Walking down the Lawn, it is not uncommon to see bright, artistic decorations adorning the doors of the University’s Lawn residents. One often sees flyers for upcoming a cappella concerts or advertisements for clubs to join. However, as anyone passing by can see, the door of Lawn room 10 is a bit different from all the others. Fourth-year Global Public Health student Dan Xia’s door is embellished with over 800 colorful sticky notes, each with a personalized message from strangers who pass his room.
“Two semesters ago I was on a Semester at Sea, and we didn’t have Wi-Fi, so my friends and I wrote Post-it Notes for our doors to plan where to meet up,” Xia said. “I really liked the idea of using Post-it Notes as a means of communication, so once I got back here I decided I might as well stick a couple on my door. I left some for others outside, and it kind of blew up.”
While these notes were initially intended to communicate and check in with friends, they have developed to become far more than a fun decoration. Xia notes the remarkably inspiring sentiment most of the messages radiate.
“Overall, it’s been really good, a lot of people use the notes as a means to spread positivity and encouragement, which is what I was hoping,” Xia said. “I also try to respond. I’ll write replies on the same post-it notes and have little written conversations with these people I’ve never met.”
The content of these vibrant notes ranges quite considerably, but ultimately their presence on this now-famous door has grown to be loved by the University community.
Fourth-year College student Maddy Parker walks by Xia’s colorful Lawn room almost every day on her way to classes.
“The notes have made me smile and laugh,” Parker said. “They’ve made a bad day better and reminded me that I’ll get through it.”
As much as the notes entertain and motivate students, they also encourage Xia and serve as a avenue for outreach and spreading joy to others even outside of the student body.
“Some of my favorite moments are when I’m stepping out or coming in, and an Ambassador stops me and introduces himself to me,” Xia said. “We’ll talk for a while, they tell me that they like to read every single note, so it’s super cool to get connected with that part of the University because not many people actively try to connect personally with the Ambassadors.”
Xia’s door is covered with a massive spectrum of color, art, jokes, encouragement, facts and conversations. There’s a note where a mother traced her son’s hand and signed it from “Nathan Class of 2040.” There’s a drawing of the cartoon Snoopy. Some students even make an effort to communicate with Xia by writing questions for him to answer or even just checking in on how his day is going.
Although Xia is a fourth-year, he hopes the legacy of his Post-it Notes will continue to progress and spread smiles and happiness across the University and the Charlottesville community even after he graduates.
Xia and Betsy Brandon, another Lawn resident and fourth-year Curry student, have thought of expanding the project so people who stop by Xia’s room can write notes to the nearby children’s hospital.
“It would be a good way to connect with pediatrics here,” Xia said. “I’m also trying to find sponsors to donate to U.Va research or research for pediatrics for every note written. It’s still in the works, but we’re really excited for it.”
Brandon elaborated upon the significance of the potentially life-changing, heartwarming initiation she and Xia hope to cultivate.
“When my sister was 18, she was diagnosed with cancer,” Brandon said. “So I know the toll it takes on your family and the difference it makes to be in a positive, uplifting environment with caring people and physicians. That is one of the reasons I kind of thought about doing this because these children are a group of people who can use a little extra love and support. They know they have it from people close to them, but to know people who don’t even know them are rooting for them — it’s very powerful.”
Brandon and Xia’s post-it notes operation is a work in progress, but they both share an undeniable passion for doing whatever they possibly can to help make the world a better place.
“I would love to think no matter what you do there’s a place and a way that you can bring good into the world,” Brandon said. “So, if you’re doing what you’re passionate about it’s much easier.”
Brandon has admired Xia’s drive to make a positive difference in the community and is excited for what she and Xia can do with their children’s hospital project.
Xia’s enthusiasm for life and adventure doesn’t stop with his innovative Post-it Notes operation. He is not only planning on going to medical school after he graduates, but he’s set to begin an expedition to visit every country in the world. He loves working with kids, and ultimately, he aspires to become a global physician and start clinics in places lacking advanced healthcare.
Xia plans to keep some of his favorite and most memorable sticky notes in a scrapbook or on a poster board to constantly be reminded of the warm, inspiring messages that the University community joined together to share with Lawn room 10.