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The Power and Resilience of Community

A personal moment of vulnerability to show how both positive and negative experiences can trigger action.

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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.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Establishing a culture in the workplace where employees can openly express gratitude with each other starts with discovering the "why", and harnessing the power of collective action to impact change. How might we leverage the power of communities to nudge a culture where gratitude is the norm?

Tell us about yourself

A Design Engineer by profession, I use design thinking methods and innovation tools to design products for the automotive industry, and help train and recruit professionals to do the same. I also help lead the OpenIDEO Detroit Chapter.

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Sanctioning Gratitude


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Hi Naman Mandhan ,
I personally can relate to your story about Andrew and your passion for raising money for hospitals for children. I am a student at the University of Texas at Austin.

In my time here I have two separate incidents that resonate with your Andrew story. My freshman year at UT a fellow student of mine was murdered at night and found in a creek outside of my dorm the next morning. My sophomore at UT I was sitting in my class when I heard that another fellow student of mine was stabbed and murdered on his way to class that day. It is now my 3rd year at UT and I have not yet had a full year here without a tragedy like these. Each day I remember how lucky I am to be alive.

My school has a huge student run charity called TexasThon. It is a giant dance marathon to raise money for the Dell Medical Center for children. My sophomore year, the day of the dance marathon was actually on my birthday. I got to spend 12 hours on my feet dancing, raising money and spending time with children who have had faced way more struggles in their short lives than I have for my whole 20 years on this earth.

I agree that we should never take any day for granted and go the extra mile to be kind to each other each and every day. I also definitely remember the sense of community UT had when we had those candlelight ceremonies in memory of Haruka and Harrison.

Thank you for your post!

Photo of Naman Mandhan


Thank you so much for sharing! I am sorry that you have had to experience these tragedies on campus. Your story is truly heartbreaking, but I am glad to hear that in these times of tragedy, the UT Austin community was able to come together in memory of Haruka and Harrison.

As a fellow dance marathoner, I know how difficult those 12 hours can be, but it makes my heart happy to know that you were able to enjoy the experience and interact with the children, which was truly one of my favorite parts of the dance marathon experience!

Even though tragedies like the ones you witnessed are ones that I hope nobody ever has to see again, and that no child should have to suffer because of childhood illness, it is truly inspiring to see how even in these times, people are able to come together, forget their differences, and lean on each other as humans, first and foremost.

Truly grateful to you for sharing your post!

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