If you take a stroll around Eastern and look very closely, you may or may not see small stars and smiley faces littering surfaces throughout the school. They’ve made their way into every hallway and can even be spotted everywhere, from lunchroom walls to bathroom stalls. Two weeks ago, I began graffitiing the school with stickers in an effort to brighten up students’ days while giving them something to smile about during these stressful times.
It all started on my birthday, when I received a pack of 108 stickers with my name on them. They varied in shape, size, and color, but all had “Olivia” printed on them in big, bright letters. In an effort to prevent them from going to waste, I decided to bring them to school and give them out to friends and classmates as a lighthearted gift. Pretty soon, I ran out of people to give them to, and started using them to decorate the walls of hallways and the desks that I sat at. After only a week, I ran out: I could feel the disappointment in people’s voices when they asked for stickers and I told them I had none left.
The following week, my Psychology class was assigned a new project to work on: finding ways to be altruistic. Altruism refers to kind or generous deeds that foster a sense of internal happiness and self-gratification for both the giver and receiver. My teacher challenged my class to come up with something altruistic to do for a week, and following my sticker escapade, I had the perfect idea.
I ran to Meijer to pick up whatever stickers they had to offer, and ended up buying 11 sheets of stickers depicting flowers, stars, and smiley faces. I remember walking into school that day, stickers in arms, already feeling like I was helping people feel better. I ended up giving out approximately 2 ½ sheets to everyone I came across all in one day. In turn, the sticker receivers put them everywhere: from phone cases to clocks in certain classrooms, from brick walls to each other’s faces. For every sticker I gave out, more people wanted some. Strangers would even approach me, asking for some infamous pink star stickers. I became “the girl with the stickers”: someone who had the ability to brighten days in such a minimal way. Yes, teachers were occasionally irked by their distracting nature, and most of the stickers were taken down by the night cleaning crew, but that didn’t stop me from sporadically putting them wherever I wanted to: the small bursts of joy they brought were well worth it.
By the time our project had to be turned in, I had only a few stickers left. I had numerous people implore me to get more, and I am planning to do so soon. Reflecting on that week allowed me to realize my motive behind my stickers: I wasn’t really doing it for my psych project. I was doing it because I wanted to make people happier. In this new age of uncertainty, I’ve found it hard to stay positive about what is going to happen next. I could see it in faces all around my school—people were struggling to find the good in things, and most were waiting for spring break to come and cleanse them of their problems. My stickers were a way of bringing small slices of optimism into people’s lives. My classmates looked forward to receiving their daily stickers, and I had the privilege of watching their whole moods shift as I approached them with my multiple sheets. Being altruistic doesn’t just benefit others on a surface level: it has the power to positively impact one’s whole day or even week. While it may feel like you’re just trying to coast through the week to break, make sure you’re continuing to do something nice for others. Compliment your classmate on their outfit, bring your friend their favorite candy, or ask someone how their day is going and genuinely care about the answer. Consider helping out other people for a change, even if it’s just giving them a small sticker.