The 18th century poet and hymnodist William Cowper was a deeply depressed man who spent part of his life institutionalized for insanity. Believing he was “doomed to eternal damnation,” he nevertheless experienced unexpected blessings that inspired him to write the beautiful hymn “Sometimes a Light Surprises” and the poem “Light Shining Out of Darkness,” which begins with the famous line, “God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.”

Yet in his anguished life, God sent him friends to console him and to inspire his beautiful words of poetry and song. Those friends were Lady Austen and John Newton (“Amazing Grace”).

Like Cowper, we all need unexpected blessings, a light to surprise us out of the darkness, and a good friend or two to keep us from despair. If we choose to enumerate our present troubles, we could list political infighting, the mindless hatred for those who differ from us, natural disasters, wars and rumors of wars, and COVID-19.

Let not your hearts be troubled. Sometimes a light does indeed shine in the darkness and catches us quite by surprise, even when we have to maintain “social distancing.”

Such was the case for me and my dog Gino as we walked down the sidewalk along Kelly Street.

Inscribed in colorful chalk on the concrete were messages of hope, encouragement, humor, and love:

• You R Awesome


• We want God to be our RIDE, but He said He would be our GUIDE

• Keep Moving

• We Got This!

• This too shall pass

• Stay Safe

• Stay strong

• Give it to Jesus


What a lovely, unexpected surprise. Gino and I stopped to read the messages delighting in the joy each one provided. Someone had reached out to passersby in need of uplifting.

That “SOMEONE” was brother and sister Jameson and Cydney Flynn who live a few houses down from me. These sweet children (along with Mom and Dad) were giving encouragement to their neighbors. Their hands wrote the messages, but I believe God guided each stroke of the chalk’s rainbow colors across the sidewalk. It was one of those “God Winks” blessings he employs sometimes to surprise us.

Thank you, kids. Your mom Michele and dad Robert (“Fireman Bobby”) must be so proud of you.

God is too.

Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her opinion columns were published on Saturdays for several years.