Life Over Lattes: Spreading Kindness & Love With Car Window Poetry
It’s five o’clock. No, scratch that. It’s past five o’clock. You just got off work — because who really gets off at five o’clock. You’re tired, worn out, and exhausted. You’re almost at your car when you spot a white piece of paper on the windshield. Your mind starts spinning out of control, because let’s face it, the last thing you need right now is another parking ticket. Your good vibes start turning into not-so-good vibes. You creep up closer only to realize this little square isn’t a ticket. A wave of relief rushes over you. But, what is it? You flip the card over, and suddenly a smile spans across your face. No, this isn’t just any ole card. It’s an uplifting poem.
Caught in the trap of the everyday hustle and bustle, it’s so easy for us to forget about the wonderful impact small acts of kindness can make on others. Whether it’s opening a door for someone, giving a stranger a random smile, or leaving an uplifting poem on a car windshield, even the littlest gestures of love and compassion can turn someone’s day around. Enter Alex Lewis.
After being struck by the power of words at local poetry events, Alex uncovered a life-changing opportunity. By creating a platform where people can use words to express themselves and uplift others, he realized he could bring people together through positivity and encouragement. But, get this: what started as a small art project quickly spread into a global movement. And, that movement goes by the name of Car Window Poetry.
Today, not even a year old, Car Window Poetry has officially spread through all 50 states of the US, as well as in over 50 countries worldwide. Talk about amazing! Alex has continuously proven why words matter, and I couldn’t be more inspired by his amazing story, or more excited to share it with you!
Ready to be inspired? Let the scrolling begin…
Name: Alex Lewis
Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?!
Hi! My name is Alex Lewis, and I’m a storyteller and entrepreneur living in the mountains of Colorado Springs, Colorado. I believe I’ve been put on this Earth to make a big difference in people’s lives through small acts of love, and to inspire others to do the same. I’m inspired by children, hip-hop music, and Fred Rogers.
I aim to give hurting humans hope through Car Window Poetry, a global poetry movement focused on people gathering their friends, writing encouraging poems, and anonymously sharing them on car windows. In addition to making the world a better place with Car Window Poetry, I oversee the brand direction for Young Life, a global Christian youth ministry, on all their mission-wide social media channels.
What has been your favorite part about your experience with Young Life?
My favorite aspect of telling Young Life’s story on social media is fostering deeper offline relationships through online interactions. Young Life doesn’t start with a program. It starts with caring adults who are concerned enough about kids to enter their worlds, walk alongside them, and build bridges of authentic friendship. We call these adults Young Life Leaders, and I want to amplify how awesome they are as often as possible as a reminder to kids that they’re worth hanging out with.
Within my first few months on the job, I posted a photo on Young Life’s Instagram of two coffee cups with the caption, “Tag the Young Life Leader that you want to go on a coffee date with!” I didn’t think anything of it, but then I started seeing kids tagging their Young Life Leaders, and then those leaders were setting up coffee dates with their kids right there in the comments. That was one of the clearest moments where I saw how impactful my role can be when I don’t just keep the conversation online, but I allow it to lead to beautiful, in-person relationships offline.
Not too long after starting your new job, you also ventured down the entrepreneurial path by creating Car Window Poetry. Can you tell us more about Car Window Poetry and how you came up with this fascinating idea?
Car Window Poetry is a poetry project that empowers people of all ages to gather their friends, write encouraging poems, and anonymously share them on people’s car windows in hopes that the shared poems will uplift or inspire those who receive them.
Car Window Poetry was really a byproduct of me looking for friends in a new city. That search for friends led me to a few different poetry groups in town. In each of these settings, I was struck by the power of words to connect with people, and to make them feel something. I was also struck by how talented the poets in Colorado Springs were.
A few weeks later, I got home from work and felt an insatiable desire to create. But, I knew I wasn’t just meant to write a poem or make something on Photoshop. I was supposed to start a movement.
So, I pulled out a notebook and began feverishly jotting down ideas. I wanted to give people a platform from which they could express themselves and make people’s days better with their ideas. I thought, ‘What if I enlisted local poets to share their words and cover our community with encouraging poems?’
But I didn’t know where to place the poems. Then, it hit me – cars. We’re surrounded by cars. So much of our lives are seen through the view of a car window, and oftentimes we find items on our windows we don’t want. Parking tickets. Event flyers. But, I could change that. I could bring people together to write and replace those unwanted items with encouraging poems.
In that moment, Car Window Poetry was born. And, that night, I couldn’t move on to anything else until I did what I could to put this idea in motion. So, I created the logo, designed the poetry cards, ordered the first set of cards, began setting up the website and social accounts all in one night. Then, at the end of August, I officially launched Car Window Poetry online.
On Car Window Poetry’s website, it states: “We all have the ability to share words, even if you don’t consider yourself a poet. When people come together, write together and choose to go out and share their words together, hope happens. Beauty happens. Our communities are made better.” What a beautiful statement!
Since creating Car Window Poetry last August, what would you say has been your most memorable/proudest moment?
There have been a lot of memorable moments, but the moment that sticks out in my mind is the first time I got an email from a woman whose poem was exactly what she needed. The email said:
I had a rough day yesterday. A business certification that I applied for hit a bump in the road and I wasn’t prepared for it. My daughter has been dealing with the demon of mental illness and after the business setback, it seemed like I hit a brick wall, head first at full force.
