By Noel van Aartrijk, Virginia Tech
The sentiment of a kind act is truly contagious. Comedian Ellen DeGeneres ends each segment of her talk show with a request to “be kind to one another.” The 2000 film “Pay It Forward” follows a little boy aiming to make his world a better place. The Goo Goo Dolls sing for “just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days.” This year, a sister of Tri Delta is a celebrity in her own right, advocating for kindness on her campus.
After a conversation with Hayley Geis, South Carolina, you will immediately feel compelled to do something nice for someone. This University of South Carolina freshman recently launched a new service initiative on her campus — and it already has made a significant impact on the USC Greek community. The Random Acts of Kindness campaign is a national organization aiming to inspire people to pass along kindness to others. “Kindness makes the world an easier place to live in,” Hayley says. “It would be hard to get through the day if people didn’t acknowledge me. I would never want others to feel that way.”
Clearly, there is nothing “freshman” about this endearing, empowering individual.
Her passion began with simple notes: “In high school, I would write inspirational messages on Post-it notes, and anonymously stick them on cars in the parking lot. I loved the feeling of knowing it would make someone smile.” Embodying Tri Delta’s pillar of self-sacrifice so wholly, Hayley does not seek positive affirmation. “I don’t need a ‘thank you.’ A truly random act of kindness means doing something nice for someone who may never find out it was you. It is geared toward being compassionate toward a perfect stranger.” What being kind will leave you with is a pep in your step and a newfound appreciation for thoughtfulness, she adds.
South Carolina is a campus that prides itself on involvement and service — in both fundraising success and time invested. A total self-starter, Hayley launched a Random Acts of Kindness Week for USC’s Greek life in February. With the support of her Tri Delta sisters, some of the initiatives she spearheaded included writing thank-you notes to the kitchen staff in Greek Village, passing out “I Am Thankful For” and “Prayer Request” posters in each of the houses, and distributing compliment cards to the different Greek-letter organizations.
Unsurprisingly, Hayley has received a wealth of positive feedback. She’s even featured in the USC Division of Student Affairs’ “Stay Informed” newsletter and the @UofSC online news forum. “It reaffirms my faith in humanity,” she says. “These days, kindness is harder to come by. People are so self-involved, and it takes actual, purposeful intention to be nice to someone. It really shouldn’t be this way. It shouldn’t be a task to be nice to someone. I’m happy to have had such a positive response to that message.”
Hayley is incredibly earnest in her spirit and love for Tri Delta. “I connect with Tri Delta’s motto of ‘Let us steadfastly love one another.’ I think that is a very integral piece of the Random Acts of Kindness campaign — showing love to other people. That embodies Tri Delta’s aim.” Very emblematic of Tri Delta’s Purpose, Hayley is broadening her moral life and building a stronger, more womanly character in herself and her Alpha Lambda sisters.
The inspiration Hayley has shared with her Tri Delta sisters is circular: “I really look up to the older members of my chapter, such as my Bible study leader and the chapter president. These women have supported me immensely. They radiate kindness and generosity, and have motivated me throughout this entire initiative.” With the help of her Tri Delta role models and the USC Greek community, Hayley hopes to start a Random Acts of Kindness Club, with the aim to bring the campaign to the entire campus. “I told myself going into this, that even the smallest participation would be meaningful because that would mean I am touching lives,” Hayley remembers. “I never thought it would generate this much attention. It makes me feel like I am doing something worthwhile.”
Worthwhile, indeed. Sarah Ida Shaw intended Tri Delta to be “a society that is kind alike to all.” Hayley’s undertaking is very emblematic of Sarah’s vision, and our Founders would agree: Hayley’s mission is a profound one.
To learn more about the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, go to http://www.randomactsofkindness.org/