Editor's Note: Lauren Lawson has been chosen as Huffington Post's Greatest Person of the Day. The series features stories of people across the nation who are making a difference in their community. Congratulations, Lauren!
How can a small white board and a black marker change the world? One person at a time, that's how.
And that's what Lauren Lawson of Oswego has set out to do as she makes her way to Chicago's Michigan Avenue every weekend to stand from noon to 4 p.m. with a whiteboard bearing words of encouragement for thousands of passersby like Do something meaningful, Remember your worth, and Inspiration is contagious.
“My hope is to inspire people walking by to become their own biggest fan and to be able to champion any cause they come across,” Lawson, 22, said. “And for those who don’t have a lot of optimism, I hope to help them gain some or if they forgot where they left it, hopefully they can find it.”
If approached, the Aurora University student will take a moment to speak with those who are curious.
And many are.
“I’ve talked to so many people — hundreds of people,” Lawson said. “I’ve had a few stop and ask if I was a protester. Absolutely not. Many will stop and say ‘Tell me what this is about.’ So I go through the story.”
Her website allows people to post comments, and in them, many laud Lawson for her project.
- “I walked by you on Friday and jumped on my phone to identify what thegirlwiththewhiteboard was,” posted one commenter. “This is an awesome project and I’m really looking forward to reading more of your posts.”
- “This is such a cool project! Your message was great because I sometimes do “forget my worth”. I thank you for inspiring people that you don’t even know,” posted another.
- “This is so beautiful! I saw you today in Chicago, but didn’t get the change to stop and talk,” said another. “I really admire what you’re doing and wish you nothing but the best. Thank you for everything that you’re doing!”
“So far the reception has been enormous,” Lawson said. “I was nervous the Thursday before I started, thinking people wouldn’t take notice. But it’s completely the opposite. The website has been exploding.”
She has had others share their own encouragement projects, similar to Lawson’s.
“It’s nice to see, especially when you look at our world right now,” she said. “With so many bad things going on, it’s nice to know there is so much positive energy still out there. I think we forget that. We’re so consumed by global problems we don’t realize many people are doing great things.”
Lawson isn’t letting the frigid temperatures keep her from her project.
“I did shiver this past weekend,” she said. “I wasn’t as prepared as I thought I was. I hope that shows people it means that much to me. I don’t care — if I shiver for four hours, I’ll survive.”
She is already contemplating her next project. Some ideas are having another whiteboard initiative allowing others to join her with their own encouraging messages, or doing the project in a different area.
“I’m definitely not going to let this be the most important thing I do with my life,” Lawson said. “I’m way too hungry to stop here. I want to continue to make an influence no matter what.”