Community writes 'love notes' to Palo Alto youth

Three mothers organize small-scale way to express support

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

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12 people like this
Posted by Laurel Holman
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 17, 2015 at 8:47 am

Love this. Thank you to these amazing moms for finding such a simple and beautiful way to express support.

8 people like this
Posted by Gunn Father
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 10:12 am

All good, anything that supports the kids is great. Now we just need the PAUSD and the Administration to start ACTING and stop studying ' the issue' . The multiple solutions have been well stated, so wont bore everyone with restating them. Although not an easy problem, dealing with suicide can be done and it takes decisive quick action --- NOT waiting until Jan to change a ' bell schdl ', not worrying about ' traffic concerns' or ' teacher's commutes' ... get on with it, enough kids have died . Lead or resign.

15 people like this
Posted by Barbara
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 17, 2015 at 11:02 am

I love this! Thank you to the moms who took action. Let's establish a Love Tree/Wishing Tree in each neighborhood.
I recently viewed a "Wishing Tree" in Portland, Oregon. The community left wishes hanging from the tree. The instructions were to write your wish and hang it; then select someone else's wish and spend a few moments wishing it would come true.

10 people like this
Posted by Amy
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 2:08 pm

When I was in my thirties I went to my mom and asked her "why you never helped me?" she raised her shoulders and answered "you never asked me for help".
I don't think that to write a note and expect the kids to read the message written for anyone is of any help...
I would prefer a person, in flesh and blood, stand on the corner in a yellow teeshirt with this sign: " free hugs for you if you need some".

2 people like this
Posted by Another dad
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 17, 2015 at 2:31 pm

[Post removed.]

32 people like this
Posted by Paly student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 2:46 pm

To the adults writing mean and negative comments. I am a student at Paly and I think the love notes are a nice gesture. I also know one of the parents that came up with idea, and she is the most loving, hands on parent, to not only her children, but to her Chlidren's friends. Why are you adults passing so much judgement. Have you asked a child or teen if we like the tree? My friends and I felt touched, and felt lucky to have a community that gathered together and cared in their own way. Do you know these people? Thank you to everyone who came and wrote a love note!

2 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 2:50 pm

I commend these people for writing the notes. I hope the students see it and take some comfort from it.

But, I tend to think that the people who will benefit most from this project are the ones who wrote some notes.

For many of us over the past few years, months and week, we have been helpless to do know what to do and have been soul searching as well as hugging our own kids. Anything tangible that we can do to help is a straw we cling to as something we can do. There is very little the ordinary citizens of Palo Alto can do, and yet these people want to do something. It is not a sign of helplessness but a sign of belonging, a sign of community and a sign of worth.

Thank you for doing this for the youth, but also thank you for doing this for yourselves and for all of us. We are a community that cares and we need to be able to show that.

3 people like this
Posted by Community Member
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 17, 2015 at 3:26 pm

The entire community is grieving and this is a great outlet for those who feel like doing something, to comfort each other and to encourage ourselves to move on. I also commend the moms for their kind heart.

In our daily lives, however, how often do we each, as caring individuals and supporting community members we think we are, inadvertently ignore, avoid or hurt others from our school community, our neighborhood, or social environment, just because this person is quiet, not outspoken, or simply too busy to socialize? Years ago, I ran into a situation in a different country, avoided by my own community.

Being a stay home mom who does not have much time to socialize, I had a neighboring family repetitively asking me to take care of their kids after school when the wife decided to go back to work as a “marketing executive”. After I turned them down, even though our kids were still friends, they started spreading rumors about us. By the time our kids found out that the rest of the neighbors were avoiding them, it was several years down the road.

Being an introvert and not a social person, I did not feel like explaining to anyone and we just moved. The Asian dogma of “see no evil, hear no evil and say no evil” comforts me that we did not need to say anything back. I still run into people from the old neighborhood once in a while. Not sure how they feel about the encounters, I just hoped that everyone has an open mind and open heart, and would care to say hello or give each other a hug.

Embrace the people around you, those who have different opinions, or those you think/hear to have different opinions, and try to be kind. We do not want to contribute to hostility, even if unintentionally.

3 people like this
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 18, 2015 at 12:17 am

Dear Ms. Spencer, Ms. Grieg, and Ms. Romer (and other Palo Alto Onliners),

Thank you, thank you, for following your hearts, and for doing something direct and personal--and very creative--to take care of the kids. It's just so great to see people taking positive actions such as this, to help us all cope with the sense of creeping paralysis you mention, the danger of becoming numb to feelings. It's certainly not easy to expose oneself, time after time, to fresh grief. It's a little like living in a war zone. But we become ineffective if we draw too far back.

So I salute you for your strength!—and hope your children, too, are bearing up as best they can, amid all this loss.

Best wishes,
Marc Vincenti
Gunn English Dept. (1995-2010)
Co-founder, with soph Martha Cabot

2 people like this
Posted by Lisa of Phoenix (was Mountain View and Barron Park)
a resident of another community
on Mar 22, 2015 at 8:37 pm

I used to bike on Bryant and passed these remarkable trees and neighborhood. I am so happy to read that the tree decorations have become supportive of the students in addition to celebrating the seasons.
My best wishes and thoughts are with all in the community.

Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of University South
on Mar 22, 2015 at 8:50 pm


Instead of taking away their cell phones, their AP classes, their zero-period classes, there graduation cap decorations, let's just LISTEN and SUPPORT.

Like this comment
Posted by Sam
a resident of another community
on Mar 24, 2015 at 8:35 am

As a passenger on #309 on March 9, 2015 and a parent to two younger children, I was deeply saddened by the incident. In the process of grieving and healing, I started writing a letter to the student whose name I do not know. Would it be appropriate to hang it on the tree here?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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