No more negativity

By Kali Bhandari

A new group on campus is aiming to reverse really bad days by stopping what makes them happen in the first place. The members said they believe they can do it by a ‘positive events chain.’

According to Positive Events Chain (PEC) co-president Casey Best, sophomore in LAS, a positive events chain is a cascade of events that take place after something positive has happened to a person – such as smiling at a person when they’re looking unhappy. They might pass the smile on or work harder at their job, thus reversing a negative chain of events that would take place otherwise.

“It’s the way we feel after someone compliments us. The way we want to act after someone selflessly helps us,” Best said.

“It’s meant to promote good feeling in general,” said member Anand Subramanian, junior in LAS. “Some of the stuff we plan to do is go the extra mile when helping people – for example, when people ask for directions, we won’t just tell them where the place is, but actually physically show them as well.”

Member David Ortiz, freshman in LAS, said, “It’s about making people appreciate the little things in life.”

But this is not just the average “pass on a smile” group – Best and president Chris Earnhart, junior in LAS, have coined the term “guerilla volunteerism” to describe what their group aims for.

“Rather than a group just volunteering their time, guerilla volunteerism is kind of like living volunteerism – kind of like volunteering as an ideology,” Best said. “So if you see someone needing help, you have to be charitable.”

The concept isn’t just a mentality – Earnhart said it’s also about taking action.

“It’s half a conscious effort to start a positive event chain and half doing random things to make people’s day better,” he said.

This ideology also is reflected in their group meetings. In the first one, members played games like freeze-tag and fishes-in-the-sea. In the second meeting, the members played board games and attempted to get to know each other in smaller groups.

“The functions of meetings are to make members feel good, as well as give them a break from school,” Earnhart said. “That way, they’re more able to do good things.”

Both officers said their short-term goal is to make one person happy per day, but not through advocating the use of any substances or making racist or sexist jokes.

“We’re keeping it simple,” Best said. “It’s not the kind of happiness you get from buying something or using something.”

Best explained that members wouldn’t be asking people to do anything but will be acting “unexpectedly courteous, kind of unexpectedly friendly to strangers who are having a bad day.”

Earnhart said that he was slightly worried that people might turn the group down because “they might think we’re some weird hippie group … (but) this happiness is not materially gained.”

To counter this, Earnhart said it’s just a question of what people see.

“I don’t want to come off as saying the whole world is happy,” Earnhart said. “We’re not prancing around, singing songs – although we’d like to do that. When we go out and do things, people will see that we’re sincere.”

One of the events the group is planning will take place today. Instead of “passing on a smile,” which the officers say can be shrugged off, the group is going to pass out personalized compliments to people on the Quad. Other upcoming events include a hug booth and “make your own eye patch” for Speak Like A Pirate Day. The next meeting will include writing letters to family and friends that members haven’t communicated with in a while.

The long-term goal is to keep growing.

“Ideally, I would like (the group) to continue to grow, maybe going to other colleges and seeing this catch on in other places,” Best said. “But it’s kind of hard to measure how effective you are, because you can’t just go out and measure happiness – so we’re just going to try and kind of improve campus life.”