By Katie Kather
Lauren Lawson, better known as the girl with the white board, is changing people’s lives one simple message at a time. Lawson’s messages have done everything from encourage someone to start a business to save someone’s life. “I’ve received emails from people that they decided not to commit suicide after seeing a white board message,” said Lawson, a senior at Aurora University.
Lawson thought of the project while in bed with strep throat last October. “I was lying in bed, thinking ‘why do I have to wait until I get a career to help people?’” adding, “This light bulb went on. I have a white board.”
This realization led to Lawson’s decision to stand on the street corners of Chicago in the bitter cold with a simple message. “Keep going.” “Serve a cause.” “Show gratitude.” “Live-don’t exist.” “My goal was to impact one life. After 20 minutes on the first day I realized that my reach was going to go far farther than what I thought,” said Lawson.
The power of these messages lies in the fact that they are personal. Although seen by hundreds of people, every message is meant for each individual. “What’s kind of neat is as simple as it is, you can attach a face to a message. It’s amazing what impact that can have. Everyone gets something different out of it. Everyone interprets the messages differently,” said Lawson.
Lawson will graduate from AU in May. She plans on continuing the white board project, but dreams of going into the Peace Corps. “As long as I’m putting good out into the world it will work out, and it has every time,” said Lawson of her future.
Whatever she ends up doing, Lawson feels prepared. “The faculty and staff here [at AU] are so willing to help and want to see you succeed. I feel like they care about you as a whole individual,” said Lawson, adding, “All of the opportunities here for service have fueled my fire. The student body is making a shift toward service. Kris Johnson and Jonathan Dean are empowering us to do some pretty powerful things in our community.”
At the end of the day, the girl with the white board is like the people she serves. “I have my struggles too, everyone does, but we’re not defined by our struggles. We’re defined by how we overcome them. There have been things going on in my life this whole time,” said Lawson, adding that it can be hard to focus on school with so much going on. The white board project keeps her going. “Sometimes I feel like the positive energy I’ve gained from this makes me so happy that I’ll never be sad again,” said Lawson.
Junior Toussaint Egan spent a day with Lawson in January. “The whole of my time with the “White Board Movement” was exhilarating. Sitting alongside common supporters of Lauren’s message, writing and sharing our own messages of empowerment and encouragement with one another was a truly memorable experience,” said Egan.
One thing Lawson has learned from the white board experience? “Humans are innately good. We all have the same basic needs: a steady job, a way to support our family, a happy, healthy life. Our views of the world are tarnished, but there are more positive things in this world than negative.”