- Associated Press - Monday, May 30, 2016

STILLWATER, Minn. (AP) - Alaya and Annie Kish’s messages of hope and inspiration in downtown Stillwater were just what Robyn Prudhomme needed to see on a recent Thursday.

The mother-daughter duo spent part of the morning decorating the Main Street steps with phrases such as “Be Strong,” ”Be Courageous” and “Laugh Often” in colorful chalk. Annie, who turned 5 on Wednesday, would come up with a message for each step; Alaya, 36, would dutifully write it down, the St. Paul Pioneer Press (https://bit.ly/22nxEyy ) reported.

Prudhomme, of Cottage Grove, said she was touched by their random act of kindness.

“This gives me motivation,” said Prudhomme, whose husband, Robert, died in a bike accident in October. “It’s like icing on the cake to see these words. It’s beautiful, and it gives me hope.”

The Kishes also pass out kindness stickers, hand out inspirational quotes and leave small gifts - hand-painted rocks, figurines, plastic toy rings - in hiding spots around downtown.

“We always carry stuff with us, so we always have it,” Alaya Kish said. “We try to do kindness every day, even if it’s just to hold the door open for someone and look them in the eye when talking. It’s just basic kindness things.”

Alaya Kish, who lives in May Township in northern Washington County, decided to start the kindness project, which she has dubbed “Kindness by Annie + Her Mom,” a few months ago after completing treatment for an eating disorder.

“Earlier this year, I had been feeling that I didn’t matter, but I learned in treatment that I really do matter,” she said. “And then I realized that there are so many people out there who don’t believe . they make a difference, and I know that’s not true.”

An artist who works part-time at Axdahl’s Garden Farm and Greenhouse, Kish began laminating small hearts with the message “You Matter” for Annie to pass out to people. The two also started leaving “good graffiti” around town.

Recent messages left on the Brown’s Creek State Trail read: “You are an important and valuable individual,” ”Sprinkle Kindess” and “Love Others.”

Kish started a Facebook page so people could track the acts of kindness and post pictures of their own. She sends “You Matter” starter kits to people who would like to start their own kindness crusade; kits have been mailed to Texas, Georgia, Utah and Virginia, she said.

“The world is so depressing,” Alaya Kish said. “I stopped watching the news after 9/11. Everything was so negative, and it was so focused on the nastiness of the world. They would rather do news stories on bad things that are happening . instead of the good things are happening.”

Annie Kish, who calls herself a “kindness fairy,” last week approached two young women waiting at a red light on Main Street.

“Excuse me,” she said. “Would you like a kindness sticker?”

She peeled off two stickers and handed one to each woman.

“We hand them out to people because it’s fun and it’s lovely, and you should come join our crusade,” Alaya Kish told them. “It’s our movement. Pass on the love.”

Annie Kish said people really like her stickers. “We all have special talents,” she said. “My special talent is sharing things with others.”

Kari Wahlstrom, who met the Kishes while climbing the Main Street steps, said she loved reading their inspirational messages.

“It makes me feel great,” said Wahlstrom, who lives in Stillwater. “People going through difficult times need happy thoughts and words from other people. “

Alaya Kish handed Wahlstrom a handmade laminated card with an Amy Poehler quote on it: “Don’t think. Get out of your head. Stop planning and just go.”

Kish said she hopes eventually to start a nonprofit organization called “You Matter.”

“This is my mission,” she said. “Everyone is so connected, and they don’t really pay attention to anything except what’s on their phone or what’s on their computer, they’re just so absorbed. There are so many beautiful things all around that I just feel that people are missing out. If we can bring a little joy to someone’s life because we hand out a sticker, then that’s wonderful.”

Said Annie: “Some people forget that they matter, so we help them remember.”


Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, https://www.twincities.com

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