There are some things I just don’t like. I’m tempted to say I hate them, but that would be too strong a word for small irritations. Like the feeling of wet wool when I’m hand washing a knitted cardigan. That squeaky sound always gives me the shivers. Then there’s the feeling of cornflour between my fingers. Is it just me or is that another squeaky kind of shiver?
The worst ‘do not touch’ is chalk. Whether it’s me, writing on a blackboard or the sound of someone else scraping chalk as they scribble (or horror of horrors – their fingernails) it’s one of my least favorite things.
Not so for Arthur Stace. Born in the Balmain slums of Sydney in the 1880s he could have been the face of any neglected child of that era, brought up by alcoholic parents. His sisters ran brothels and his brothers followed in their alcohol fueled lifestyle. Little wonder Arthur wound up stealing bread and milk from Sydney doorsteps. By 15 he was in jail and by the time he’s reached his twenties, he worked as a scout for his sisters’ establishments.
From his pocket, he produced a piece of yellow chalk and in perfect copperplate swirls wrote Eternity on the pavement. It was the day he “felt a powerful call from the Lord to write.”
Not a novel or sermon. Not an article or a blog post. One simple word, Eternity. In his lifetime he wrote this word on the pebbles across Sydney streets half a million times. He did this for 37 years and pointed the hearts and minds of passersby to a day which fast approached them.
Eternity became an enigma for the people of Sydney. Its writer didn’t like publicity and remained anonymous for many years amid speculation of his identity. In his later years Arthur Stace revealed himself as the mysterious writer and explained his desire for everyone to consider where they would spend eternity.
His legacy continues today and Sydney has embraced the Eternity sign as its own. On New Year’s Eve 1999, it lit the sky as the centerpiece to the Harbour Bridge fireworks display. Adopted as the Sydney Olympic Games emblem, it reappeared later that year on a worldwide stage.
But what difference did it make to the millions who tripped over his words as they hurried through the slums? We will only know when we reach eternity ourselves. On this side of life’s journey, we know Arthur Stace was called to write… and he obeyed.
Dorothy Adamek can be found over at Ink Dots, where she says of herself:
“My husband says I should’ve been born 100 years ago. My parents say I should live on a farm, (now there’s a thought) and my children say I pack too much food into their lunch boxes! The reality is I’m a Christian wife and mum of 3, living in Melbourne, Australia. My background is in Education, and I have served many years in Christian ministry with children and young families. I enjoy collecting the stories of pioneering early Australians, unravelling the details of their past and winding them into my present and future. One of my current projects is writing the first of what I hope will be 3 novels set in 1870s Australia – that is if I don’t get lost in the delicious research of this amazing time!”
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