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A Lesson in Positivity from a 12-Year-Old

A Michigan tween is brightening her community with simple, uplifting notes.

Positive notes
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Anyone interested in easy ways to make a positive impact on their communities need look no further than 12-year-old Danykah Muck, a Michigan middle-schooler whose simple 4H service learning project is an inspiration to positive thinkers of any age.

Muck started with an observation—simple, subtle gestures of kindness, like smiling at someone or offering a friendly word of greeting—seemed to demonstrably change the emotional energy around her at school and in her community. She noticed this in both directions, telling Michigan State University, “I know that the lunchroom staff can change my entire day with how they greet me.”

Last spring, Muck brought an idea to her teachers. She provided them with stacks of sticky notes she had filled with brief—sometimes one-word—positive messages. She then asked the teachers to place the notes on students’ desks before they arrived at school the next day.

She also gave pre-filled sticky note packs to the lunch staff and to school administrators including the principal. The idea was to make it easy for teachers, staff and students to regularly encounter reminders that they matter and are valued. “You are enough just being you,” reads one favorite note.

Muck’s idea could be just the thing in an office, assisted living facility, house of worship or even at home for a small family. Too many of us are still shaken following the pandemic year of instability and anxiety, and sometimes the smallest encouragements have the biggest impact.

“Low-stakes” positive interactions, like a friendly word offered to the postal worker or coffee shop barista, are shown by psychology researchers to build empathy and abate loneliness. An anonymous note tucked into someone’s inbox or stuck to their front door is perhaps the lowest-stakes connection there is, with potential benefits beyond our imaginings. 

Does Muck’s idea inspire you? What would you say on a sticky note to share with someone in your community?

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