Dripping sweat, sunscreen and iPod cords, I was jogging the paved trail that cuts through our neighborhood when I was stopped cold by this chalked message underfoot.

Who was sorry for what?

Harsh words? Chores undone? Lost phone? Broken promise?

Friendship rift? Lovers’ quarrel? Remorseful child? Guilt-ridden parent?

For the next 20 minutes on the trail I obsessed. Had the intended reader seen the message yet? What if the predicted “scattered showers” washed it away too soon? And what was I thinking, not packing a tarp and bullhorn for occasions like this? Attention, neighborhood…

I shifted to contemplating the simple power of this scrawled message in a world where “I’m sorry if you were offended” is supposed to pass for an apology and auto insurance cards warn drivers, Do Not Admit Fault.

Grabbing chalk at home, I tried out some culturally appropriate alternative messages.

 

No power at all. None

By late evening, I began wondering if the scrawl was merely a random act of contrition, directed not at anyone in particular, but rather to all of us on the path that day, prodding us to ponder the nature of apologies, the healing, calming effect of a heartfelt “I’m sorry.”

If so, it seemed to have worked.

Overnight, thundershowers washed away “I’m sorry” and the heart.

I’m sorry about that.

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