Armed with a Sharpie and rocks, this guy is lifting people's spirits every day.
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The best parts of the world are those that are full of random acts of kindness.

In the wake of Ferguson and Black Lives Matter, the St. Louis area has a reputation for being a segregated hot bed of neighbor-against-neighbor rage. That's what we've seen on the news.

But what if you were there?


You'd get to see how people actually live every day. You'd see neighbors of all kinds talking together, playing together, and helping each other out.

That's exactly what artist Bryan Payne is doing — and he's showing us we're all connected.

He's a local artist who's hiding treasures. What? Yes. Image by Jarred Gastreich.

Bryan is the guy behind a unique treasure-hunting project: Doodlestones.


Round 3 of doodlestones starts today!
A photo posted by @doodlestones on


"This constant impulse to want to connect. I feel like everyone's got this," Bryan says.

So what, exactly, are Doodlestones?

Bryan is an artist and amateur urban archaeologist and treasure hunter, and he's putting his passions to use by creating small stones decorated with friendly faces. He hides them in places where people cross paths as a way to help make his town a friendlier, kinder place. By geotagging and using location clues in the images he posts on Facebook and Instagram, he leaves behind a trail of tiny, happy artworks.


The 75 year old Kingshighway bridge is being torn down and with it goes the infamous diy skate park that is underneath it. Bug Chaser played a show here yesterday to send it off and tons of people were getting their last skate session in. I did a little memorial with the objects found on site, by next week it will all be gone.
A photo posted by @bryancharlespayne on


"I wanna find a way to connect all people. Not just an art crowd or a certain scene. It crosses all boundaries." Bryan says.


#doodlestone @pdianegs #cherokeestreet thank you @bryancharlespayne @flowersandweeds
A photo posted by Jennifer McComb (@mccombhoney) on
A photo posted by @doodlestones on


Each stone comes from a river in his home state of Missouri. On each stone, he writes "#doodlestone," the date, and "finders keepers."

Thumbs up. Image by Jarred Gastreich.


Breakfast time?
A photo posted by @doodlestones on


A quick glance at its Facebook page shows just how many folks agree and are joining in.

"People following the clues are starting to find them," Bryan says. "They're all geotagged. You can click on the map and see them on the map, whatever the satellite proximity is."

Images via Doodlestones' Facebook and Instagram.

Bryan wants everyone to be on a hunt for treasure, whether that be for Doodlestones themselves ...


Got three doodle stone fans at the farmer's market, so I gave them each treasures to take home. They told me they paint on stones with their grandma.
A photo posted by @doodlestones on

...or a new small business they find while hunting for Doodlestone treasure...


Found my first #doodlestone! I'm leaving it behind because it fits so perfect. Hint: Egghead can be found at the best place to get grilled cheeses on a Saturday morning.
A photo posted by It is Alright, Ma. (@itisalrightma) on

...or a kind moment with a neighbor they might not have known.


Portrait of an artist being super friendly. Image by Jarred Gastreich.

That very thing has already started happening around the St. Louis area. One of the Doodlestone treasure hunters found him on Facebook, and they met up.

"The family in the photograph contacted me after finding the two Doodlestone ghosts in their planter. ... I ended up giving them each a Doodlestone of their choice from my newest batch as a thank you for their willingness to engage in the project in a new way," Bryan said. "What I got to experience with them is a huge part of what it's about for me: hearing stories, looking at treasures, and finding a new way to connect with the community."

Bryan hiding stones. Image by Jarred Gastreich.

One small idea is turning into a discovery ground for an entire town.

Bryan notes, "This is the first way that I've been able to use my resources to create some sort of community, building to bring people from across barriers together."

Images via Doodlestones' Instagram.

Helping humans connect with their surroundings and tap into their community. It's an innately positive pursuit. How does it not help to direct somebody to a new coffee shop or a new park?

"I think both things help in different ways, it's all connected," he says. "Taking people outside their comfort zone and leading them somewhere else that's safe … or fun or adventurous."



"I'm an artist, and this is my take on how to build community. I realize now that's my job, to build community."

And from the looks of it, this artist's hope to be a small part of creating more joy and connection and kindness is already working.

I can't wait to see it grow.


Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."