A sign in IU Bloomington’s Dunn Meadow read, “Take a flower if you need a smile.”
Noelani Edwards (Lani for short), BA’22, became known for gestures like that. In fact, hundreds if not thousands of IU students got acquainted with Edwards through her simple acts of kindness and words of encouragement on campus and social media.
Most of these students had never met Edwards in person—but that isn’t important. The impact of her kindness is what mattered most. As Edwards told the Indiana Daily Student, she simply aimed to be “that emotional support to people who might not have it.”
In spring 2021, she began handing out free flowers to anyone on campus who happened to pass by her or need a pick-me-up. The following fall, her gesture of goodwill blossomed into leaving notes of positivity across campus, all signed “Love, Lani.”
Why flowers and notes? The answer is personal for Edwards. A survivor of sexual assault, Edwards is acutely aware of the power of support. It was through her own journey of healing that she began writing inspirational notes to herself.
“Every time I’m sad, I buy myself flowers or I write myself little reminders and love letters of why I deserve happiness—and how to achieve it,” she explained on Instagram. “I decided I wanted to start sharing those with others.”
Watching the flowers and notes achieve her desired effect inspired her to continue the gestures through graduation, leaving a legacy of kindness at IU.
“People would hand them out to the people that they loved, or they would keep them to themselves. I thought that was beautiful.”
As for sourcing the content of her inspirational notes, Edwards either created it herself or shared quotes that resonate with her personally. She offered this example:
“This is one quote that I came by a few years ago: ‘Life is too short to not actively and ferociously fight for your happiness by whatever means necessary.’ I think that’s a good reminder that a lot of people need, because we too often forget to value ourselves.
“It’s just a good message to share.”
In contentious times like these, that kindness—from a stranger, no less—is as refreshing as it is inspiring.
This article was originally published in the 2022 issue of Imagine magazine.