Jon Carder rehearses passing on an umbrella to a stranger.

Laura Russell and Arletta Demaree share a laugh while creating their art pieces.

Ryan Leuck and Julian Bernard practice using watercolor crayons on scrap paper.

Kristin Wood adorns her umbrella with words of kindness for an unsuspecting recipient.

Kindness: Pass It On

How many times have you been caught in the rain without an umbrella? Most of us Oregonians eschew the need for coverage on drizzly days, but even the hardiest among us grabs hat, coat and bumbershoot when the skies darken.

The umbrella – the iconic symbol of Oregon fall, winter and spring — became the centerpiece of our latest employee team-building project. We have a pretty tight crew here, so our HR Manager Kim Barnett wanted to find a fun, team-building activity that would make those bonds even stronger and tie in with our community involvement program.

The Kindness Project was born. In a two-day workshop organized by Open Eye Art, each employee was handed a very sturdy wooden-handled black umbrella with a blue sky interior design. Individually, we embellished the interior of our umbrella with statements of encouragement and kind words. We traded our works of art with each other to add even more inspirational messages.

The purpose of this project? Work together, be thankful for what we have, and share something simple and useful with others. So, we don’t get to keep these works of art, but our job is to share our creation by gifting it to a stranger on a rainy day— a random act of kindness if you will. The first few recipients of these umbrellas have been surprised, amazed, and grateful. And we have enjoyed passing them along. In the coming months, you may see these umbrellas around Portland or you may be handed one yourself. If so, take it, use it, and then pass it on to someone who needs it more than you. This symbol reminds us that it doesn’t take much to be thoughtful and considerate to others, and simple gestures are often the most powerful.

Our lesson from this experience – kindness is a treasure and one worth passing on.