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'Everybody is welcome': Spike Gillespie creates a Tiny Chapel of Kindness

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Michael Lee
/
KUT
Spike Gillespie inside the Tiny Chapel of Kindness

Spike Gillespie has undertaken many artistic endeavors in her life. She’s the author of books on the topics of anger, grief, and quilting; she’s also been a reporter, a performer, a filmmaker, a knitter, and a wedding officiant, among things. Her latest project is The Tiny Chapel of Kindness, a small chapel located on her ranch in Garfield, Texas that’s dedicated to the sharing of and celebrating of acts of kindness. Gillespie says the project came about as a reaction to a recent, difficult period in her life.

“So this tiny chapel, I purchased it and I had it moved to the ranch and I used it for weddings for years. That was my business at the ranch, was to host weddings. Big weddings, small weddings,” she says. “During lockdown, things got hairy in the wedding business. I also bought a house in another town, and let’s just say my life fell apart shortly after that. There were a lot of things that happened that made me really uncomfortable – the small town I moved to was a terrible fit for me, to understate the matter. Covid brides – not all of them, but some of them – were flipping out on me.

“So I had that going on, I had this this adventure into a small town that ended absolutely disastrously,” she continues. “So here I am, back at my ranch. I have this ranch and I thought, ‘Should I Air B&B it? What should I do with it?’ And then, after much thought, I thought, ‘I wanna bring more kindness into the world.’ Like, the ugly things that had happened to me… I know that sounds like victim mode, but I genuinely was targeted by a group of people who bullied me. And I started fighting back – I was so angry. I became not maybe as ugly as them but pretty darn ugly. And it was just killing me. So I wanted to do something positive not just to help myself, but to maybe spread a little sunshine out into the community.”

To that end, Gillespie decided to turn the tiny chapel on her property into The Tiny Chapel of Kindness, a place for people to share stories of acts of kindness, large and small, that have impacted their lives. Anyone is welcome to send stories to Spike for inclusion, and she’ll find a place for those stories on the walls of the chapel.

“And it’s working,” she says, “because every time I get a letter about a kindness story, I open the mail, I read the letter, I burst out crying and it just gives me hope for humanity. I got so lost in the darkness of dark people for, I don’t know, almost a full year. And this… it wasn’t just to pull me out of it. It was like, I remember who I was before and who I’d like to continue to is, I’m a really nice person. I mean, there’s a flip side to that coin – you don’t want to cross me! But I get off on being kind to people. That’s my thing, and I’d gotten so far away from it.”

In addition to gathering together those kindness stories, Gillespie is also inviting people to come out and soak up the positive feelings inside the chapel (for now, at least, you’ll have to plan ahead and let her know you’re coming, though).

“Really, I want people to come out and to experience the feeling of reading these stories, experience the feeling of putting their own story on the wall,” she says. “I’m having some signage made – very playful signage – but that really emphasizes everybody is welcome. We ask people… I say ‘we.’ Me. What am I, French? Me and the dogs, we request that people don’t come here to discuss religion or politics or anything that has a largely divisive team spirit to it. You know, my god is better than your god, my political person…. It’s about, let’s all focus on one thing that we can agree on. I really, I don’t know anybody – I’m probably jinxing myself! – who thinks kindness is a bad thing.”

More information about the Tiny Chapel of Kindness (including how to send kindness stories and how to visit the chapel) is available here.

Mike is a features producer at KUT, where he’s been working since his days as an English major at the University of Texas. He produces Arts Eclectic, Get Involved, and the Sonic ID project, and also produces videos and cartoons for KUT.org. When pressed to do so, he’ll write short paragraphs about himself in the third person, but usually prefers not to.
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