By Ellie Schuckman
With a packed audience, dim lighting and solemn composure, six students took center stage, reading personal letters aloud to individuals who helped them in times of need.
The College’s Student Alliance to Facilitate Empathy (SAFE) hosted “Dear Helper” on Wednesday, Nov. 18, in the Physics Building to show individuals that even in the darkest times, they are not the only ones struggling.
“It’s important to know you’re not alone,” said SAFE Vice President Laur Plawker, a junior psychology major. “While no two struggles are the same, it’s nice to know you’re not alone.”
The monologue-style event allowed students to speak openly and share their stories about a time when empathy and compassion was extended to them. Participants spoke in the form of an open letter addressed anonymously to their “helper” — the person who comforted them in a time of need.
“The letter was to someone that has been dear to me my entire life and to share the story of how much he had helped me through the most difficult times in my life felt as though I was passing his memory to my friends,” senior English major Mark Bias said. “It helped me to know that there are spaces and people on this campus that come to hear you speak without judgement.”
Bias, along with other students, took the opportunity to thank his “helper” — something he had not been able to do previously.
As the students continued to read their letters, the audience became captivated by the stories told and some even teared up, like some of the presenters were also doing during their presentations.
“I thought it was a good experience for everyone,” senior psychology major Michael McLaughlin said. “It was cathartic for the people presenting.”
Jen Snyder, a senior nursing major, shared her story of having failed a class and needing to stay an extra year at the College. She detailed the pain of having to look her father in the eye while breaking the news to him and the pressure she felt to pass every class.
“I’m lucky to say that I’m not living in a tragedy… but life is hard,” she said, fighting through tears. “I have you to walk me through life when I feel like I’m drowning in it.”
Recounting her past struggles, Snyder thanked her helper for supporting her at her lowest point.
“You followed me everywhere that week, reassuring me that I was your angel and that I was one angel that needed to stay on the ground,” she said. “Thank you for saving me.”
When the event concluded, those in attendance applauded the speakers, showing support for what they had been through.
“I believe that ‘Dear Helper’ does more than just spread empathy,” Bias said. “It brings people together in ways that no other event can. We heard many letters and shared our own personal stories with friends and strangers and in the silence of the room, we felt at home.”