People are decorating their windows with hearts and messages of hope right now

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Thousands of people are practicing social distancing worldwide and under stay-at-home orders to stop the spread of coronavirus, but that’s not stopping neighbors from leaving messages of hope in the windows of their homes.

It’s unclear where or when the effort started, but photos of people putting rainbows, colorful heart cutouts, teddy bears and anything that resembles a sign of hope have been spreading all over social media.

The motivation is simple and varies from neighborhood to neighborhood.

Some are participating because they want their neighbors who have been deemed “essential workers” to see some joy on their way out of their homes. Others say they decorated their windows so families taking walks and getting fresh air have a nice reminder that everyone is in this together.

‘Spread the love, not the germs’

Natasha James is the founder of just one of the many growing Facebook groups dedicated to this effort, Hearts in the Window. She told CNN her original intent was to bring people together and make an online community giving families an activity to do while walking in their neighborhoods. She was sent a copy paste message about hearts in windows and after participating she decided to open it up to see what social media would do.

“Businesses have gotten involved, parents with children in the hospital, doctors, nurses and senior homes,” she said.

James said she wants people to be part of “spreading the love, not the germs.”

Another Facebook group called A World of Hearts is sharing a similar sentiment. Its founder, Tree Hanafy, told CNN she, too, wanted to share what she was doing to get involved.

“I think it’s definitely helped bring some happiness to people who may be isolated at home all by themselves,” she said. “It’s been wonderful to see all these people posting their photos and getting their families involved in it, too.”

Regardless of how people are finding out about this initiative, they’re posting and participating. Here’s who they’re doing it for:

For the neighborhood kids

In Norfolk, Virginia, Kyle Siebels told CNN he found out about the effort through his neighborhood Facebook page. When the Siebels family went for a walk Tuesday, Kyle said he saw 30 houses participating. Monday, Kyle’s wife, Tory, cut out the hearts and went to town on their front door.

“Our neighbors have started putting colored hearts in their windows for neighborhood kids to find on their walks while everyone is staying home,” he wrote on Facebook. “We laced up our door so they wouldn’t miss our circle. Pretty cool to see how many houses have participated. Nora (Kyle and Tory’s daughter) definitely loves our walks.”

Kelsey Goldstein told CNN she was able to rally some of her neighbors in Atlanta to participate in a weekly theme for their windows. Last week, it was shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day.

“It gives the parents something to do with their kids,” Goldstein said. “It gets the kids excited about putting up their artwork for their friends to see and gives them something to do as they walk by. It really encouraged some sort of neighborhood collectiveness.”

This week, Goldstein said the neighborhood is displaying flowers, with rainbows and Easter eggs on deck for later.

“It’s nice to get out so you can see other people from afar and it makes you feel less alone,” she said.

For the essential workers

Jenna Webb told CNN her family’s motivation for joining the movement was based on wanting to “bring love and joy to essential workers in our neighborhood who still need to leave their homes and keep the world moving during this uncertain time.”

After seeing others post their photos of what they were doing using #AWorldOfHearts on social media, she wanted to bring that spirit to her neighborhood in Monroe, Michigan.

For inspiration and hope

In Haroey, an island on the west coast of Norway, Siw Harnes Sherman told CNN she found the Facebook movement through a friend in Canada and was inspired to share something people in Norway were doing. Instead of hearts, they are displaying rainbows.

“This is a difficult time for everyone,” she said. “This group makes people have some hope, and it takes focus away from all the problems.”

Elizabeth Reynolds in Victoria, British Columbia, told CNN this initiative started out as a craft. She’s a single mother with a 2-year-old and high-risk parents.

“With the lockdown, I am even more solo than I usually am as my mom helps, so this has been a real blow to my own mental health,” she said. “But when I saw other people making hearts on the window I wanted to not only spread some cheer for those in our neighborhood on walks but for my own sake. Seeing the color shine through the window has lifted my own spirits.”

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