While walking down Sheridan Road, feel free to stop to read a message, play hopscotch, or text a stranger; the walkway is now more than just a stretch of boring pavement, thanks to the Happiness Club.
Cheerfully decorated by club members and other students, Sheridan Road became a canvas Wednesday night, as students armed with sidewalk chalk tackled the empty sidewalk, covering the ground with inspirational drawings and messages.
“It’s just really fun, just writing anything, drawing pictures and drawing smiley faces,” said Alex Wilson, McCormick sophomore and president of Happiness Club. “It’s also fun the day after, just walking around and seeing everything you wrote last night.”
According to Wilson, the Happiness Club received a $200 Be the Change grant from the Center for Student Involvement to purchase the chalk. Students gathered at the Arch at 9:00 p.m., carefully selected their chalk pieces and went straight to work.
Most students drew pictures of animals and wrote inspirational messages. Weinberg freshman Marina Mason had a list of tips ready, including “Sleep More,” a message she chalked near the Arch.
“That’s a good way to be happy at Northwestern; nobody gets enough sleep,” she said, finishing her message with a flourish.
While students like Mason wrote messages and drew games like hopscotch and tic-tac-toe, others drew whatever came to mind.
“I drew some lava on the ground and put a warning that says ‘lava,’” said Eric Smith, Weinberg sophomore and Happiness Club executive board member. “Hopefully people jump over it, skip over it. It’s so unique; it’s so much fun and it just brings back childhood and you just enjoy life for a bit.”
To Justin Barbin, Communication junior, chalking was a way to reach other students. He wrote his phone number on the ground, under a message that read, “Text Me.”
“It’s more of a message […] just seeing who actually looks down and who will take these things seriously and how many people I can connect with through this graffiti,” Barbin said. “I’m expecting some hellos, I’m expecting some people who may already know my number, and I’m expecting some crude messages maybe asking for sexual favors, so who knows? Anything can happen.”
Barbin, whose friends recently held a fundraiser to help him buy a new camera, said he trusted the Northwestern community enough to not abuse his phone number.
“I’m a little nervous, but from the events of last week, I have faith in the goodness of humanity,” he said. “I’m hoping that maybe I can start a random conversation with a stranger and we’ll end up knowing each other and maybe developing a new friendship with somebody I’ve never met before. It could also be a breach of my privacy and I may regret it, but I trust Northwestern students.”
Medill sophomore Kaitlin Miller agreed and said that chalking was a good way to reach the busy students on campus.
“On our campus, people are very serious walking to class and they don’t really look up or make eye contact, so if everyone’s already looking at the ground, I feel like it’s a good way to boost morale,” she said. “You don’t have to trudge to class; you can look up and appreciate the weather and, I don’t know, play hopscotch on your way to class.”
The Happiness Club’s efforts don’t end with the chalking. Next week’s events include Magical Bubbles Monday, Temporary Tattoos Tuesday, Wacky Face Paint Wednesday, Name-tag Day and Flashback Friday.
“I hope that the happiness continues,” Mason said. “Spreading happiness is kind of a big deal.”