Nashua woman’s ‘Fortune Forward’ project aims to spread kindness

Telegraph photo by DEAN SHALHOUP Cecilia Ulibarri holds up an example of a "fortune cookie" while demonstrating how to create them out of construction paper as part of her Fortune Forward kindness movement. She hosted the event Sunday at JajaBelle's on Main Street.

NASHUA – One doesn’t necessarily need to be an “official” collector to collect things, most anyone would agree.

But whether a seasoned, longtime collector with a sharp eye for detail, or an occasional flea market browser, almost everyone goes about the art of collecting with a purpose in mind.

Not so for Nashua resident Cecilia Ulibarri, a local artist probably best known for her involvement in Positive Street Art, who just recently figured out what to do with a box full of “fortunes” – those little slips of paper baked into Chinese cookies that alternately advise, caution, entertain and even counsel the recipient.

“I didn’t know exactly why I was saving them,” Ulibarri said Sunday at JajaBelle’s, the downtown pastry and coffee shop where she introduced a full house to her “spreading kindness movement” called Fortune Forward.

Perhaps, she once mused, the fortunes may somehow figure into a future art project. It gradually dawned on her that there must be a reason she’s collecting them – it was just that the reason was taking its time to surface.

Telegraph photo by DEAN SHALHOUP Laurie Galbo, left, and Tricia Utley practice creating "fortune cookies" out of construction paper during Sunday's gathering that Nashua resident Cecilia Ulibarri hosted to launch her Fortune Forward kindness movement.

It did so one otherwise typical day when an acquaintance – who had no idea that Ulibarri had been collecting paper fortunes for years – handed her one of those familiar strips of paper to help cheer her up.

The presenter felt the message “was meant for me,” Ulibarri said Sunday, recalling how the moment “really resonated with me” and lit the spark for what would become Fortune Forward.

The art of spreading kindness isn’t new, Ulibarri noted, but it seems more and more people are experiencing its benefits these days.

The fortune “had to do with leadership,” Ulibarri said, but it was also the gesture itself that pulled her out of her funk and gave her “a really profound feeling that this message was meant for me at that point in time.”

Part of Sunday’s roughly one-hour get-together was devoted to the art of folding fortunes – creating a paper “cookie” in which to insert the fortune itself.

Telegraph photo by DEAN SHALHOUP Cecilia Ulibarri holds up an example of a "fortune cookie" while demonstrating how to create them out of construction paper as part of her Fortune Forward kindness movement. She hosted the event Sunday at JajaBelle's on Main Street.

“Being given one of these means so much more than just getting handed a piece of paper,” Ulibarri said, holding aloft a “fortune cookie” she just created out of construction paper.

Visitors, after choosing the “ingredients” for their paper fortune cookie, learned the art of creasing, cutting and folding the cookies by watching Ulibarri.

“You might have to do it a couple of times to get it right,” Ulibarri said, as a couple of visitors joked that their creations seemed to resemble a taco rather than a fortune cookie.

“If it’s not perfect, don’t worry about it. It takes a few times,” Ulibarri said by way of encouragement.

Once finished, visitors were told they could give the fortune cookie – with its special message inside – to anyone they chose. But Ulibarri had a suggestion.

“I challenge you to give it to someone you don’t know, because making others smile is helping make the world a better place.”

She also asked if anyone wanted to share the fortune they chose, and had several takers.

“Say yes to new adventures,” Paul Janampa’s read.

“You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously,” a woman read.

A brief but inspiring one assured the reader “Actually, YOU CAN!”

Sandy Teets, who happens to be Ulibarri’s mother, said hers hit the nail on the proverbial head, given the life challenges she said she faced over the past year.

“It’s always too early to quit,” she read, nodding her head in agreement.

For more on Ulibarri’s project, go to www.fortuneforward.life