HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – A south Huntsville woman is brightening up the morning drive for her neighbors. This Thanksgiving week, we’re grateful for her example of encouragement.
The sun is shining but the temperatures are near freezing as Rachel Beard heads out for her morning walk.
Bundled against the cold, carrying a coffee cup in one hand and a large neon poster in the other, she stops just a short distance from home.
This almost daily routine has nothing to do with exercise and everything to do with encouragement. Today, written in sharpie on the bright paper are the words “I’m Thankful for You.”
As drivers pass by, the 37-year-old holds up the sign and gives a quick wave with her gloved hands. Many give a short honk in recognition. Most slow down, smiles visible through their windshields.
Rachel has become a familiar sight in this part of South Huntsville, after making her first sign two months ago.
“I just woke up one morning, I was in a really good mood, and I just kind of wanted to spread it around and maybe brighten somebody’s day… I really liked it. It was as much for me as it was for them.”
The messages vary. One day she might write, “Be Your Best Self.” The next, “It’s Okay to Not be Okay.”
“They don’t know I have cancer. I don’t know anything about them but it’s like that one second of connection, where it’s just like a positive moment in the day,” she says.
She is undoubtedly someone who looks for the bright side, as those who have followed her journey through the #TeamRayRay Facebook page know.
“I think that’s what people see on my social media. Oh, you’re so positive. I am positive. Not all the time. I am human. I’m still going through stuff. It’s okay to have some dark ones. It’s okay for me some days to not want to stand out here.”
At age 20, Rachel was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
At age 35, she learned she had cancer – again. This time, ovarian.
That was two years ago.
“I did a couple different rounds of chemos and tried different drugs. Now, we’re on the 5th different drug to try and see if it helps.” She laughs as she adds, “fifth times the charm, right?”
In the meantime, she’s offering encouragement to all who pass by – from the high school students who roll down their windows and shout hello to the tired adults heading off for another day of work.
And making her corner of the world a little brighter.