Car Window Poetry project by Elon alum featured on NBC Nightly News
A national audience learned about the project, started this summer in Colorado Springs, Colorado, by Alex Lewis '16, during the Nov. 14 news report.
On Monday night, a national audience learned about a project started less than three months ago by a recent Elon alumnus to help promote the positive power of words.
Car Window Poetry, an initiative launched in August by Alex Lewis '16, was featured on NBC Nightly News in a Nov. 14 report by Joe Fryer, with Lewis saying he's already seeing increased interest from the extra exposure. "For me, I would love for this project to continue to spread nationally," said Lewis, a native of Charlotte who was a strategic communications major at Elon. "It's going to other states and other communities and other schools that I couldn't take it to on my own."
Through Car Window Poetry, Lewis distributes short poems and inspirational words composed by a broad range of people and written on small cards. The effort involves placing them under the windshield wipers of parked cars to offer strangers a word of encouragement, a ray of positivity or a piece of inspiration.
Among the messages featured in the NBC Nightly News report that were composed by a local fourth-grade class:
- "Inside your heart you have no fear."
- "If you don't feel like the star of the show, make it your own."
- "Be yourself because you're special."
Lewis said the spark for Car Window Poetry came after he moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, after graduation to begin work as a digital marketing specialist for Young Life, the national Christian youth organization that Lewis had been involved with while at Elon. "When I moved out here, I had this dream of wanting to create a platform for people to create, and for them to be encouraged in their creativity," Lewis said.
While at Elon, Lewis had worked with area high school kids through Young Life, and said that experience made him realize the impact one person could have on another during difficult times, when a word of encouragement can go a long way. Elon also fostered in him the willingness to try new things, and carve out a space in your life to pursue those things you're passionate about, he said. "Elon created an atmosphere of really being able to try what you want to try, to do what you want to do, and create what you want to create," he said.
In Colorado Springs, Lewis became involved with local poetry groups, including one called Hear Here, and that helped shape the idea of what he wanted to do. Inspired in part by "Words from the Window Seat," an effort by flight attendant Taylor Tippett to help encourage people with anonymous notes posted inside airplanes, Lewis formulated the idea for Car Window Poetry, and that night designed and ordered the cards he's using for the initiative. "I was starting to see that words are incredibly powerful and they canm make a difference in people's lives," he said. "One day I got home from work, and just felt this insatiable tugging on my heart that I needed to do something."
After an initial event that brought together many he had met in poetry circles in the city to fill out cards, Lewis branched out to children, and connected with fourth-grade teachers at Odyssey Elementary in Colorado Springs about students writing the notes to then place on cars. As Lewis told Fryer in the NBC Nightly News report, "Kids just have a different way of seeing the world. They're able to see the beauty in it."
Another event brought together adults to fill out cards to be distributed at Urban Peak, a shelter for homeless youth in Colorado Springs. That event also generated donations for the shelter, Lewis said.
Lewis estimates he's distributed more than 700 cards since he launched the effort in late August, and he expects the exposure on NBC Nightly News to help the effort take on a life of its own. People can submit messages or poems through the website, www.carwindowpoetry.com, and can also purchase their own packs of cards to fill out and distribute.
So how did NBC Nightly News find out about Car Window Poetry? Lewis points to an Elon connection. Matt Lee '16 now works with the nightly news program, and learned about it through social media. Lee pitched the story to those he works with, and that got the ball rolling.
The initiative will likely branch out beyond just leaving written messages under car wipers to explore other ways to use positive words of encouragement to help impact people's lives, Lewis said.
"People need someone who is there for them," Lewis said. "They need someone who is willing to encourage them, to speak to their life in some way. I see Car Window Poetry was a small way to do that, by leaving words of encouragement on a car window."