I turned 21 years old when I was a Senior at Purdue University, half a semester away from graduation and finally "legal" to go to the bars with my friends who had turned 21 long before I had. However, two events took place that year that changed my perspective on what this day truly meant to me.
During my time in college, I had the opportunity to participate in three 18-hour dance marathons, with the goal of raising awareness about childhood illness and raising money for the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Indiana. My second year as a leader in the organization, I watched 2000+ faces with both smiles and tears on their faces as they watched the grand total for that year presented in front of them - $1,000,000 raised within a year to fight childhood illness.
The same year, less than a month before my birthday, I sat in a computer lab when I heard news that someone I had the chance to meet during my time in college had been shot and stabbed in the building next to mine. Andrew was loved by anyone who had the chance to meet him, and was a true example of what being a Boilermaker meant. The same night, I witnessed thousands of Boilermakers come out in the middle of winter, with candles in their hands, to stand together and remember a life that had been taken from us too soon.
Both of those events reminded me how powerful the coming together of people can be, and since then, I have tried to do the best that I can to bring people together to do good in this world.
On the eve of my 21st birthday, I dedicated my night to Andrew Boldt, and the children of Riley, to remember the lives of those taken from us, and to reflect on how I could serve their memory by trying to do good in the world.
Since then, I have dedicated each of my birthdays to conduct acts of kindness for others, with the goal of bringing people together to do the same for each other and others.
Last year, with the help of friends and co-workers, I started a little something I called the Wall of Kindness. The idea was simple. Conduct an act of kindness for someone, write what you did or what someone else did for you on a sticky note, and stick it on a wall for others to see! The response was amazing, and since pictures speak a thousand words, here are some examples of what this looked like.