Alex Lewis ’16 is inspiring many people in his community and around the world with his Card Window Poetry project.
By Sarah Mulnick ’17
When Alex Lewis ’16 moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, after graduation to work with YoungLife, the national Christian youth organization he had been involved with while at Elon, he wasn’t expecting to start a movement that would span the world.
New to the city, Lewis sought ways to creatively encourage and educate the students in the program. He immersed himself in the poetry community in his new home, and soon began drawing inspiration from what others were accomplishing. One day in August, he went home and felt a desire to start something to empower others. “Really the inspiration was the people that I was interacting with on a daily basis,” Lewis says.
He took that inspiration to create a website, www.carwindowpoetry.com, and Car Window Poetry was born. The idea is quite simple: to inspire students and members of the community to take a moment to make a positive change by writing poems and sharing them with others. People can use a form on the website to write a few lines of poetry on it, print it and then place it on a stranger’s car.
By doing this, Lewis says, he hoped to “create something that would spread to other people and cities.” He wasn’t involved with poetry while he was studying strategic communications at Elon University, though from time to time he’d collaborate writing a rap lyric for a friend’s song. “I wouldn’t have classified myself as a poet,” he says. He couldn’t have known then his project would spread around the world, but after attention from national news outlets and the dedicated efforts of those inspired by the attempts to improve their communities, that’s exactly what has happened.
When “NBC Nightly News” picked up his story in November, he had already distributed hundreds of cards to complete strangers. His success shows the truth behind his mantra, “words matter,” which is at the heart of his Car Window Poetry project. Lewis hopes to not only brighten someone’s day with the gesture, but to also show them that even the smallest piece of paper can make a difference. It has the added bonus of turning around something negative—most people associate slips of paper on their car with a speeding ticket or an annoying brochure—and making it a positive moment.
Since then, other local and national outlets, including CNN, have shared his story. Because so many have heard about Car Window Poetry, chapter leaders in YoungLife from nearly all 50 states, to Canada and Australia, are adopting the movement. “That’s really where a lot of the beauty of the project has been,” he says, referring to the people of all ages and backgrounds who have adopted his idea to make a difference in their communities through their own acts of kindness. The blank poetry cards are being downloaded in places like Malaysia, India and South Africa, he adds.
Lewis’ goal now is to continue promoting the project in any way he can. “People need someone who is there for them,” he says. “They need someone who is willing to encourage them, to speak to their life in some way. I see Car Window Poetry as a small way to do that.”