You're awesome! It pays to be nice at Northwestern
    What’s the last nice thing you did for somebody, or the last nice thing somebody else did for you? The author asked the audience, and here’s what they said. Illustrations by Sisi Wei / North By Northwestern. Production by Tom Giratikanon / North By Northwestern.

    Imagine it’s Thursday night. Instead of going out with your friends, who are undoubtedly at this moment scarfing down free pizza and tallying leers from that red-headed Deuce creepster, you’re being diligent. Or that was the intention, anyway, but your attempt at tackling the impossibly nonsensical, and utterly backward pile of Spanish homework has failed miserably. You had a crappy day already, and all of a sudden that achy-limbed feeling of hopeless desperation hits you like a semi, when something flies under your door.

    It’s a note — and it says I hate you in purple highlighter.

    At this point, you have only three options: rip the note into shreds, sob profusely or both.

    So proceeded a particularly dismal chapter of my best friend’s life last week. This apparently random act of hatred was quite the night-ruiner, but oddly enough it also triggered a chain of events culminating in an outpouring of random acts of kindness.

    Over lunch the next day, the story of the random, spiteful note was told for the first of many times, and it was decided upon with a certain definitiveness that there was no choice but to reverse what had happened. Instead of ruining people’s nights, we should aim to make them.

    Naturally, an hour later found us cavorting around the many splendid aisles of CVS, leaving with far more than we intended, including three different colors of crêpe paper streamers and two containers of rose petals that upon further inspection turned out to be dried and colored leaves.

    Next, we were off to my room to raid my sizable collection of washable markers and make notes and signs that said “I like you!” and “You’re awesome!” and “Everything is possible!” Unlike the note saying “I hate you,” these would not make anyone cry, and might even make someone’s day.

    We may have gotten slightly carried away — I apologize to whomever received the note that said “I’m so excited for tonight ;).” (It was a joke.) The rose petals strewn in the bathrooms may also have been a bit much, but at the time, we thought this was hilarious and not the least bit creepy.

    Unsurprisingly, we got a few strange looks, and a two-syllabled “weeeeiiirrrd” from a cute boy walking by, who undoubtedly now thinks I’m nutso. But when I explained the whole story, though, people were a lot more understanding, and even inspired.

    In a testament to how memorable and meaningful random acts of kindness are, several students told me stories about their own random acts of kindness.

    Hannah anonymously folded her friend’s laundry, knowing he was sick and swamped with work, and didn’t ever mention it.

    Another boy brought Burger King to his CSO.

    Matt told an elaborate explanation of why the Sargent sandwich lady, who everyone loves to hate, deserves a lot more love. Matt had a long-standing vendetta against her, ever since he requested peppers on his sandwich, which proceeded to fall into the Panini maker, smoke and burn the sandwich lady’s eyes, causing her to angrily yell at him. But it turns out that work has just been extra difficult for her ever since her daughter got into a car accident, forcing her to take an extra job and stay up until the wee hours of the morning, before waking up at 3:30 a.m. to make it back to Sargent on time. She used to like her job, she told Matt, but recently she’s been so tired that it’s become difficult, and just one rude student ruins her day.

    You can call Northwestern a cold, heartless, cutthroat environment as much as you want, but if you look around, we aren’t all that bad. (With the exception of those who randomly throw “I hate you” notes under doors. That’s just uncalled for.)

    Ironically, though, that very note was the cause of one of my loveliest, most inspiring, and well-spent days at Northwestern. If we all put a bit more effort into holding the door, getting to know the sandwich lady, saying hello to our CSOs, it would brighten not only our own days, but the days of the people around us. There’s simply no reason not to, and you’d be surprised the places a simple act can take you.


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