Spreading Kindness

August 3rd, 2018

Richmond woman resolves to share a positive message

Be_Kind kindness sign

You can probably relate to the Gini Bonnell’s feelings earlier this year. “The news was saturated with toxic politics, threats of nuclear war, bullying and mass shootings in our schools,” Bonnell recalls.

Though others responded by turning off the news, increasing their blood pressure medication or using all-caps on Facebook, the 67-year-old Richmond woman took a different approach. “As the negativity escalated,” she explains, “so did my resolve to do something to counteract this threat to our ability to live in harmony as human beings and, in a very real sense, our humanity.”

Bonnell began handcrafting and giving away signs that read “Be Kind.”

“Since I was a child, I have always felt a deep spiritual connection to a power that resides within, a power that guides us and helps us live better lives,” says Bonnell. “I choose to call it God. So when God tapped me on the shoulder at the ripe old age of 67 and whispered in my ear, ‘Hey there, I’ve got a job for you,’ never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined what He had in store for me.”

Now, she says, there are hundreds of her signs in front yards, schools, businesses and neighborhoods in Richmond and more than 500 across the U.S., Nova Scotia and Australia.

When Realtor Jim Napier put signs up at his four real estate offices around the Richmond area, he sent an email explaining, “If seeing this message can make your day, or one of our visitors’ day, a little better, then it has served its purpose.”

7.19.18 - Gave a sign to the Mayor of Richmond, Levar Stoney

Kristen Eccleston, who works with high school students in an emotional disabilities program in Rockville, Maryland, put the sign in her office. “Many of my students have experienced bullying and are currently suffering from anxiety and depression,” she wrote to Bonnell. “Thank you for your amazing efforts to spread love and kindness!”

Other places that have displayed the sign include the Diversity Club at Boushall Middle School, 20 Century 21 offices in the Metro D.C. area and nearly 200 schools in Fairfax County.

Bonnell emphasizes that her goal isn’t to spread her signs. “I want this article to encourage people to be creative and come up with their own ideas,” she says. The purpose is deeper than a plaque: “It’s a simple reminder that a kind word or gesture has power and can change the trajectory of someone’s day.”

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