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12-year-old brightens neighborhood with drawings, cards, signs

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Izzy Szymanski, 12, writes “LOVE” on her driveway. She has been writing chalk messages and drawings around her neighborhood to spread positivity during the coronavirus pandemic.

nks of others before she thinks of herself.

She always has, her mom said, and that’s one of the reasons she wasn’t sure if she wanted to be featured in the paper. But, when several people informed The News that she was the one behind inspirational chalk drawings on driveways in Kensington Court, Izzy Szymanski agreed to be interviewed.

The first thing she said was, “My mom and sister have helped me.”

Although Izzy is as humble as they come, her mom, Emily Szymanski, clarified that Izzy’s sister, 15-year-old Madi, helped carry the chalk, watch for traffic, and stayed with her while she was creating the chalk drawings. The girls do paint rocks together and make cards to put in the neighbor’s mailboxes.

Izzy said there are 18 houses in their Kensington Court neighborhood.

“The first time she went around, she did it, making sure that no one saw her,” Emily said. “People have figured it out slowly.”

She’s 12 now, but she was 11 when she started in May on her quest to brighten up the neighborhood during the pandemic. She has been writing inspirational sayings and drawings on the driveways in the close-knit subdivision off the west end of 3rd Avenue.

Where does she come up with these ideas?

“Some of them are quotes that I’ve got from books, or my sister would look them up,” Izzy explained. “Like, one of them was, ‘When life gives you lemons, make orange juice.’ Just to be creative, you know?”

She said some of the sayings pertain to the people who live in the houses and their interests.

“One of our neighbors, they’re musicians, and they were practicing in their garage, so we wrote ‘MUSIC’ on there,” she said. “Just stuff like that.”

Izzy said she could tell the world could use a little bit of positivity.

“It just kind of feels negative,” she said of the general atmosphere amid the pandemic. “And it’s not really fun at all. With our neighborhood, we’re kind of, like, close-knit together and good friends, and it was kind of hard not really being able to socialize with people.”

She said making the chalk drawings helped her feel connected to her neighbors again.

“It was fun writing the chalk drawings,” she said. “And sometimes I just get a little feeling like I should do something, you know? So that’s how that started.”

She checks with the neighbors before writing on their driveways.

“Most neighbors are pretty good with it,” she said.

Izzy added that it’s nice to be able to do something not just for the neighbors but for anyone who is walking by or riding their bike through the neighborhood.

This reporter was one of the people whose day Izzy brightened just by writing the most simple saying on one of the driveways. The message read “You Rock,” with a heart drawn next to it. On a day when exercise was imperative because of high stress, Izzy’s simple act of kindness brought a smile to my face and tears to my eyes as I walked through the neighborhood.

“Maybe the chalk on this driveway is right. Maybe I do rock,” I thought.

Then I thanked God for whoever wrote that, not having a clue for whom I was praying.

God is a big part of the reason Izzy has decided to do these positive messages during a time when much of the world is bombarding us with negativity.

“It was kind of hard, because in the Bible it says how people who boast about their good deeds, they get rewarded on Earth, but people who do it in secret, they’ll get the heavenly reward,” Izzy noted.

So that was the inspiration behind it all, and she decided that, if it will inspire others to do good, then being featured in the newspaper would be worth it.

“I just prayed and I thought of that,” Izzy said. “I just kind of decided doing this is really cool, and I just wanted to let God’s love shine through, and hopefully inspire other people to do stuff like this in their neighborhood.”

“I’m incredibly proud of her,” Emily said of her daughter. “This time isn’t easy for anybody, and for the kids to be home when Mom and Dad work, they have added worries … For her to put other people first is the way her heart is — she has a pure heart. And she’s always looking for ways to make other people feel good and to do things for people. She’s always been like that.”

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