A slip of paper tucked under your wiper blade is, at best, an annoyance: a flier left on your car while you're attending to other business. At worst, it's bad news, like a parking ticket.
But what if you found a piece of paper, about the size of a Post-it note, that read:
So lean in.
Your story isn't over yet."
Last Thursday, someone parked along North Tejon Street came out to his or her car in the early afternoon and found that message.
Who was it? We don't know.
Who put it there? That we do know. It was Alex Lewis, the 22-year-old founder of what he hopes will be a movement to sweep across all 50 states: Car Window Poetry.
If you're expecting to read a story of an English major who launched a Kickstarter project hoping to make it rich, you might be disappointed.
Lewis graduated this year from Elon University in North Carolina (his degree is in strategic communication with a leadership studies minor) and moved to Colorado Springs in August with Young Life, doing digital marketing and managing the ministry's social media accounts. His endeavor is self-funded.
Lewis grew up listening to hip-hop music. But "I never saw it as poetry," he says. He started writing his own music in middle school and continued until high school, but stopped when he started college. "I didn't want to be the black kid who raps."
Instead, he's the young black man who writes poetry. And he's set out to inspire strangers.
Moving to Colorado Springs, he was concerned that he might not connect with the creative community. So he forced himself out of his comfort zone, joining some poetry groups in town.
"I can't just sit at home and expect to make a difference," he told himself.
Car Window Poetry started as kits for sale — 25 blank Car Window Poetry cards, three pens and three stickers — but Lewis saw the need to provide these tools to anyone who wanted them (especially classrooms) without expense. So now the forms are available for download from the website, carwindowpoetry.com, for free.
Since its launch, Car Window Poetry has quickly attracted the national spotlight. A fellow Elon graduate saw what Lewis was doing and pitched the idea to his bosses at NBC Nightly News. Since then Lewis has also appeared on Headline News and he's now shipping kits to 21 states. "It's been a crazy few weeks."
That he's garnered so much attention so quickly speaks to the need for kindness in our country, now more than ever. "The smallest act of love can make a difference in someone's life," Lewis says.
Personally, he set the goal to put out a few poems each day. He reports only one awkward moment in his stealthy placement. In a King Soopers parking lot, he saw a man get out of his car. Lewis thought to himself, "He needs a poem." So he lurked, but the man must have caught sight of Lewis, because he hesitated before entering the store, even engaging an employee in the lot in conversation. In the end, that poem was never placed.
Tapping into his social media savvy, Lewis encourages people to post photos with #carwindowpoetry of the messages they receive.
As we wrapped up our conversation, I asked Lewis if I could watch him place a few poems on cars. He printed off a sheet, cut out the four cards and grabbed his phone. He still keeps his supply of short, inspirational poems in notes on his phone.
We stepped outside onto Tejon Street and he walked up to four cars and found the way to place the cards on the driver-side windows (this placement is easier to find and probably doesn't inspire as much dread as under the windshield wiper).
He returned to work, and I went to my car.
I sat (feeling a bit creepy) waiting for any of those drivers to come out to their cars and discover their poem. But after a few minutes, I gave up, deciding it's better just to imagine the impact that Lewis' words would have as they found someone who needed them that day.
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