People take to sidewalks with colorful chalk to share messages of encouragement amid COVID-19 crisis

Out of a stressful time amid a global coronavirus pandemic, a colorful movement of positivity was born.

A post circulating on social media encouraged residents who were under isolation orders in cities across the United States to reach out to others with bright messages of hope etched onto sidewalks and driveways, meant to be seen on an otherwise solitary walk. 

The post urged people to "chalk your walk," leaving drawings for others to see while enjoying the messages of encouragement left by neighbors. 

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On one Facebook page where the post was shared, the comments were filled with photos of colorful works of sidewalk art. Some were vibrant messages of hope, others friendly reminders to keep hands clean to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus that has forced millions across the U.S. and around the world into isolation inside their homes.

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Major metro areas in many of the most populous states in the U.S., including California and New York, were rendered virtual ghost towns as stay-at-home orders were issued in a desperate bid to slow the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the country. 

Millions of Americans were left struggling to find a way to connect to one another in a surreal time when panic and confusion seem widespread, and no resolution to the ongoing crisis seems clear in the near term. But that didn't stop people from Florida to Ohio from taking to their sidewalks in an attempt to reassure each other.

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Falisha Dillard, who lives in Cincinnatti, Ohio, said the residents in her neighborhood always look out for each other. She shared a photo of a sidewalk drawing by her neighbor's children, urging others to "stay safe" and "wash ur hands." Dillard said she thinks spreading positivity in a difficult time really helps. "I had to document it," she said.

Lori Diane Elizabeth Fowlkes, a resident of Fredericksburg, Virginia, was eager to contribute her own colorful message of hope to the people in her neighborhood. She chose an image from one of her favorite books of short stories and poems that she uses to teach her own children.

"Moon, so round and yellow, looking from on high, how I love to see you shining in the sky," the verse, written on concrete in bright blue chalk, read. Fowlkes sketched below the words a girl clad in a blue dress gazing up at a yellow moon -- a reminder to passersby that they're not alone. 

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In Melbourne, Florida, when Lindsay Patterson saw the Facebook post's call to action, she, her husband and son gathered their chalk and got to work.

"I saw the Chalk Your Walk movement on Facebook and thought it would be the perfect way to get us all out of the house, lift our neighbors' spirits, and continue to practice social distancing," Patterson said. "I told my son to just think of something happy that he would want to see while he was out wallking and then put that on the sidewalk."

What they came up with would bring a smile to anyone's face. "Always look on the bright side of life," one drawing, featuring a bright pink heart and a smiling yellow sun, read. "You matter!" read another, in warm golden lettering. 

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A sidewalk drawing promotes the "chalk your walk" movement in Melbourne, Florida on March 20, 2020. (Photo by Lindsay Patterson)

For Patterson, the "chalk your walk" movement was just one more opportunity to spread positivity in a trying time. In her family, letting others know that they are loved is a way of life. "We want people to know that someone out there cares," Patterson said.