Wynnewood’s ‘sign elf’ delivers roadside food for thought

Listen 1:38

“Work On Your Fears So You Can Live Fully!”

That’s the latest message on Meg Miller’s lawn in Wynnewood on the Main Line outside Philadelphia.

For more than a decade, Miller has put out a new sign every few weeks. Back in 2008, she put out her first sign, asking “What’s Really Important?”

Other messages have included “Consult Your Inner Wise One” and “Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There!”

To many in the area, the psychologist and self-proclaimed “sign elf” has become sort of a folk figure. Last month, a Facebook post thanking Miller for her signs gained traction in Lower Merion’s Community Network group. The dozens of replies overwhelmingly echoed the same sentiments.

Miller has the calm demeanor that you can imagine helps with getting patients to open up to her. Originally from suburban New York City, she earned her doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in the area ever since. She frequently attends mental health and spiritual retreats, and she said her signs were inspired by something she experienced during a 10-day retreat.

“We override ourselves in terms of how we’re really feeling, and we’re just always focused on what we can do next, with a discomfort to just sit and be,” she said. “So when I came back from that retreat, and I was kind of ruminating on that and chewing on that, the sign that came out was, ‘We’re Human Beings, Not Human Doings.’”

Erin Seeherman of Lower Merion often drives by to see the latest sign on her way to work.

“Meg’s signs on her lawn are so refreshing because they prompt us to focus, not on what we are doing and how we compare to others, but how we are doing, how we are as human beings,” Seeherman said. She said the “Human Beings” sign resonated with her the most.

In her home, Miller has collected letters from neighbors and passersby expressing gratitude for her messages.

“Life is filled with so much on a daily basis, and so I thank you and feel tremendous gratitude towards your efforts with your signs,” said one letter writer. “I usually slow down to read them and use Penn Road as a major route on a daily basis. Thank you, and keep doing it. Lower Merion needs more of your vibes!”

But not all of her neighbors appreciate her messages.

A few years ago, one complained to the police that Miller’s signs were planted on public property — the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the road. Luckily for her, a police officer who appreciated the signs located an ordinance that allows her to keep the signs in the highly visible spot. She was thankful the complainer did not prevail.

“Geez, it doesn’t seem fair that the curmudgeon gets to control it when I’ve got all these letters and feedback from people who say they like it,” she said.

Miller said she hopes her signs help people take time out of their busy lives to learn more about themselves.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.