By Cassandra Jaramillo The Dallas Morning News
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Hundreds of encouraging yet anonymous notes have been left around hospitals, school campuses and stores throughout several Dallas suburbs. The mysterious notes have no return address or signature, just an email address.
Eliana Palacios was restocking items at the Bedford resale store The Coat of Many Colors when she came across an envelope decorated with stickers and glittery gel ink.
She opened the letter and savored its message of taking time to enjoy the day and being grateful.
"I know you have a lot of stressful things going on and you may be overwhelmed, but just realize that life is beautiful. Things will get better," the note read.
The encouraging note also created a mystery. There was no return address or signature, just an email address.
The letter was a bright moment in what had been a stressful week. The 25-year-old from Hurst, Texas, had been worrying about her career path and future as she was deciding between two jobs.
"It was eerie, because it talked to me in that moment. I thought it was awesome that someone had taken the time to spread such joy and positivity," Palacios said.
Moved by the stranger's kindness, Palacios sent an email to let the writer know the impact the letter made and that he or she is "awesome."
"I'm glad that it did some good for you," came the reply.
That note was one of hundreds left around in Grapevine, Colleyville, Hurst and Bedford in recent months, in hospitals, school campuses and stores.
Tamera McDonald of Dallas also had a brush with the secret notes. The 35-year-old works a full-time job and is studying business administration at Tarrant County College.
She went into the bathroom before class and found notes with kind messages taped all over the mirrors.
"There's times that things seem so overwhelming. I had fallen behind and missed assignments," McDonald said. "It's more than a blessing to know that somebody like that spreads joy."
AN 'ANGEL OF JOY' Palacios remembers work being slow at the resale shop that Thursday. She wondered if she had interacted with the person who went out of the way to do a random act of kindness.
"When I saw the card, it was child-like. The stickers. The writing, it was squiggly. But when I read the content of the card I thought, 'OK, no child could write this.'"
Palacio's right. No child wrote that letter.
The person behind the Spread Joy 24/7 movement is Angela Joy Bailey, a 27-year-old from Grapevine who agreed to share her identity after telling her story to The Dallas Morning News.
"I'm just shy and self-conscious. I don't like to have attention," she said. "It's not about me."
The Texas Woman's University graduate studied child development sciences and has done volunteer work for years, mostly helping children with special needs.
She said she never cared to have people know that she was writing the letters. She describes herself as a shy person. Growing up, she dealt with bullying, anxiety and depression.
Despite the obstacles, they didn't deter her from being kind.
"This has given me a drive. A purpose," she said of her letters. "Helping a person to smile based on the cards means a lot."
The impact she's having shows on her website, spreadjoy24-7.com. It's there that people post photos of the cards and share their stories of how the messages touched them.
Some tell of finding hope while dealing with a medical crisis. A mother bringing a son home from rehab wrote that their note seemed like a wink and a message from God that things would be OK. Like many posting on the site, she promised to "pay it forward."
"She's living up to her name," her mother, Linda Bailey, said with a smile. "Angel that brings us joy."
Joy, which is the name she prefers to go by, kept her letter-writing a secret from her own parents at one point.
She doesn't drive, so she asked her father for a ride to the local community college. As the requests for rides to random locations became more frequent, her father became more curious.
"She was anonymous, even to me, and then I started to ask her why she was wanting to go," Bill Bailey said.
Joy Bailey estimates more than 400 letters have been distributed since she started leaving letters for strangers in late October.
"I was going through some depression, not knowing what my purpose is and then I started doing this and it just gave me my own joy," she said.
She works full-time as a receptionist at a funeral home, spending some of her paycheck on blank cards, stickers and pens. Her latest purchases cost about $50 in supplies.
Now, the creator of SpreadJoy 24/7 is trying to grow a grassroots movement based on kindness by inviting the community to join in.
She's established a post office box where people can send their own letters for her to distribute. Or they could send her stationery, stickers or other supplies.
She says she'd like to get more people spreading joy.
"You never know what people are going through and you never know how they can benefit from a kind word," she said.