What would happen if people saw reminders of kindness everywhere they went?
That’s what I sought to find out as I walked around downtown nearly two months ago brandishing bright, orange signs that said “Do Good. Be Kind. Change the World.” My goal: Kick off “Signs for Good”, a new project aiming to plant these orange signs in yards or windows around the country. That simple message — Do Good, Be Kind, Change the World — reminds people that there are some things we can all agree on, even in a time where finding common ground can be difficult. It’s a message that can resonate with folks of any religion or political affiliation; from any walk of life.
The local news agreed, covering the story of the Signs and my trek around the city sharing them with folks. Within a week, people from around my city, Raleigh, started requesting Signs for Good for their own yards or windows. As more requests came in, they’ve also been sent to Durham, Charlotte, and Asheville, North Carolina!
Spreading Across the Country
The spread of the signs around North Carolina was encouraging enough. But soon, something magical started to happen: People started requesting signs from all over the country. I watched as every other day, requests came in from Boston, Massachusetts and Kalamazoo in Michigan, a city I can’t pronounce, Oconomowoc, in Wisconsin; Nebraska, California, Utah and more. In Lansing, Michigan, a woman walking down the street saw the sign in a neighbor’s yard, and struck up a conversation with her. She called me the next day to ask where she could get a sign.
Others became ambassadors for the signs. A teacher, Genevieve, shipped signs to relatives in other states but also took the sign with her on her trip to Paris for the chance to share their message internationally. Another woman, Kay, sent a sign with her relatives to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Another, Christina, took her Sign with her on a road trip around the country, stopping in Washington, D.C. for a photo with the Sign at the Capitol Building. And another, Susan, toted her sign with her everywhere around our city to share it with her friends; this month, she’s holding a fundraiser to be able to send signs to more locations around the country or the world!
The signs are in 40 different cities as of this week. As they go off to be planted in their new locations, I’m marking them on this map. People are sharing their own photos and messages of hope and kindness with the signs, too, using hashtag #SignsForGood on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Each morning we wake up to see new pictures of the Signs for Good landing in new locations.
Signs for Good: An Origin Story
Many years ago, my best friend and I took off on a cross-country road trip, conducting random acts of kindness and volunteering in each state we visited. We volunteered in over 20 states, even picking up a few fellow adventurers along the way. Strangers we met on the street learned why we were traveling and invited us to stay with them. A businessman we met in Seattle treated us to dessert; A decade later, he decided to go on a cross-country trip of his own. He volunteered with us when he visited Raleigh, and we caught up. Kindness ripples across space and time.
Our adventures inspired us, and when we got home to Raleigh, NC, just before Thanksgiving in 2004, we started a nonprofit with a mission of empowering others to volunteer and do good in our community. Today, that nonprofit is called Activate Good, and has powered over 50,000 connections between locals and over 400 charitable causes. As a special project for Activate Good, Signs for Good are meant to not only connect people through the simple, common message that all of us are capable of doing good, but to inspire positive action.
People are capable of solving the problems we face as a world with some thoughtfulness and the actions to follow, but we’re living in a time when many are feeling lost. In order to take action to solve problems, people have to understand the problems. It used to be, I think, that if there was a problem, folks might disagree on how to solve it, but at least they’d talk to each other and try to work it out; lay it all out on the table, bare. Now we are barely talking to each other at all. What if some kind of symbol, some simple message we can all agree on, could do something about that?
Help Me Spread a Culture of Kindness
We know the signs won’t fix everything. But imagine looking across the street to see another orange sign in your neighbor’s yard, too — your neighbor, who vehemently disagrees with you on most everything about the world. In that moment, you’ve connected. In that moment, you’ve realized they are human, too; that they want what they believe is the right thing for the world, too, even if that looks very different from what you believe in. Maybe, in that moment, you consider that you might be willing to say hello to them as they walk down the street with their dog, engage them in conversation, make a friend, and soon be able to have an earnest discussion about the world and how both of you can make it a better place. Maybe we can start there.