If there was one thing Appreciation Week planners at Eastern Mennonite University hoped to leave out in the February gray and drear last week, it was this: the winter doldrums.
An effort of Campus Ministries, the week’s daily events gave everyone else – students, faculty and staff – a variety of opportunities to show appreciation for one another.
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One day the student-run Common Grounds Coffeehouse gave free coffee to anyone demonstrating appreciation, which baristas and seniors Brittany Williams and Michaela Mast said seemed to “brighten people’s spirits.” One customer said she really appreciated her boss for giving her a lot of grace after messing up a transaction; another two students said they valued each other’s input in class.
“It was so heartfelt,” Williams said, “one of the best affirmations I’ve heard today. I don’t think it was just to get free coffee. Maybe it was, but I think they really meant it.”
Skylar List received free coffee after showing appreciation for a skiing classmate Ethan Beiler, who had been “acting like a goofball,” she said. “Usually he’s a little more contained, so I appreciated that he was silly with us.”
“It’s nice,” Beiler said. “It’s nice that some appreciates you, and it’s also nice to show appreciation of others, because they enjoy it, too, and feel the same appreciation of recognition of being appreciated. If that makes sense.”
Meanwhile, in the cafeteria lobby, pastoral assistant senior Amanda Williams and junior Lindsay Acker were offering clothespins for students to write or draw on and then clip to someone they appreciated.
“It’s pretty simple,” said Williams – but “edifying to people all over campus.”
Senior Madelynn Payne wrote “You are awesome” on a clothespin to give to a friend. “We make time to do homework together, and we often have to work around each other’s schedules,” she said. “She’s so caring to do that for me.”
In the cafeteria, sophomore Richard Vo was wearing a clothespin that said “You can do it.” He’d seen his residence director come into the cafeteria with it, and head straight for him. He’d been having a difficult week, he said, and so the encouragement was welcome. “Definitely. I just have that motivation to be like, ‘Oh, yeah – you can do this. You’ve got it. You can overcome this obstacle.’”
A warm midweek day of sunshine and an array of bright colors brought a steady crowd to a table set up in front of Northlawn for painting kindness rocks, which would be placed around campus for passersby to find.
Senior Lorren Oesch carefully painted plants onto a large stone, and said that she loves “watching creation emerge after winter. I’m going to write here, ‘You’re growing.’ That’s something that I’ve experienced here at EMU and appreciate. It’s important to remember that we’re growing here, and give ourselves grace.”
Sophomore Yoel Bobadilla had painted farm building silhouettes against vivid sunset colors, representing his love of the countryside. First-year Zach Shifflett, hungry and on his way to lunch, was painting careful yellow dots onto a red stone – a strawberry – and said he appreciates the people who prepare the food he eats. And pastoral assistant and senior Bekah Mongold had painted “You are loved” on another.
“Somebody’s going to see these,” she said. “You never know what kind of a day they’re having. Hopefully that will brighten someone’s day.”
The week contained even more opportunities, such as free donuts and a table for writing notes of appreciation that resulted in a huge stack of notes for campus mail (and disappeared 20 dozen donuts), candy for gifting, letters or notes of encouragement written for coaches and every fall and spring athlete, and more. And Y-Serve repeated its fall semester initiative of showing appreciation by delivering plates of cookies to various departments.
“I think that’s what this whole week is about – finding different ways to reach people in their different niches,” Williams said.
And on Friday, sitting in a drum circle set up to spread joy even further, pastoral assistant and senior Perry Blosser said the week had had a good “spirit.”
“It’s so easy to do stuff that makes people happy,” he said. “I don’t know why we don’t do it more often.”
That sentiment was echoed by undergraduate campus pastor Lana Miller, who said that showing appreciation is “something we should be doing all the time with one another.” The week, she said, was “a space and a place to think about some different ways to care for each other.”