A special community
Interactions with strangers are far from bothersome
It’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving break, and I’m exhausted, hungry and have a ton of work that I should have started much, much earlier. I’m standing next to a few other students waiting at the bus stop, when some guy walking by tells us that it has, in fact, stopped running for the day.
I exchange an “I hate everything” look with the girl next to me, and we start the long, cold walk back to our dorms. We start chatting, mostly just obligatory small talk about where we’re living, what we’re majoring in — you get the idea. I know I’ll probably never see her again, but that walk was a lot less terrible solely because I had someone to walk with.
We’ve all had these experiences — seemingly insignificant interactions we have with complete strangers.
There was the time just the other day, when I was heading back to my dorm and I walked past a guy sitting by himself, casually singing opera. Another guy was walking slightly behind me and when I turned around to look at the serenader, we exchanged a glance and had a brief conversation about how you would only see that at this university.
Or the time I saw a girl waiting for the bus wearing a bagel around her neck, who told me she was playing assassins — a popular dorm game — when she saw me looking. We both got off at the same stop and I ended up having to shield her from an attacker wielding a plastic spoon. I distracted the assassin while she ran into the bathroom and hid.
Or when I was sitting in Clemons the other day and saw this guy completely passed out on a table. This girl came over to him, introduced herself and asked him if he wanted some coffee or something. He said he didn’t have any Plus Dollars left, so the girl went and got him coffee and told him he needed it more than she did.
Even the time when I saw a Post-it note in a bathroom stall that read, “Smile, it will all be okay.”
Maybe these encounters don’t mean much. Chances are I’ll never see these people again and I’ll forget their faces an hour later. But even so, it’s these little experiences that give a large university a feeling of community. A sense of camaraderie — that we’re all in this together. Especially when things get stressful and exhausting, it’s nice to know that random acts of kindness and unsolicited friendliness do exist.
It simply isn’t possible to get to know everyone who goes here. But this sense of community — created by these small, daily interactions — is one reason students feel so at home at the University, despite its size.
Abby’s column runs biweekly Wednesdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.