I went down to my car and found an anonymous note from you with a smiley face and the world softened a bit. The wording, in so many ways, was so spot on that I thought my co-worker or a close friend had written it. Your thoughtfulness brought tears to my eyes – thank you!
I am grateful for your note yesterday – a little ray of sunshine on a fairly cloudy day.
The poem she received said:
So lean in.
Your story isn’t over yet.
This moment was so meaningful for me because it affirmed every theory I had about starting Car Window Poetry. I suspected that, if we shared enough poems with people, eventually someone was going to receive a poem they needed. But, the thing about acts of kindness is that you don’t always get to witness the results, which can be hard.
This experience was just as meaningful for me as it was for the woman on the receiving end of that poem. I was at a point where I was wondering if Car Window Poetry could really make an impact on people’s lives, and that email told me everything I needed to know: “Yes, it can.”
What is it about words and storytelling that intrigues you most?
The thing that intrigues me most about words and storytelling is how you can tell the same story to two different people, and it can resonate with each of them in two, uniquely beautiful ways.
When I lead adults and older students in Car Window Poetry workshops, I like to help them see that Car Window Poetry isn’t about writing a poem to someone else. It’s about a writing a poem to yourself that you then share with others. Because odds are, whatever you need to hear, someone else needs to hear it, too. And, you must gracefully receive your own magic before you can meaningfully share it with someone else.
Car Window Poetry is not even a year old, and yet people in all 50 US states have gotten involved, as well as individuals in 50 countries worldwide. That’s so incredible! How does it feel to have created a movement that is influencing so much kindness in the world?
The growth that Car Window Poetry has experienced over the past few months is a blessing and something I never expected. I thought it’d be a fun thing for me to commit to doing in Colorado Springs.
Then, as soon as I launched the project online, people started asking how they could participate in their communities. A few months in, a friend messaged me about pitching a story about Car Window Poetry to his bosses at NBC Nightly News. Since that feature, I’ve seen people downloading cards and sharing poems in states and countries I’ve never ever been to before. It’s insane. All I can do is keep enjoying the ride and give thanks.
How do you balance running Car Window Poetry while working full-time at Young Life? What has been your biggest struggle with juggling both endeavors?
I don’t know if I balance them well, but I know I love telling stories for Young Life on social media just as much as I love making the world a better place through Car Window Poetry.
I consider both wonder work. For that reason, I attempt to make time and create space for both. Obviously, Young Life is the one paying me, so I show up every day and try to be as present as possible. But, I make time for Car Window Poetry throughout the day, usually sharing social media content in the morning before work, and then using lunch breaks for any classroom workshops or phone calls.
The biggest struggle in juggling both has probably been the fact that we’re taught to only specialize in one thing. Even when we ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, we typically expect one answer. However, for many of us, we’re trying to figure out a way to let all our passions play together. I oftentimes must get over the mental hurdle that I should only be doing one thing, and recognize that that’s not my path. It’s okay to do both. I definitely feel more alive doing both.
This summer Car Window Poetry is partnering with the amazing organization, Beauty for Ashes Uganda and traveling to Africa and empower single moms and widows who are learning how to read and write for the first time. What a remarkable opportunity, and one that will certainly be life-changing!
What are you most excited about for this spectacular adventure?
I’ve never been to Africa, so I’m just so excited and nervous to step onto a new continent, into a new country, and interact with people from a vastly different culture. I have several friends who travel around the world often, and they always cite traveling as one of the things that has increased their awareness and widened their perspectives in a significant way. I’m excited to learn and take it all in.
It seems like there are so many exciting times ahead for Car Window Poetry. Can you let us in on what’s next for this amazing movement?!
I’m currently in a place of willing contentment with Car Window Poetry. Content, in the sense that I believe Car Window Poetry is exactly what it’s meant to be right now. Willing, in the sense that I’m open to walking through any doors that may open as we continue this journey.
I’m pursuing love in how I lead Car Window Poetry, and thankfully doors keep opening.
I just want to keep telling the story, and give others an opportunity to hop on board and make a difference in their communities. That’s the goal right now.
If someone is interested in joining the #CarWindowPoetry movement, how can he or she get involved?
That’s a great question. There are several ways you can get involved with Car Window Poetry!
First off, you can download Car Window Poetry cards off our website and share as many encouraging poems as you want whenever you want. Whenever you go out, we encourage you to post your poems on Instagram using #CarWindowPoetry.
Second, if you’re interested in bringing Car Window Poetry to your community, you can apply to start a Local Chapter. We currently have Car Window Poetry chapters in nearly 15 U.S. states and on three continents, and they’re led by people like you who believe it doesn’t take much to change the world. A few stanzas can provide hope and love to neighbors in need.
Lastly, what does creativity mean to you?
To me, creativity is making beauty from ashes. It’s approaching a slightly opened door, choosing to walk through it, and saying, “We’ll see what happens.”
Creativity is pursuing love, and not forcing somebody else’s path to be your own. It’s looking for the helpers when all else seems bleak. Creativity is operating from abundance, not scarcity.
Thank you so much, Alex. You are awesome!!
Ready to start spreading your own kindness? Get involved with this global poetry movement here!
*all photos provided by Alex Lewis