Kevin Lankford wants you to see the signs. He makes it hard for you to miss — a hand-lettered flap of corrugated cardboard held over his head, catching the 9:30 p.m. summer sun as the weekend winds down.
“You look good!” read the sign he held for passing motorists and pedestrians at Lake Otis Parkway and Dowling Road on Sunday evening.
“I love this city, love the people here,” he said to explain his pastime. “It makes people smile. It brightens my day.”
Holding signs is his occasional thing at the northeast corner of that intersection, which is a short walk from his home. Lankford, 29, likes “You look good” for its simple message of positivity, because people often devalue their self-image, he said. He tries to deliver it with eye contact and a point, a fleeting but direct connection to the recipient.
“I want them to know, ‘Right now, it’s for you,’ ” he said.
Reactions he gets are mostly positive, Lankford said. People often smile or give him a thumbs-up. They honk. Sometimes they yell back to him that he, too, looks good. Once in a while, folks mistake his intentions.
“People have thrown money at me,” Lankford said. “I’m not begging for money, but people crumple up and throw bills.”
There’s also the flip side, the middle fingers and thumbs-down, but they don’t seem to spoil his experience. Lankford, born and raised in Anchorage, laughs a lot.
“I think when you’re spreading the love, how can people be negative back,” he said.
In a note on his phone, Lankford keeps a list of sign ideas. Some aim for cleverness and laughs. Those signs probably won’t get made, he said. He prefers the upbeat ones, like “Good to see you” or “I love your laugh.” Sometimes when he brings a friend to join him, they hold up a sign that says, “We care.”
Lankford said he gets something out of it too. Sign holding helps him get his daily step count up, he said. It also provides a boost in his own mood after a long day of work with the Alaska Division of Forestry.
“Other people smile and it makes me smile, so in a way it’s selfish,” he said.