Written by : Emiliya Zhivotovskaya 

Practitioner’s Corner: Cheryl Rice

What if everyone knew they mattered? This goal is a mission in progress thanks to coach and speaker Cheryl Rice, creator of the You Matter Marathon. Inspired by a heartfelt moment of connection in a grocery store, Cheryl is creating ripples of positive change all over the world with two simple words: "You Matter."

Two years ago, Cheryl received a “You Matter” card from a work colleague. This meaningful moment inspired her to print and distribute her own batch of cards. She gave them to family, friends and people she came in contact with whom she might not have had the opportunity to acknowledge otherwise.

“Then I started getting a little mischievous,” says Cheryl. “I’d leave the cards in places where I wouldn’t know who would find them. For example, I’d leave a card in the credit card slot at a gas station and it felt delightful to imagine who might find it next as I pulled away.”

Cheryl’s experience highlights an important finding in the science of kindness and altruism: Part of what makes giving joyful is our ability to place ourselves in the recipient’s position. We imagine the person receiving our gift or act of kindness, and it activates brain regions that simulate the experience of receiving.

A Fateful Encounter

Cheryl’s tipping-point came one day in a grocery store. A woman was sharing with the clerk that she was really struggling. Her husband lost his job, her son was sick and she was paying with food stamps. Cheryl followed her to the parking lot and despite the discomfort of approaching a random stranger, she reached out, expressed empathy and handed her a “You Matter” card. The woman’s eyes filled with tears in this micro-moment of connection, and Cheryl knew that this was a message more people needed to hear.

Watch the story here:

At that time, Cheryl was working on a final project for her Certificate in Applied Positive Psychology training. She had set a goal of giving out 10,000 cards in a month. She knew she couldn’t do that alone, so she started recruiting other people. She printed and paid for the expenses, including shipping, and gave away 431,460 cards to people from all 50 states and 59 countries. This year, her goal is to share 1,000,000 cards in November.

Cheryl has been working feverishly to get sponsors to help make the You Matter Marathon free for individuals. Participants just need to register and commit to handing out 30 cards in November.

Become a Part of Something Bigger

What excited us the most at The Flourishing Center about what Cheryl has created is that it gives participants a clear-cut way to perform acts of kindness. Although it may seem easy to walk up to people and tell them that they matter, it can be a vulnerable experience. A project such as the You Matter Marathon, participating in a research study, a class, or even just receiving an assignment from a coach can ease the discomfort of doing something out of the ordinary. This excuse can buffer the mind chatter of potentially being perceived as “strange.”

Also, humans are wired with a desire and a need to be a part of something bigger than themselves. What if thousands of people all over the world participated in this kindness intervention? What if they created moments of positivity and connection? What if 1 million people were reminded that they matter?

Inspired and ready to join the movement? Get your bundle of 30 cards and start spreading the message. Organizations and communities can also get involved as ambassadors.

Learn more about the You Matter Marathon:

Emiliya Zhivotovskaya is the CEO and founder of The Flourishing Center, a New York City-based, Benefit Corporation (B-Corp) that is dedicated to increasing the flourishing of individuals, organizations and communities worldwide. She is the creator of the acclaimed Certification in Applied Positive Psychology (CAPP) program, currently offered in 12 cities across the U.S., Canada and online. She holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Positive Psychology and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Mind-Body Medicine from Saybrook University. Emiliya holds a PCC credential with the International Coaching Federation (ICF), as well as over a dozen certifications, ranging from yoga to Thai massage, biofeedback, motivational interviewing and more.

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