Sidewalk Wisdom in the Tenderloin

by Mary Jessup on March 21, 2016

Walking is a wonderful way to feel, and love my body. Strolling is a way to be in touch with my soul. Walking helps me think. Walking is fun, and the sidewalks are educational.

As a City hiker, I love walking around San Francisco. Occasionally I learn sidewalk lessons. Using colored chalk, people provide curricula.

Last week, walking along O’Farrell Street, I saw big blue letters on the sidewalk – the soul qualities:



Then, a few steps further on, more soul attributes:




Blue is the color of fidelity, loyalty, and faith. The blue words remind me to be steadfast to my spiritual life. Blue is the color of the throat chakra, calling me to speak with patience and kindness, and to be a person of love, joy, and peace.

In the Tenderloin, and everywhere, sidewalks shimmer with life. People talk, laugh, yell, kiss, dance, cuddle, and cry.

At times, life can be difficult, terrible, challenging – for all of us. There are days when people feel sad. People cry. If tears were a color, I think they would be blue.

On the sidewalk, I sometimes hear sniffles. I listen, look, and see – a stressed mom with a sobbing child, or a man wiping his eyes with his sleeve, or a woman weeping. I dig in my tote for a package of tissues. Then I walk up to the crying citizen, giving space to respect boundaries. I offer a soft smile, and silently hand over the package of tissues to the person.

I try to always carry a new package of tissues, in case a crying person crosses my path. And perhaps that crying person could be me.

The other day, I hiked up the Larkin Street hill. Suddenly, on the sidewalk, I saw a surprise. It was a new lesson – sunflower-colored letters that said, “Smile Zone.” I smiled. Sure, I smiled. Soon I noticed Smile Zone written on sidewalks all around the neighborhood.

The roads of the Tenderloin sing the same melody as Siddhartha’s river, the music of universal unity, the song of the unity of all things – the sound of perfection – Om.[1]

The soul gifts, smile terrains, and Om symphonies – all combine to nurture the community, and support a Vision for the Tenderloin – a safe, beautiful neighborhood for everybody.

  1. Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha, Translated by Hilda Rosner (New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1950), pp. 105-111.

Mary Jessup is a Tenderloin resident. This story first appeared in

Filed under: Mid-Market / Tenderloin