Shannon Weber never could have imagined 5 years ago that a gesture of love for her children would have grown into a love revolution – her message spreading from her home in San Francisco across the country and then the world.
The movement began after a difficult period in Shannon’s and her children’s lives. Just divorced, Shannon and her three children (ages 5, 7, and 9 at the time) had to move across their city and change schools. During this period of transition, Shannon created her first of thousands of love notes to come in her Get Love Give Love project.
Shannon wrote “I love you” on a piece of paper, with small, tear-and-go tabs along the bottom that read “I love you too.” At first the flyer went untouched, but then one morning, she felt as though that love was directed to her, instead of from her to her kids. Shannon was overwhelmed by the memory of her grandmother saying “I love you,” so she pulled the first tab herself.
Soon, Shannon and her children began to hang copies of the original flyer in public areas around their home. The act of sneakily spreading love for strangers to discover was a powerful bonding activity for their family.
“It was terribly fun. We felt like rebels and we had our own secret club,” Shannon says in her TED talk from March 2014.
At the encouragement of a friend, Shannon started a website to share her flyers and push her project into a movement. The next stage in the Get Love Give Love movement included handmade signs hung on chain link fences. Shannon and her kids created stencils to spray paint messages of love onto blocks of wood, attaching the wooden signs with zip ties. This was a way for Shannon – and now others around the world – to spread love publicly without ever permanently altering anyone else’s private property.
The artist and mother has also created fill-in-the-blank love notes, which are great ways to create your own. Those fill-in-the-blank notes have been hung up in schools, streets, galas and more, and strangers are invited to share messages of love to themselves, their loved ones or strangers.
Shannon says she can’t always put into words what it is that drives her to believe in this movement, but she does believe that love is the answer to all of life’s questions.
“A little love can inspire us to do more, to try again, to believe that change is possible, or to remember why in fact we do this work at all,” she says.
You can read more about Shannon’s Get Love Give Love project here. There, you can download Shannon’s original flyer and share it in your own community, or take a look at the fill-in-the-blank love notes Shannon sells on etsy.
Of course, there are plenty of other ways to spread love in today’s world. While Shannon’s movement has spread like wildfire in the past few years and continues to do so, plenty of people each day strive to spread positivity and love.
For example, the concept of ‘paying it forward’ is one popular way to be kind to strangers and spread love. ‘Paying it forward’ is a phrase that means that a person is kind to a stranger in the hopes that their act of kindness will encourage that stranger to be kind to someone else, and so on.
Recently, I was walking around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and I wandered into a colorful pizza shop called Rosa’s Fresh Pizza. The walls were covered in post it notes with inspiring messages. I learned that the pizza shop operates on the principle ‘pay it forward’ when a man told me that if I needed to, I could grab a post-it to pay for a slice.
The owner, Mason Wartman, quit his job on Wall Street to open Rosa’s, which always served a lot of homeless people in Philadelphia because of how affordable their $1 slices are. One day, a customer asked to ‘pay it forward’ and buy a slice for the next homeless customer. Thus, the post-it-notes were born as a payment system. Each post-it lining the walls represents one pre-paid slice. Rosa’s feeds about thirty to forty homeless people per day.
Paying it forward is simple and, while Mason operates his entire business on the system, it can be done in your day-to-day life when possible. If you can, pay for the coffee of the person behind you in line. Pass along the book you just finished to a stranger at the train station. Write an encouraging note, like Shannon Weber does, and tack it on a bulletin board at school or work. Spreading love does not have to cost you money – it doesn’t have to cost you anything except kindness.
Published in the Fall 2015 issue of FLURT.