffs about the issue). Designated chalk areas can be marked up as much as the kids want - sidewalks in front of empty apartments, or maybe just not on the sidewalk that turns toward a door. We have a pathetic excuse for a jungle gym, made of splintered wood and metal bars - maybe they can chalk it up over there. While they get tetanus.

There is a way to let them keep using chalk and their imaginations outside. With a broken A/C, neighbors screaming at each other at midnight, and frequent police visits, I had hoped you would find a way to avoid crushing children along with the adults.

An advocate for children's well-being,


  1. You are sending this to management, right? Because you totally should!! I can't believe they made a no sidewalk chalk sad for those kids.
    -Mary Haste :)

  2. That is so incredibly, stupidly tragic.

  3. As an adult, this was the best thing I could ask for, to have my children create with chalk. It makes my heart smile to see their creations on the sidewalk/driveway. For once, they can conjure up images without any lines. They are not contained. The imagination takes over and they can be and do anything. Perhaps management should have played with chalk more when they were younger. Please, don't crush the spirit of these kids. They already have to grow up too fast.


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