How Seeing Messages of Affirmation Around Town Helped a Community Heal
Amy Wolff’s eyes widened in shock as she asked her friend to repeat the statistic she’d just shared with their group.
“That’s right,” her friend, a local teacher, nodded. “In Newberg alone, we’ve lost two current students and four former students to suicide just this year.”
Amy’s head spun. So many people in pain in the world, she thought, tears welling in her eyes. Amy was fortunate to have a loving husband, two daughters, and a caring group of friends, but she couldn’t bear to think that so many others were deeply suffering.
And there’s nothing I can do, the Oregon native thought sadly. After all, she was a public speaking coach, not a therapist… how could she ease the pain of the world?
But as days passed, Amy couldn’t shake the feeling that she had to do something. Years before, she’d toyed with the idea of making yard signs with simple messages of love and joy and anonymously staking them around her community to inspire passerby.
“Maybe that could help someone,” Amy mused to herself. Inspired, she reached for her phone to make the call that would ultimately change so many lives.
Small Tokens of Big Love
Amy’s friend Jessica Brittell, a graphic designer, enthusiastically agreed to help her mission.
“Great!” Amy said, explaining that she wanted 20 signs made with three simple phrases: “You are worthy of love,” “Don’t give up” and “Your mistakes do not define you.”
With the signs in hand a week later, Amy and her family set out to stake them in yards across their community.
“It’s just for two weeks,” Amy explained to the homeowners. “And we’re not looking to promote anything. We’re just a family looking to spread comfort.” Hearing that, all 20 houses agreed to host the signs, and within hours, Amy’s phone was buzzing nonstop.
“People love them!” she told her husband, Jake, as neighbors gushed over the signs, asking if they could buy them. In fact, in mere days, Amy had received more than 150 orders.
But when she went back to collect one of the signs that her family had originally placed in their neighbor’s yard, the true impact they were making became clear.
“Can you leave it up?” the neighbor asked. “My family has been going through a hard time, and that sign is just what we need.” Elated, Amy agreed, returning to her husband in the car. “This is big, Jake… this is helping people.”
And as their eyes met, it was settled… they were ready to go even bigger.
A Larger Mission
Excited, Amy set up a website and added more messages to the signs, like, “You matter” and “You are not alone.” And just like that, the Don’t Give Up Movement was born.
Amy never dreamed it would spread beyond her community, but when a group of friends took a road trip across the country, leaving a trail of signs in their wake, the movement picked up momentum. Soon, orders — along with heartfelt thanks for the messages — began flooding in from across the United States.
Your signs saved my life, one person wrote. It’s like the signs were put there just for me to give me encouragement after my heart attack, another shared.
Today, the Don’t Give Up Movement has become a nonprofit that has spread to all 50 states and internationally, from Rwanda to China, sharing messages on signs, wristbands, and more.
For Amy, nothing could bring her more joy. “I never imagined the power simple words could have to help others,” she says. “Reminding people that they matter changes everything — and we all have the power to spread love this very moment!”
How Loving Words Open Your Heart
In a world full of bad news, sadness, and uncertainty, it is easy to feel bogged down and brokenhearted — and even easier, in the midst of the turmoil, to feel disconnected and alone. But it can help to imagine a comforting hand reaching out to us, much like Amy’s signs reached out from the roadside to remind passersby of these important facts: You matter. You are worthy of love. You are never alone.
By simply reminding ourselves and others of these lovely truths, we can rediscover the deep undercurrent of inter-connectedness that links us to one another. Why not send a text or call someone up right now to remind them of how special they are today. You will both be the better for it!
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Kindfulness (Buy on Amazon, $12.99).
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