You Are Beautiful, for real

 

By Michal Osmenda from Brussels, Belgium (you are beautiful  Uploaded by russavia) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Michal Osmenda from Brussels, Belgium (you are beautiful Uploaded by russavia) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

by,

Suzanne Coleman

A little while ago I was driving south on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, heading to Jackson Park to do a little migration birding (great stuff!) when something unexpected happened.  I was just driving along, looking around at the newly improved parks and habitats along the Drive when suddenly I saw a big sign that said “You Are Beautiful.”

I started to cry.  It was like a sudden attack of good that I wasn’t expecting.  So often we are guarded against the possibilities of something bad happening, but something good, like this unexpected random kindness, well, it just snuck right in and got me.  A wave of emotion came over me, I couldn’t help it.

As the emotion subsided, I thought about how many other people may have been positively impacted by this single sign every day…  It could be millions.  Amazing.

I believe in random acts of kindness.  I believe that one act can make a difference.

When I was in college, a few years ago (or more), someone put homemade stickers on the mirrors of the women’s bathrooms all around campus at the University of Illinois, in Urbana-Champaign.  The stickers said “This is the source of all self-doubt.”  Wow, right?

It was a brilliant campaign to boost our awareness about how our self-esteem can be negatively impacted by physical expectations impressed upon us by mass media.  It made us more aware of how and why we might be feeling and thinking some of the things we were as young women, and made a positive impact.  Those stickers remained up for quite a while, months I think, before some started to be removed, but their message was strong and clear.  As you can see, I still remember it more than a few years later.

I never learned who the artist was for that public campaign, but I have learned who the artist is for this one, Matthew Hoffman.  Apparently, he has been running his “You Are Beautiful” campaign for a while now, and I was just out of the loop.  He started with stickers himself, and the movement grew from there to include installation art like the piece I came across on the south side of Chicago.  This project has reached all around the world.

While I was perusing his website  [http://heyitsmatthew.prosite.com/123202/about] to learn more about him and his artwork, I came across his mission statement; what is the impact that he hopes his artwork will have on others:

“Do you know that song, that when you hear it, it grabs you and takes you to a moment? A vivid memory you can’t escape feeling. Maybe it’s a summer, or a relationship. It might pump you up, and you start sprinting. Or maybe it crumples you, and takes you back to that night you sobbed in your car.

On my best days, that’s what I want my work to resonate. Personally, I want to experience moments. To really feel all the highs and lows. In my work, I want to create moments for others. I do my thing, and they are able to feel whatever they need to in that moment.” – Matthew Hoffman

I think he pretty much nailed it on the head with me.  Good job Matthew.  And thanks for spreading all the love and joy to the world that you have through this project.

I wonder what great acts of kindness will come next?  How will they start?  With a smile, or a helping hand?  Or maybe, just maybe, another sticker will find its way into our hearts reminding us that we are all living beings, here on this planet together, that we all love, we all feel, and we all hope.  I wonder if that will start with you?

 

 

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