When Holly Main first spotted a paper on her car's windshield, she immediately assumed it was a parking ticket.

Instead, she found a note of encouragement, scrawled in a child's clumsy handwriting.

"You are a living thing like everyone else, so be yourself and don't be afraid," the index card read.

"It just kind of gave me a smile after a long day of work," said Main, who is a special education director at Kirk Elementary School in Millington, Mich.

The message was inspired by a project rooted in Colorado Springs, some 1,300 miles away from the small town.

Car Window Poetry, the practice of placing a note of encouragement on a stranger's windshield, was started by 22-year-old Alex Lewis as a way to spread compassion.

"I want to create this culture saying, 'Hey, we can all make a positive impact on somebody else's life," said Lewis, who works as a digital marketing specialist for the Colorado Springs-based Christian youth organization Young Life. "We're all in this together and we all have magic and beauty we can share with others."

Since the project began in the fall - and was featured on "NBC Nightly News" in November - Car Window Poetry has spread to 28 other states. Locally, Lewis and other participants have delivered hundreds of messages.

The project kicked off with an event in September, when about a dozen people placed notes on cars parked downtown. At another event the following month, Lewis and other volunteers partnered with Urban Peak of Colorado Springs to donate socks and other essentials, along with notes of hope and positivity, to homeless people in the area.

He's also visited classes at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Odyssey Elementary School, where students had the chance to try out Car Window Poetry.

Beth Drake, a teacher at Odyssey, said the activity had benefits that stretched beyond allowing the children to practice the figurative language they had learned about in their poetry unit.

"It really teaches the kids to think outside themselves and know that what they do affects other people," Drake said. "It gave them the opportunity to make a positive impact on someone they didn't even know."

For Colorado Springs resident Don McCaleb, who attended the first two events, the challenge is composing a message that's precise enough to fit on the four short lines of the Car Window Poetry notecards, which can be downloaded and printed from www.carwindowpoetry.com.

McCaleb, who serves as the creative director for Woodmen Valley Chapel, described the project as "a very generous and humble way to spread beauty and home in a world that needs it."

"It was one of those things that, as a creative, you're like, 'I wish I would had thought of that,'' he said.

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Contact Rachel Riley: 636-0108

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