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Service Guide: Inspirational Notes

A couple months ago, a friend reached out asking if I had any advice for a teacher who wanted to work with their students to write inspirational messages in the school. I was hit with a memory of myself at 18. I replied: I used to take paint chips from hardware stores to write on because they’re colorful and heavier and free, lol. But I don’t know if you want to encourage that with a bunch of students.


I would roll out of the hardware store with a stack of bright paint chips. Later, at my dorm room, equipped with my nicest pens and markers, I’d spend a few hours writing inspirational quotes and messages on the paint chips. The last step was hiding them around the campus library, dining hall, or mailroom.


In good faith, I cannot encourage readers of this blog to go raid the paint aisle at the local store. What I can say is you can purchase equally lovely and colorful cardstock or poster board that will have a similar vibe. This is a simple kindness project that is great for young people of all ages.


First, gather your materials. This can be as simple or intricate as you want. At minimum, you need a marker or pen and a piece of paper to write on. But don’t let yourself be limited to that. If you want to get out the sequins and glitter and oil paints, by all means. The world needs that too. Then, assemble your crew. This is a perfect project to do with others.


Once everyone and everything is set up, take a moment to reflect. This is probably the most important part. Think about a time when you were feeling discouraged or down. Is there something someone said to you that made a big difference? Is there a quote you always turn to for comfort in times of stress? What would you want someone to say to you in those moments?


Write that.


Of course, you can always look up inspiring quotes online—and that can be a great place to start or to visit when you need a brain reset. But don’t doubt that you know the right thing to say. If you do pull a quote from online, make sure to credit the author/speaker. And when thinking of what to write, remember, shorter is sometimes better—especially if you have a small piece of paper.


The last step is distribution. I highly encourage only putting them at indoor locations. You don’t want the wind to turn your kindness project into a litter problem. However, if you do want to put something outside, follow these steps: 1. Make sure it’s protected from any potential rain and 2. Use tape. A great example of an outdoor drop spot would be taping a note to a gas pump. (If it’s got an overhead cover!)


It’s very easy to leave notes inside. If you’re in a school or university setting, you can leave notes on or in lockers or mailboxes, in the cafeteria, or on the bathroom mirrors. Note: you may want to check with your school administration before you hang up too many notes. If you have public transportation in your town, you can leave a note on a city bus seat. Libraries and bookstores are two more of my favorite places to tuck encouraging words.


Have you ever done an inspirational note drop? We’d love to hear from you! And, we are looking forward to sharing more Service Guides like this on The Smile Project blog. Do you have a “how-to” for a kindness project you’d like to share? Or, if you’d like to see us trial run a project, let us know and we’ll give it a whirl and report back in an upcoming Service Guide. Thanks, as always, for reading and we look forward to sharing more opportunities for service soon.


Love always,

Liz