Durham Mural, Life is so Beautiful - Kate Bowler

Arthur Brooks: When Success Isn't Success

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OH HELLO THERE!
I’M KATE BOWLER

I’m a historian, cancer survivor, and founder of the Everything Happens Project at Duke University. Our mission is to create more everyday empathy. 

Our culture loves to tell us to look on the bright side. Think positively! Good vibes only! Mindset is everything! But in my research, I have found that there are significant limitations of this “positive thinking” approach. We often bulldoze over real feelings and real problems. We end up with less compassion for one another and fewer opportunities to be honest. 

I know how hard it is to be real about life’s struggles.

When I was 35, I was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. As a wife and a mom, I had so much to lose. My chances for survival were about one in ten. I was devastated. 

I needed so much help—financially, emotionally, physically—and I would have not have survived without the compassion of strangers and friends. I saw it everywhere. Neighborhoods, businesses, community organizations, religious groups. In the park and the grocery store and the hospital. I found myself repeating the same thing over and over again: Life is so beautiful. Life is so hard. For everyone. 

I founded the Everything Happens Project out of this realization. Today, we have a team of six incredible people who love to work on media projects—like this beautiful mural—to remind us that we are not alone. Our very own acts of Everyday Empathy.

Everyday empathy is powerful. It works against our culture’s individualism. It softens our sharp divisions. And reminds us that, all along, we belonged to each other. 

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ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Loren Pease, Muralist

Loren Pease (Sweet Pease Art) is an artist, muralist, maker, beekeeper, former high school art teacher, and mom of three boys in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She began her career as an art teacher in 2000, where she taught all different kinds of media—ceramics, jewelry making, drawing, and murals. Since leaving teaching, she spreads creativity by creating wall murals for homes and businesses all over the country, or as she likes to call it “pollinating kindness with art.” 

Gwen Heginbotham, Designer

Gwen Heginbotham is a multidisciplinary artist, graphic designer, and an unofficial apprentice at Oak Church’s community garden. As the Creative Coordinator at the Everything Happens Project, she spends her days making everything beautiful (including this mural design!). Gwen is completing her masters degree in spiritual formation and lives in Durham, NC, with her husband Brodie and her beloved animals, Mía, Henri, George, and hundreds of worms. 

VISIT the mural 

Our mural is located at the intersection of Main and Duke in downtown Durham, North Carolina—on the Brightleaf building at Peabody Place. We’d love to see the pictures you take! Be sure to tag @katecbowler.

Durham Mural Address:
112 S. Duke St.
Durham, NC 27701

THE EVERYTHING
HAPPENS PROJECT

The Everything Happens Project at Duke Divinity School is dedicated to fostering everyday empathy through podcasts, books, storytelling, and art.

EVERYTHING
HAPPENS
PODCAST

On her popular podcast, Everything Happens, Kate speaks with people like Malcolm Gladwell, Matthew McConaughey, and Anne Lamott about what wisdom and truth they’ve uncovered during difficult circumstances.

FEATURED EPISODES

LOVED AND CHOSEN

with Anne Lamott

CAN PEOPLE CHANGE?

with Malcolm Gladwell

STORIES WE TELL OURSELVES

with Matthew McConaughey

WATCH KATE’S
TED TALK

Life is so beautiful. 
Life is so hard. 
For everyone.

You can find the quote featured on the mural inside Kate’s instant New York Times bestselling memoir, Everything Happens for a Reason (And Other Lies I’ve Loved).

Frank and funny, dark and wise, Kate Bowler pulls the reader deeply into her life in an account she populates affectionately with a colorful, often hilarious retinue of friends, mega-church preachers, relatives, and doctors. Everything Happens for a Reason tells her story, offering up her irreverent, hard-won observations on dying and the ways it has taught her to live.

Gracious Funders