More than 30 heart-shaped pieces of paper hang like Christmas ornaments from two trees at the corner of Bryant Street and Lowell Avenue in Old Palo Alto, on them written messages like "You are cherished, valued, loved and irreplaceable!" and "Dear Palo Alto kids your community loves you and is listening."
These "love notes" to Palo Alto youth were hung by community members Sunday afternoon after three mothers decided they wanted to do something small yet thoughtful to express support for a community grieving a student death by suicide last week.
"We were all in the same boat of wanting to do something but not knowing what to do," said Cristina Spencer, who along with Cindy Greig and Kirsten Romer, who both have children in the Palo Alto school district, came up with the love notes idea.
Spencer, whose children attend the Keys School in Palo Alto, sent an email to friends Saturday afternoon with a simple invitation: "Come write love notes."
"There is no pressure here," her email reads. "We all have our own path with difficult experiences and not everyone shares the same needs or desires. We recognize and deeply respect this, which is one reason small and simple feels right."
"We just wanted the kids to know we love them (and) we care about the kids in the community," Spencer told the Weekly. "Even though we don't know what to do we're not going to let that stop us from doing something. I think that's the risk you risk going into this numb paralysis about the experience and this at least was a way to keep the feeling alive. I think the feelings of grief and tenderness are healthy. They help people understand what they really want and the kind of community we want to live in."
Some of the multi-colored pieces of paper are "community wishes," on which people could finish the sentence "I wish …" Wishes ranged from "I wish for kindness, fun, play, sleep" to a wish for less bullying. Other papers are labeled "love note."
"Dear Palo Alto youth," one reads, "You are precious and precious to us, just as you are, following your own unique inspirations, sharing your gifts. They illuminate your life and this place we call home. Shine on!"
The love-note organizers said however small, they hoped the notes would offer positive "encouragement to anyone who needs support," Greig said.
Spencer said she has not seen any teens stop at the trees yet, and most were whizzing by on bicycles after school got out Monday afternoon, but she hopes they will.
"I also hope this small act of kindness will inspire others in our community to do what they can, in their own way, to help make a positive impact in Palo Alto," Greig said.
There are blank pieces of paper and pens sitting on traffic posts next to the trees for anyone to write and hang a note.
The Palo Alto Weekly has created a Storify page to capture the numerous voices, opinions and our news coverage on teen well-being. This page will continue to be updated. To view it, go to Storify.com.