Throughout February at the Center for Transformational Presence, we’ve been celebrating the African concept of Ubuntu – “I am because you are.” In particular, we have been celebrating heroes of the heart – people who, because they stood for something that was important to them, opened the door for others to do the same.

This week, we conclude our four-part “heart hero” series by celebrating artist and TED Fellow Candy Chang. As a part of her own healing process after a significant and unexpected loss, Candy turned an abandoned house in New Orleans into a giant chalkboard. However, it wasn’t just another wall for creative graffiti; she had a specific intention. She invited people to complete this sentence:

“Before I die, I want to_____.”

 Within 24 hours, the wall was filled with responses from women, men, and children from her neighborhood. Candy created a space for people to share their hopes and dreams, to contemplate and reflect on what was important to them. And they did – hundreds of people in just one day. Because of her, others had a voice. Ubuntu.

Soon, people in far-away places started hearing about this inspiring “Before I die” wall, and Candy began receiving inquiries from people around the world about how to create walls in their communities. Now, more than 400 “Before I die” walls have been created in over 65 countries and 30 languages.

Candy says, “Two of the most valuable things we have are time and our relationships with other people. In our age of increasing distractions, it’s more important than ever to find ways to maintain perspective and remember that life is brief and tender.” Candy showed us how common public spaces can invite people to dream. Amazing things happen when people are given a chance to reflect and express what is in their hearts.

Candy Chang is an unknown heart hero. She creates ways for people to touch the deeper spirit that is alive within themselves and in the people around them. She creates spaces in which people’s hearts can safely have a voice. In her words, “Our shared spaces can better reflect what matters to us as individuals and as a community. With more ways to share our hopes, fears, and stories, the people around us can not only help us make better places; they can help us lead better lives.” Ubuntu.

One of the definitions of Transformational Presence is “creating a space that contains the best conditions possible for transformation to unfold.” Candy Chang creates spaces for community transformation.  Enjoy the video.

There are countless numbers of heart heroes in our world. This month we have shared stories of just a handful. We invite you to acknowledge the heart heroes in your own life and thank them for who they are to you. And then be aware of the opportunities that arise every day for you to practice Ubuntu. What small act of Transformational Presence can you offer today that allows another to step into their full potential?


P.S. To learn more about Candy’s journey with the “Before I die” project and how these walls continue to be created all over the world, check out her new book, Before I Die.


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