CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) — Melissa Bird had no idea what she was starting when she put the signs in her yard.

In plain black-and-white text, each sign bore a simple message such as "You matter," ''You are worthy of love" and her personal favorite, "Your mistakes do not define you." And on the back of every one, this mantra: "Don't give up."

Bird had met the signs' creator, Amy Wolff, at a conference in Portland last fall and brought some home to Corvallis. Bird loved the message of positivity and hope that the placards conveyed and thought they would look good in front of her home.

"I threw them in the yard, thinking nothing of it," she recalled. "Then one day I was coming home from a walk and this note was on the porch: 'Thank you for the beautiful signs.'"

More handwritten notes followed, some so sweet and sad they moved her to tears.

"Then I started getting them in the mail," Bird said, "and we became the people with the signs."

Bird has half a dozen signs with different messages, but she doesn't put them all out in the yard at once. Her husband thought that was too many, so they generally have three up at any one time, rotating the selection as the spirit moves them.

And plenty of people have taken notice. The constant stream of traffic on Circle Boulevard guarantees high visibility. The signs have become a topic of conversation on Bird's Facebook page and local social media sites such as Corvallis People, where the response has been overwhelmingly favorable.

"We're creating this ripple effect of love, and people are digging it," Bird said. "Plus what I'm teaching my kids is so cool — that just saying little, kind things makes such a difference."

While the signs are not specific to any particular issue, all kinds of people seem to respond to their universal message of encouragement. One woman Bird met on Facebook said her son had died of a drug overdose and she wanted to put some of the signs out "so I can save somebody's life."

That resonates on a deeply personal level with Bird, who said she has faced a number of challenges in her own life, including a childhood she described as filled with abuse and a father who committed suicide when she was 6.

"With all the stigma we have against mental illness, all the stigma we have against speaking out, if we come at this from a place of love and hope, we're making a difference," she said.

"Life is not always as I envisioned it, and sometimes I need to remember that I matter, and not to give up," she added. "Sometimes I need that reminder that I rock!"

The message appears to be spreading. According to Wolff's website, where she sells the "Don't give up" placards and related products at cost, signs have now been shipped to people in 37 states and 14 countries.

But can it really make a difference? Can planting a few hopeful, encouraging signs in your front lawn sow seeds of change in an age of political divisiveness?

Bird would like to think so.

"I want people to be happy — because that's the best revenge, honestly," she said.

"It's the ultimate act of rebellion: being nice."


Information from: Gazette-Times,