Former City of Falls Church resident Gini Bonnell is a creator of worldly signs which, over the short two-year life of her mission, populate school districts, every state in the U.S. and 35 countries.
Her message? “Be Kind.”
The George Mason High School grad shuns publicity, promotion, status or recognition for what she does. And what seems weirder about all this is her signs are free. They cost nothing, and that’s the way Bonnell wants it. No money; no online fundraising.
The message is what’s important here, she explains, not the messenger.
It all started back in Dec. 2017 with, as Bonnell said, “all the negativity surrounding us between the toxic politics, the bullying in schools and I just wanted to do something, to try something, so I came up with this idea and one day, I went out to my garage.”
“I pulled out a piece of wood and put positive aspirations on a white board and stuck it in my yard. It was the dead of winter, and I knew it wouldn’t last long, but I knew there was something about a message.”
She was right about the white board not lasting long, so she made another sign which her neighbor, a teacher, had spied and then requested one for her classroom. From there, demand for the handmade signs has grown to the point where they fly out of Bonnell’s garage at a completion rate of more than 100 a week.
“Be Kind” they say, in bold, black letters accompanied by hearts of pink or red.
Bonnell resists credit for the idea “which flowed through me,” leading her to apply muscle to mind.
“Kindness Angels” throughout the nation help spread the words and the work.
They supply wood and paint. They cut the wood, attach hooks and twine.
Some make note cards describing the mission of “the movement,” as Bonnell calls it, which accompany every sign.
She pays nothing for shipping. The Angels do it, mostly by hand, carrying the signs in luggage to places they visit, and Bonnell takes the signs on trips, too.
It’s all in the message, broadcast by word of mouth.
The effort has always been “very, very grassroots,” she explains.
She eschews advertising and promotion. “God takes care of that,” she says
Bonnell attended George Mason High School where she still keeps in touch with 60 to 80 of her classmates whose names and years of their graduations are listed on the back of the sign at George Mason.
She attends sign-making parties at schools and assisted living centers where students and residents have fun painting and being kind to each other.
When giving out one recently, a volunteer learned that the recipient was a woman whose mother had just died.
The retiree from the Virginia Association of Realtors who now lives in Richmond, opined: “People today don’t talk to each other anymore; they text or they email or they go on Facebook. With these signs, you must communicate. The signs are given without expectation of any return. They are God’s way of getting us back to one on one.”
She continued, “‘Be kind’ is huge. Don’t you watch ‘Ellen?’ A lot of people are doing things like this. The city of Philadelphia has a whole initiative going on. This is not unique to me. A lot of people are trying to spread kindness.”
She likes to leave people with “what I’m doing and why. By choosing kindness, we can change the world. It’s full of kind people. If you can’t find one, be one.”
In her latest appearance at a school sign-making event, Bonnell spoke and helped launch “Random Act of Kindness Week,” which took place Feb. 16-23.