As I've been inviting more people to participate in the Signs of Kindness project, it's been sparking some interesting conversations.
Most recently, I've heard fear from a few people that if they put a sign in front of their home it would be stolen, or put them at risk for vandalism, presumably because others would see it as a veiled political message and find it offensive or threatening.
This is something I really want to understand and address, because this project is emphatically not intended to be partisan. In fact, my goal is quite the opposite: to help us soothe our fears and misunderstandings about one another, and find ways to connect at a human level that goes beyond our differences.
When I put a sign in front of my house that says "You are Needed," it's not just meant for people who agree with me about politics and causes. It's also meant for people who actively disagree with me, or whose interests may not be on my radar at all. I believe the world needs all of us, showing up at our best, if our planet is to truly thrive.
My sign that says "You Belong" isn't only for people who look and talk and think like me. It's also not intended specifically for immigrants or outsiders or minorities. It is for all people who sometimes wonder if they are wanted, if they have a place in the world, if their particular uniqueness is welcome. I expect that includes all of us, no matter how mainstream we may appear.
Likewise, when I put out signs that say "You are Loved," "You are Worthy," and "You Deserve Happiness," they are not just meant for people whose behavior I approve of, who have never hurt or offended me, or who have somehow "earned" my goodwill. They are for people who regularly fall short of their ideals, who have made mistakes they regret, or could simply use an occasional reminder of their worth. In other words, all of us.
These messages are intended for me. And for you. For your enemies. For your friends. For people who vote like you, vote differently from you, or don't vote at all.
That is my intention, anyway.
It seems to me that all of us are harmed by narratives of fear, separation and exclusion. At best, they distract us, and at worst, they put us into fight/flight/freeze mode where we can't access our full wisdom and frankly tend to make problems worse.
I want us to help each other remember that we are all in this together. That we share common goals. That we need each other. That we each have something to contribute. That we have reasons to be grateful to the people around us. Reasons to delight in being alive.
I can't think of any problem that wouldn't be easier to solve, or any goal that wouldn't be easier to reach, if we consistently related to each other that way. And that is the purpose I want my Signs of Kindness to serve.
I wonder, though, how you and others see them.
Someone pointed out recently that so far signs have been planted mostly in "blue" cities and states (see the map below), and that gave me pause. Is it because I live in liberal Massachusetts and happen to have mostly liberal friends and neighbors who naturally spread the word to their liberal friends in other liberal states?
Or, having lived in a liberal bubble myself for the last 20+ years, am I missing something important about how these messages actually land for people in other parts of the country?
I would love from you to share my Signs of Kindness project with your non-liberal friends and family members (including yourself, if applicable), and ask them for feedback.
How do they respond to the particular messages I've chosen? What assumptions would they have about the intentions behind them if they saw them on a neighbor's lawn? Would it make them smile to see those messages around town? Would they want them in front of their kids' schools?
If not, what would be better?
I look forward to learning, and continuing to find more and better ways to connect us.