On the afternoon of Sept. 20, Bryan Scherbring and Calvin Webb took turns holding up a wooden sign on the corner of 72nd and Dodge Streets.
The sign said simply “You are Awesome.” Scherbring's 6-year-old son, Charlie, held his own sign, a smaller, cardboard model, that said “U R AW-SUM.”
Webb, who was visiting from Grand Rapids, Mich., and Scherbring have been friends since the late 1990s. They met when Scherbring was in the Omaha band SupaLounge, which Webb, a music promoter in Lincoln, ended up managing. The two hit it off. They both liked music, and they both appreciated the brotherhood of the local music scene. And they were also both positive, high-energy people. They got each other.
Webb moved away; Scherbring stayed in Omaha. But they stayed in touch, and last month, Webb stayed with Scherbring, his wife, Becky Hamilton Scherbring, and Charlie for nine days. They spent their time talking, eating and hanging out with Charlie, who Scherbring home-schools. One morning, when planning their day, Webb mentioned they could make a big sign that said “You are Awesome,” and hang out on the corner of 72nd and Dodge.
Scherbring thought this was an excellent idea.
Lots of people honked. Others took photos. A group of international students attending the University of Nebraska at Omaha asked them if they were famous. And many, many people yelled back from their cars that they, too, were awesome.
“It was extremely intoxicating to do it,” Scherbring said.
Even Charlie got into it. More than an hour passed before he tired of holding his sign.
Scherbring was glad his old friend suggested the idea. But Webb can't take credit for it.
In his hometown of Grand Rapids, many people were holding “You are Awesome” signs that day.
They were doing so to welcome visitors in town for ArtPrize, an international art competition held in Grand Rapids each year. And that idea came from a friend of a friend of Webb's from Spring Lake, Mich., who saw a man holding a simple cardboard sign. At first glance, she thought he was a panhandler. At second glance, she saw the sign didn't ask for anything. Instead, it paid a compliment.
She told her friend, and that friend had the idea to organize a flash mob holding signs as visitors from around the world filed into Grand Rapids for ArtPrize.
Webb wanted to participate. However, he knew he was going to be in Omaha that day.
But he figured his old like-minded friend would probably be on board.
Scherbring learned a few things during that hour on Dodge Street.
First, Omaha is a small town. Several people Scherbring knew spotted him that afternoon. Friends who hadn't seen him heard about that one hour he spent on Dodge Street. Eventually, the local newspaper called.
Second, “You are awesome” is kind of the perfect compliment, for one reason.
“No one will argue with you,” Scherbring said.
And third, when you tell someone they're awesome, their response is often, “No, you're awesome.”
And it's safe to say that by the end of the experiment, Scherbring, Webb and Charlie felt pretty awesome, too.
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Get to know: Bryan Scherbring
Claim to fame: On Sept. 20, Scherbring, his son, Charlie, and his friend, Calvin Webb, spent an hour standing at 72nd and Dodge Streets holding a sign that read “You are Awesome.” Although their experiment didn't last long, word of what they did quickly spread.
Occupation: Home-schooler of Charlie; also a handyman, hairstylist and musician (he's in the band Sump'n Sump'n).
Family: wife, Becky Hamilton Scherbring and son, Charlie, 6