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.


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One night in 2018, Sheila and Steve Albers took their two youngest sons out to dinner. Their 17-year-old son, John, was in a crabby mood—not an uncommon occurrence for the teen who struggled with mental health issues—so he stayed home.

A half hour later, Sheila's started getting text messages that John wasn't safe. He had posted messages with suicidal ideations on social media and his friends had called the police to check on him. The Albers immediately raced home.

When they got there, they were met with a surreal scene. Their minivan was in the neighbor's yard across the street. John had been shot in the driver's seat six times by a police officer who had arrived to check on him. The officer had fired two shots as the teen slowly backed the van out of the garage, then 11 more after the van spun around backward. But all the officers told the Albers was that John had "passed" and had been shot. They wouldn't find out until the next day who had shot and killed him.

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via msleja / TikTok

In 2019, the Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada instituted a policy that forbids teachers from participating in "partisan political activities" during school hours. The policy states that "any signage that is displayed on District property that is, or becomes, political in nature must be removed or covered."

The new policy is based on the U.S. Supreme Court's 2018 Janus decision that limits public employees' First Amendment protections for speech while performing their official duties.

This new policy caused a bit of confusion with Jennifer Leja, a 7th and 8th-grade teacher in the district. She wondered if, as a bisexual woman, the new policy forbids her from discussing her sexuality.

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How we talk about Black Lives Matter protests across America is often a reflection of how we personally feel about the fight for racial equality itself. We're all biased toward our own preferences and a fractured news media hasn't helped things by skewing facts, emphasizing preferred narratives and neglecting important stories, oftentimes out of fear that they might alienate their increasingly partisan and entrenched audiences.

This has been painfully clear in how we report on and talk about the protests themselves. Are they organized by Antifa and angry mobs of BLM renegades hell bent on the destruction of everything wholesome about America? Or, are they entirely peaceful demonstrations in which only the law enforcement officers are the bad actors? The uncomfortable truth is that both extreme narratives ignore key facts. The overwhelming majority of protests have been peaceful.protests have been peaceful. The facts there are clear. And the police have also provoked acts of aggression against peaceful demonstrators, leading to injuries and unnecessary arrests. Yet, there have been glaring exceptions of vandalism, intimidation and violence in cities like Portland, Seattle, and most recently, Louisville. And while some go so far as to quite literally defend looting, that's a view far outside the mainstream of nearly all Americans across various age, racial and cultural demographics.

But what if we step away from the larger philosophical debate and narrow things down to one very important fact: the vast majority of those stirring division at protests are white.

And if you don't believe me, just listen to Durham, North Carolina's mayor and what he had to say about how white people are "hijacking" Breonna Taylor's legacy and transforming a movement that has suddenly split Americans after having near unanimous support just a few months ago.


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