Eyes Front: Spreading Kindness on Campus

When I hear the word “forward” (proFmagazine’s March/April theme), I recall a saying we used in the Marine Corps: “Eyes front!”

“Eyes front” to a Marine means exactly that – keep sight on the mission and look and move forward, alert and attentive. This approach could serve everyone well, since life is happening in front of us and looking back is cause for falling back.

Being alert in my life is a mantra and takes constant awareness. I strive to be alert to my role and participation in each day, as well as pay attention to those around me. Working on a campus that is full of hustling and bustling people, this takes effort. But being alert is important, because it helps ensure our campus communities’ needs are being met and that their experiences are healthy.

As an advocate and steward for equality, equity and inclusion, I enter spaces on campus through the mission of fostering those experiences. I make eye contact with everyone, I smile, I actively and intentionally engage with those in the area, I pay attention to how others are interacting and speaking to one another: eyes front. It is my mission to make every human encounter count, to create encounters through interaction and acknowledgement. The first step in creating a welcoming space is to acknowledge all of those in it. The next step is cultivating a climate of inclusion through valuing everyone.

Kindness is magical, contagious and scientifically proven to improve mental, emotional and physical health. In 2016 Stanford professor Jamil Zaki and colleagues published a series of studies which demonstrated that kindness can spread “like a virus.” “We find that people imitate not only the particulars of positive actions, but also the spirit underlying them,” Zaki wrote in Scientific American. “This implies is that kindness itself is contagious, and that that it can cascade across people, taking on new forms along the way.” The movement Pay It Forward was based on this principle of cause-and-effect: do something kind, and others will act kindly as well. Additionally, unexpected kindness generates more impact!

So when you’re out in your campus community, it may help to tell yourself Eyes front. Be alert for your opportunities to be kind, adopt the mission of inclusion and watch the magic unfold. Imagine the impact of moving kindness forward; it could change everything.