It is always a creative experience when chapters provide additional programming at a display. It adds an extra element that gives their campus a unique quality. Send Silence Packing is already a huge statement, so it can be a challenging process to find what will work with the displays. There have been many ways that chapters have chosen to add a flair of individuality to interacting with the display. From having several campus groups at the display to giving away decorated t-shirts, there have been so many ideas that have become a part of the Send Silence Packing displays.
Bard college had a few great activities that we had not seen on the tour before. After we set up, student and staff volunteers began chalking positive messages on the sidewalks that went through the display. Brandon and I had a conversation about this exact activity a few days before we were at Bard and were happily surprised to see that the Bard chapter had the same idea.
In the morning Ashley Boltrushek, the Active Minds at Bard advisor, explained to myself and the students about the Mandala that we would have by the tables during the display. We spread a white sheet on the ground and had several items in cups on the corners of the sheet. The items included: seashells, wooden beads, marbles, flowers, and other various pieces. The idea of the mandala was to have people add pieces to the sheet to make a design. These items would carry any kind of thoughts or feelings, good or bad, that someone had when adding to the mandala. Once the display was over and the mandala was taken apart, the thoughts that were associated with the items were released into the universe. It was a very calming activity and provided an experience associated with a sense of relieving any feelings into the world.
Bard also added a backpack to the display, as most of the chapters do when Send Silence Packing is at their campus. The backpack they donate was included in another activity that people were encouraged to take part in. There was paper set up with markers, crayons, and colored pencils and instructions to create any kind of positive message or art to travel with the backpack.
Many students took this activity as a chance to send messages of hope and support. It is another way that a sense of comfort is set into the display. Suicide is a very heavy topic and Send Silence Packing is working hard to make sure it is taken seriously. But there is something personal about hearing words of encouragement from strangers. Reading stories from people that have lost a loved one to suicide is a very emotional experience and it is always a good balance to have words of hope to read as well from chapters across the United States.
Even after reading many statements of support while touring, I still find myself impacted by the kind words of others that I have not heard before. Here are a few of the comments from the Bard backpack:
“I was afraid – now I’m not. I spoke and I’m not alone.”
“Life is full of mysteries. Just remember that we can surprise ourselves … Let the universe surprise you.”
“Despues de la tormenta viene la calma” … which translates to: “After the storm comes the calm.”
Having activities like this on campus during the display usually has a double impact. People are helping themselves by creatively expressing their support for others. It is therapeutic for the person creating, and inspirational for the stranger seeing that creation for the first time. One message can be the thing that changes someone’s mind about finally reaching out to a friend, or taking steps in the right direction to help themselves.