Boise & Garden City

‘Have a goob day’: Boise librarian hides notes in books as part of guerrilla kindness project

You can surmount it. Somewhere, someone is looking for exactly what you have to offer. beeleev in yor self!

That’s just one of the dozens of small messages Paige Thomas has quietly slipped into the books waiting to be checked out at one Boise Public Library branch over the last year.

Be thankful 4 the whole Earth. Beware the barrenness of a busy life. Your cool inside.

The notes are a part of Thomas’ #guerrillakindnessBPL project that is steadily taking root at the Collister location on State Street. They are one way the library assistant is infusing kindness into an increasingly uneasy, demoralized world.

Her request is as simple as it is universal: Write down something positive, something kind, and tuck it into the cardboard box at the circulation counter when checking out your materials.

Thomas will do the rest.

Love unconditionally and without judgment. Never give up. Be a rainbow in some1elsis cloude.

Library assistant Paige Thomas started a guerrilla kindness project at the Boise Public Library’s Collister branch to bring more happiness into people’s everyday lives. “It’s a skill we really need to teach our children: compassion with no conditions,” she said. Kelsey Grey

The notes may not always be grammatically correct — many are scrawled with the imprecise hand of a child just learning to put thought to paper. But the spelling is always secondary to the sentiment.

“Everyone has bad days,” Thomas said. “Some people have several bad days in a row, and if in that moment they’re reading their book and they can find just a glimmer of hope or (see) that someone out there is thinking good things and sending good vibes their way, that’s all I hope for.”

Decade-old inspiration

About a decade ago, Thomas, a third generation North Ender, stumbled upon a little trinket made of clay hanging from a tree in a park nearby to her home. It had beads and a bell — a Ben’s Bells creation.

“Now it’s hanging in my yard, and I love it,” she said. “And every time I see it, it reminds me that a stranger was thoughtful and compassionate enough to just leave something there for someone else to find: no strings attached, no conditions.”

Just kindness.

The Ben’s Bells project is an Arizona-based nonprofit that makes wind chimes to leave at random throughout the community. It planted an idea that has stayed with Thomas: What if the library could encourage random acts of kindness, too?

Thomas, who has worked at the library for six years, started small. She gathered a pile of rocks and some paint and invited everyone to the library. The group painted happy images and thoughts onto the rocks.

She’s been riding her bike to local parks and other places where it’s easy for people to find such a happy surprise ever since. Each time, she includes a laminated note encouraging the finder to post about their discovery using the #guerrillakindnessBPL hashtag on social media.

The initiative was so well received that Thomas knew she shouldn’t stop there. That’s where the notes come in.

One of library assistant Paige Thomas’ guerrilla kindness initiatives encourages patrons of the Collister branch to leave kind notes in a box at the checkout counter. Thomas then inserts the notes into the books on hold that are waiting to be taken home. Kelsey Grey

“It’s always nice when you have one of your staff come to you with these kinds of ideas,” said Jennifer Villalobos, the library branch’s supervisor. “There’s no cost to be kind.”

About every two weeks, Thomas sifts through the notes, weeding out only the truly illegible scribbles from the library’s youngest patrons.

“I read through them all to make sure they are all kind, but really, they are,” she said. “They’re great. It’s such an easy way to just pass along something encouraging.”

She makes a point, she said, to ensure that the next generation knows that we should show unconditional compassion to people going through hardship. It’s something she’s teaching to her 10-year-old daughter, Tatum.

“It seems to shock them that I’m making it a point to teach them that,” Thomas said. “They sort of get it. They’re just nice already. So maybe we have a lot to learn from them.”

And on Dec. 19, the library will hold an after-school program where library patrons young and old will make salt dough Christmas kindness ornaments to leave in trees in city parks for passersby. Thomas said she hopes they bring a smile to whomever stumbles upon them, much like the Ben’s Bells project still makes her smile after all this time.

Her kindness brings recognition

Thomas had no idea her small acts of kindness would eventually be featured in a rather public way.

As Boise Mayor David Bieter laid out his yearlong plan to infuse the City of Trees with “kindness and wonder” at his State of the City Address in September, an idea in his speech stood out.

“Can you imagine the wonder of pulling a book out, opening it up — pure serendipity — and finding a message of encouragement from a total stranger, from somebody else?” he told the hundreds of people gathered for the speech at the Morrison Center. “Kindness and wonder, folks. That’s the Boise we know. That’s the Boise we need to encourage.”

It was, Thomas said, the most eloquent compliment she’s ever received.

And with more people from different backgrounds moving to the Treasure Valley, Bieter and Thomas agree on this: even small messages of solidarity are one small way to create more harmony here.

“In lieu of things like mass shootings and the polarity of politics, I was just looking for something for people to do,” Thomas said. “It didn’t matter who they where, what they believed, what they were going through.”

In 2018’s 24-hour news cycle, it was just a little message of love for them to find.

You can handle hard things!! Today is a gift: Enjoy! Have a goob day.