While the streets are emptier than we’re used to and many of our favorite businesses are closed, our cities are full of signs. Some are funny, some are silly, but most are uplifting and encouraging – little rays of sunshine during a particularly trying time. Whether it’s an LED sign thanking essential workers or a hand-written expression of gratitude, each one is a sign that our cities are human, even without all the humans.

Every city is like this now, with communities finding more creative ways to express themselves, connect with neighbors, and spread some joy while maintaining a safe social distance. The signs and notes and chalk drawings tell the story of a country going through not only a global health crisis, but a time of economic turmoil, separation, and loneliness that most of us have never before experienced.

Our cities have always been thick with signs and messages but rarely have they all relayed the same message at the same time. What was once a slew of individual marketing campaigns fighting for our attention is now a community-wide effort to show support, though without any kind of strategic leadership. Instead, it seems as though everyone simply understood that what the world needed now was a little less marketing and a whole lot more love.

Messages have appeared on storefronts, sandwich boards, sidewalks, and billboards. They are handwritten in sharpie, printed on 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of paper, carefully spelled out on letterboards, or individual works of art. Some change daily as restaurants continue to serve takeout and delivery and essential businesses carry on the best they can. Others were put in place more than a month ago, standing in for the small business owner as a greeting to customers and visitors while they wait out the shutdown.

In neighborhoods, sidewalk chalk messages appear on sunny days and remain until the next April shower. Some are playful, like hopscotch squares that entertained siblings for an afternoon or brightly colored doodles. Some look like stained glass, a clever idea that went viral during the first few weeks of quarantine. Others are messages to neighbors who might walk by. “Be Kind” or “Stay Strong” – or “Thank you!” scrawled in large letters in front of a local hospital.

Tissue paper rainbows carefully taped to windows and decorated doors are wordless signs to passerby intended to spark a smile, while signs held up outside of nursing homes and hospitals are more personal, a silent exchange full of emotion despite clear separation. On interstates, statewide campaigns blink in bright orange. “Limit Travel. Stop the spread of COVID-19. We’re all in this together,” read one such sign in Ohio.

Every sign, handmade or professionally designed, is evidence that community exists even when it’s asked to stay at home. Though we can not physically reach out to one another, we continue to find new ways to connect and remind one another that we are not alone. As the pandemic goes on and the aftermath changes life as we knew it, these reminders will be all the more important.

Share the Love

Photo by Brittany Hapney at Wit & Whimzy

We’re teaming up with Marietta Main Street to coordinate a Marietta Blooms community-wide positivity campaign leading up to First Friday from Home on May 1st! We encourage you to make a sign using one of the coloring pages below or create a piece of art, a message of hope, a picture or an inspirational saying to share with the community.

Share your message or image with us on social media using #livelovemov, #mymarietta or tagging @ClutchMOV and we’ll share all of your creations in a slideshow of photos on our website!

While this partnership is part of Marietta Main Street’s First Friday at Home, we would love to see signs and messages of hope from all across the Mid-Ohio Valley! We encourage you to continue to share with us through #livelovemov on Facebook and Instagram so that we can spread more love around the MOV.