With a sparkling tiara, Development Director for the College of Business Laura Gabriel has a new title: “The Kindness Fairy.” She doesn’t have a magic wand, but over the past two months her presence has positively transformed nearly everyone’s day.
“Laura put a smile on our faces with her Kindness Fairy office visits,” said Institutional Advancement Vice Chancellor Mallory Simpson. “We all feel appreciation and gratitude, but sometimes in the day-to-day, it is not expressed as often as we should. Seeing the Kindness Fairy’s positive effect in the office was a reminder of how important it is to regularly take time and let our colleagues know how valued they are.”
Gabriel was inspired by the Be Kind, Be Well campaign an MHealthy initiative that promotes the idea of kindness in the workplace to both yourself and others. Wanting to physically represent the message, she created a character to regularly deliver goodwill. Like Wonder Woman, she can do a quick costume change — and emerge from her office with her “Be Kind” T-shirt, sparkle fairy dust powder-puff and tiara.
“I know I might look a little silly running around with a tiara on my head, but I like seeing how people’s faces light up. It’s a good conversation starter too,” said Gabriel, holding her decorated box that contains cards with messages like “I believe in you,” “I respect how you handle challenging situations” and “You made my day.” “Generally speaking, I’ve seen a bit more meanness in our world recently and this was an opportunity for me to quietly invoke power against the harshness by putting kindness into the world. It’s truly magical how genuine kindness in the right moment can create positive change.”
Resiliency and Well-Being Services Manager Kelcey J. Stratton said the fall’s Be Kind, Be Well campaign includes an online kindness resource kit with staff meeting kindness conversation prompts, a printable gratitude card template, a kindness pledge and other online kindness resources.
“We wanted to bring the Michigan community together in a new, positive way. You can be creative with kindness; showing kindness is fun. And it’s an accessible way to improve our health and the health of those around us,” Stratton said, noting that everyday actions make a big difference — like making eye contact and smiling, acknowledging one another by name and taking a moment or two to be appreciative of others.
Gabriel said going office to office and offering Kind bars, her kindness cards, hugs and conversation took time to organize, but the end result energized her.
“Helping people feel special has made me feel great. I wanted to put kindness out there and remind others how good they are; but it’s also helped me see the good in myself and be a bit kinder to myself too. Sometimes we are our own harshest critics,” she said. “I did this to uplift others, but I’ve noticed a positive impact on my own mental wellbeing.”
And, showing its power, kindness also impacts social, emotional and physical health, Stratton said. That holistic impact is a reason the university wanted to focus on the small acts that make such a big difference.
“Be Kind, Be Well is a promotion of overall wellness. Evidence shows when people express kindness that it’s good for our own happiness, our relationships and our sense of connectedness. Research shows that kindness helps improve your mood and enhances your capacity for facing your daily challenges,” she said. “Kindness is also good for physical health. It helps reduce stress, and stress has a negative impact on our physical health.”
As the campaign winds down this month, Gabriel said she is taking off the tiara for now — but the kindness she spread remains.