It’s late March, 2020 and Heather Lane’s mind is racing. The COVID-19 crisis has her locked into her Edina, MN home with her husband and two young children. As she horribilizes about the unknowns – fears that she and her husband could lose their jobs, fears they could lose their home, fears the people she cares about lose their lives – she knows she needs to divert her attention to something more productive, so she engages her kids in a project.
Heather says, “While I don’t have a defined life purpose, I’ve always been guided by kindness, gratitude and inclusiveness. I support all people and am recognized for my heart. I felt like I had to do something to give thanks to all of those who are serving us.”
Heather created a plan. In the front yard of her home, just before the sidewalk, there is a wooden timber retaining wall made from railroad ties. She decided to draw six identical circles with her sidewalk chalk.
In each circle, Heather and her family created a unique way to colorfully recognize the many heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic. A circle represents a “COVID-19 hero group”. There is a dedicated circle for doctors, nurses, truckers, grocery workers, police, and firefighters. Now, their idea has exploded into a large effort stretching across thousands of yards in more than thirty-five states.
It all started as a colorful way to say thank you on the wall in front of the Lane family home.
“People stop and honk all the time,” says Heather Lane. Lane says, “The artwork and thank you is meant for the heroes within the community, from first responders to those keeping the food supply chain intact.”
After the sidewalk chalk faded with recent rain, the Lanes made the tribute permanent with paint.
Heather says, “Heroes today drive trucks, sweep the floors at the hospital, ring up groceries, deliver packages or mail, run into burning houses and navigate arguments. And many will need to treat the sick, face-to-face with coughing patients who are gasping for air while afraid and alone. All will show up regardless of their fears. If you are showing up and interacting with people for a paycheck, I see and honor you.”
Now, Heather and her husband have made the artwork into yard signs, t-shirts and a fundraising effort, plus a way to support a local business. They’ve added two circles to the new design, honoring maintenance workers and teachers, too, as hero groups.
“It’s really bringing everyone together too, and keeps us busy,” says Kristi Johnson from FastSigns, who helps Heather print the signs and fulfill the orders.
Signs sell for $30 dollars each with $10 dollars from each sale going towards those facing food insecurities.
“We just wanted to give a small donation and to spread happiness and how grateful we are for them,” says Heather.
Heather also includes a letter with each sign, encouraging people to support local arts, nonprofits and small businesses. Her goal is to help as many people as possible, adding all of this is proof a sign of thanks goes a long way. In May, over 4000 signs have been sold.
“I was getting thank yous from people before we did the signs, doctors reaching out saying it meant a lot,” says Lane, “If you are out and going to work and interacting with people for a paycheck, that’s what the sign is for. We didn’t create the sign to be thanked. We created it to thank all of these great workers. The sign is colorful, beautiful and bright. It grabs the heart.”
Heather continues, “This blew up in a big way. It reminds me there are a lot of amazing people in the world. When they see the bright colors and beauty, it makes them joyful. We are all looking for what to do in this crisis. The best ideas are ones to share. Planting the sign at the home of a “COVID 19 hero” is something that anyone can do. It’s taking a positive action. It has enabled us to cast aside fear.”
“Gratitude, generosity and vulnerability are good things,” Heather commented. “I don’t think we say enough, ‘I’m proud of you,’ or give the ‘atta-boys’, we should in this world. We were willing to say ‘thank you’ and now others want to say it, too. It’s simple, it honors others and it feels nice.”
Heather closes, “COVID-19 is one part deadly virus, and one part epic emotional roller coaster for the entire world. It is not something we are reading about in a textbook, rather living and experiencing in real time. There is no handbook on how to process this much emotion. And just when I was about to give up, when it all felt like too much, a bucket of chalk changed my perspective, changed my life.
As I stood there, looking at my house, feeling the love of strangers, I was given a divine reminder of where I get to isolate and likely shelter in place. I am HOME.
That little house in the background – my little house, the one I’m afraid we will lose if normal people are left out of the equation – was built in 1908. It has seen its inhabitants through the 1918 Spanish flu, the sinking of the Titanic, the Great Depression, two World Wars and the rations that went along with that, the Holocaust and countless other tragedies, local and all around the globe, that made the front pages of the newspapers delivered to the front porch.
It’s hard for me to imagine what all of the souls who lived here before me would think about this virus, or life in 2020 versus the lives they led in 1908, or 1945… But I can almost hear them whispering, “You will be OK.” So with that, I will now believe it to be true. I will be OK. My family will be OK. We will all be OK.”
Heather and her family are leading us. To say, ‘thank u’, to stay grateful and hopeful, to remember that bright colors and beauty helps us be joyful and optimistic, even during an uncertain time. By showing us the way, by encouraging those on the frontline and recruiting others to recognize them, Heather is creating quite the impact.
To get your own sign, visit https://thethankustore.com