ST. MARYS — St. Marys man John Schlimm has created participatory art projects through social media to encourage acts of kindness and embracing a positive mindset during a difficult time.

Schlimm, who is a Harvard-trained educator, artist, author and advocate, started the “5 Day PEACE Challenge” and “SMILE & WAVE,” encouraging people to share photos taking part in positive initiatives.

Schlimm said he knew that as soon as the coronavirus pandemic began escalating, it would have a great mental health impact on the public. As people become more isolated at home, they may be looking for feel-good activities, he said.

“Tapping into the unlimited potential of art and words to positively impact the world, both here and at home and for a broader audience, has always been very important to me,” he said.

“God-willing, we will not all be physically impacted by coronavirus, but every one of us has certainly already been mentally impacted, in ways great and small.”

According to www.johnschlimm.com/2020/03/15/5-daypeace-challenge, people can print out the “PEACE” letters or create their own, finding a special place in their yard, town or wherever else to plant it and “watch peace grow.” Those who are unable to leave their homes can also plant the letters somewhere there, beneath a pillow, in a vase or houseplant, etc.

Schlimm, who has taken part in discussions with mental health experts across the country, said one common lesson is the importance of feel-good activities, especially during times of fear, anxiety, stress and other negative emotions.

“The symbolic gesture of spreading PEACE in this way penetrates our own minds, giving us a little more peace of mind, while also conveying that energy to others,” he said.

These projects can help people feel connected with others during a time of isolation, Schlimm says, and are a great activity for parents and children, teachers, librarians and organizations.

In addition, Schlimm has launched another project on social media, “SMILE & WAVE.”

“Even though we are all social distancing, either in isolation or staying six or more feet apart, we can still smile and wave to each other, sending out a much-needed jolt of love and caring to every person we see,” he said. “The response has been pure joy, and has already sent so many ripples of love and connection out into the world.”

Schlimm requests people share their photos of planting the letters, using the hashtag #5dayPEACEchallenge, or smiling and waving on social media, tagging @JohnSchlimm for both. Follow Schlimm on social media platforms or at www.johnschlimm.com.

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