Across the Ohio University campus, students in Fundamentals of Public Speaking courses have been spreading kindness over the past week. After assigned to “pay it forward,” based on the premise of a 1999 book and 2000 movie, students have performed nice acts not only to in order to receive a grade, but because they realize it is the right thing to do.
The simple requirements were basically the same for all classes: the acts of kindness had to be for different people, they had to be non-monetary, they had to be done on campus or in the Athens community and they had to be completed before the speeches were given.
“At first I just liked the fact that I didn’t have to do any research for this speech, but after I started, I realized that it’s fun to just do nice acts,” said freshman Megan Henry.
Actions ranged from the simple, such as holding doors for friends or delivery people with their hands full, to the complex, like sticky notes with encouraging messages on the doors of each dorm room.
“I started by refilling one of the chocolate chip bowls at the breakfast bar at Boyd, because I didn’t want anyone to have to go without chocolate chips,” said freshman Erik Threet. “But then, I thought, you know what? I can do better.”
Threet, along with a group of friends, also cleaned up an overturned trashcan outside of Nelson dining hall.
Other people went about the project differently, trying to help those who they saw needed it directly. Henry, for instance, worked to include and assist others.
She wrote a letter of thanks to her RA because she felt that the residential staff didn’t get enough appreciation for what they do. Henry also talked to a girl on her floor who was feeling homesick and helped her Spanish class partner understand material better.
Some students originally didn’t like the assignment because it felt artificial.
“At first, I definitely thought it was stupid, like, ‘Why are we even doing this?’ ” freshman Bethany Bella said. “I grew to like it though when they showed us that there was a Tumblr page dedicated to it and a hashtag that we could use on Twitter.”
Even though over 800 students are enrolled in Fundamentals of Public Speaking, most students did not feel like the assignment is going to have a lasting impact.
“I know it won’t go on forever, but at least for now it’s fun to orchestrate creative ways to be nice and look for ways to be selfless,” said freshman Megan Henry.
Despite the lack of longevity the project provides, many students feel that being involved in it at all made an impact, if at least for a little while. Acts of kindness from fellow Bobcats can improve the spirit of the school across campus.
Bella stated that she is a firm believer that everyone does acts of kindness.
“Yeah, this project is not going to be that far-reaching, but it doesn’t hurt anyone to try to do more. We’re not all magically changed, and this is more of a project than a continuing movement, but small acts of kindness can have a ripple effect and change us all subconsciously,” Bella said.