It’s a less than modest house in a neighborhood that would never be called good. No lawn services are contracted for this area. No one strolls down the street in their leisure time. No neighborhood picnics grace the backyards that are connected by hard times and harder life circumstances.
No coffee klatches take place in the mornings between breakfast dishes and luncheon preparations. Kids seldom play outside and certainly not without parents watching closely for the first sign of danger, prepared to swoop in and rescue their young chicks.
Most families work long hours for little pay, trying to eke out a living for their loved ones. It’s easy to say that people in this neighborhood are experiencing hard times, but that’s not entirely accurate. “Hard times” suggest that there are times that aren’t hard. But hard times are the only times these families know. The same is true for their families before them and as far back as most of them can remember. Hard times are their birthright. They didn’t know, expect, or receive anything different.
And yet, the woman who lives in the less than modest house is different. Armed with a little tray of watercolors and a cheap paint brush, she paints little flowers throughout her house as a way to make the hope she secretly carries in her heart be seen on the outside by those who know how to see. How to recognize the truth in the form of painted flowers.
This woman has something money cannot buy. She has hope. Hope that this little house can become a home. Her home. Hope that her life will be different. Hope that her life can be better.
It’s brave of her to hope. To paint her heart on the walls. To not simply keep going after everything she’s been through in her life, but to allow hope to rise up in her like the Phoenix out of the ashes of her disappointments, her sadness, and her tragedies. Out of the failure of others who never learned how to love without inflicting pain.
But hope has a way of lighting up the darkest lives. It can wiggle through the tiniest crack and explode like firecrackers on the Fourth of July. It can find its way through the most complex and intricate labyrinths that seem to have no beginning or end and yet, they bring the light of truth to the journey.
In her, it birthed a spirit of determination and change. Something this neighborhood’s not used to seeing.
“I refuse to give up!” she says over and over again as she draws flowers on her walls and paints them with bright colors. Walls that once seemed like a prison. Walls that have heard terrible words spoken and witnessed unmentionable scenes. Walls that used to tremble, are now quiet, waiting. Watching. Changing. Transforming.
With each flower painted, hope is planted, watered and blooming.
After she finishes her painting. After the paint tin is used up and the colors all gone, she does something unusual. Something new and brave. She bakes chocolate chip cookies. She puts them on a little plate. She walks across the street. She knocks on her neighbor’s door.
Her neighbor, also a woman living alone, carefully peers through her door. She’s surprised to see the cookies lifted up to her as a gift. An offering of friendship. A sign of hope that maybe, just maybe, things can change in this neighborhood.
And even though the neighbor does not have flowers painted on her walls, a little flower takes root, sprouts and blooms in her heart that day. A new friendship is born. Hope spreads to one more home. Light breaks through one more dark life.
A movement slowly begins. This neighborhood filled with people living in perpetually hard times, is experiencing the light of hope brought by one woman who paints flowers on her walls. One woman who knows the Light of the World (John 8:12). This neighborhood is beginning to exemplify Matthew 5:14-16.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
And it all began with flowers on the wall. Well, it all began with Jesus.