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At MSU, the bathrooms in the basement of Old’s Hall are so old that the door still has half of the letters spelling “laboratory” from when they were put there during the original build. I wish I could tell you that behind the door is a different story, but it is immediately obvious that the only changes made to this bathroom since the building was built were to maintain health and safety guidelines. The point I’m trying to make…it’s old.

There’s a juxtaposition between the modern paper towel dispensers and the old brick they are drilled into. Two identical mirrors hang above two identical sinks. But between the mirrors is about a foot of brick. It’s been painted over with that white paint that plagues the walls of every old building that underwent quick renovations to make them usable. Even through the thick paint you can tell that brick is probably original because they aren’t even. Some stick out further than others, the mortar is thicker in some areas than others and the paint does nothing to hide it.

Sketched there, between the mirrors, are three light and fading words. Likely written in an office pen are the words “you are Beautiful” with a capital B as if to make it the point of the phrase. It’s a completely random reminder from a complete stranger to anyone looking in those mirrors that regardless of what they see…they are beautiful.

But it doesn’t end there. A different pen, likely a sharpie, in different handwriting, takes an arrow and points to an addition to the message. It says “and wanted, you have a place in this world” complete with a heart to fill the empty space.

Here, in an old bathroom in one of dozens of halls in a huge university, two strangers unknowingly came together to put together a perfect cohesive thought that may be a needed reminder for the thousands of people who see it and who will see it. Graffiti used to be a bad thing, yet here, in a place that will be passed by people who are stressed about school, who are unhappy with how they look in the mirror, who may be struggling with the way they look or how their bodies appear. There are days that I’ve seen that message and haven’t realized just how much I needed to see it until I’ve looked right at it.

It’s a source of beauty in a place that no one would expect it. It’s a hole in the wall bathroom that is completely forgotten about until you need it, yet it holds a heartfelt reminder of the value we each hold.

So why have I asked you to read all of this about some words scribbled on the wall of a bathroom? Because it is a testament to the kindness we can give to strangers and the ways that women build each other up. It’s like the age old “drunk girl in a bar bathroom” conversation, the way many girls say the best compliments they’ve ever received are from strangers they will never see again. It’s like the girls who warn other girls about which frats to avoid and what bars will intervene when women feel unsafe. In a world where many things are uncertain and as women (as well as many minority gender identities) we are often our own line of defense. We stand up for ourselves and we look out for each other because we can’t always trust the world to do it for us.

So while some words written on that bathroom wall may not be noticed by most people, I’m pretty sure that I missed it the first few times, it’s seen by people who need it when they need it. It’s a random act of kindness that will continue to serve as kindness. Those few words could save lives and the strangers who acted together to put it there will never know. That is the true meaning of kindness; it’s acting without expectation of retribution to make the day of someone else better. It’s beautiful and I’m thankful to being able to witness it in the old bricks of a forgotten bathroom.

Erika is a pre-med honors student in the Lyman Briggs college at MSU. With 3 majors there isn't a lot of time for much else but she loves writing whenever she can, going on spontaneous adventures, and thinks there is nothing better than late-night (early morning) conversations with your closest friends.
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