Secret Agent L to share mission with Point Park
Confluence hosts kindness ambassador Laura Miller
Published: Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Updated: Friday, February 1, 2013 15:02
It was the 24th morning of July 2009, and Laura Miller's mission was simple. A friend's only birthday request was for Miller to complete a little act of kindness under the pseudonym of "Secret Agent L."
Unable to leave the office, she sent co-worker Vivian Croft "into the field" with a digital camera, makeshift business card and instructions to covertly place a freshly-picked flower on a random car windshield. Upon her return, the pair posted their first "mission of kindness" to their newly created blog.
And with that single pink hydrangea, the Secret Agent L (SAL) Project was born on the same day as Miller's friend.
"The next thing I knew, tons of traffic was coming to the blog," Miller said. "We continued to do missions of kindness almost daily—anything from $5 coffee gift cards to rolls of quarters at laundromats …I truly believe people want to be acknowledged, to feel valued, to feel that they aren't invisible. The SAL Project, I believe, helps us create that reality for ourselves and those around us in an unconditional, truly intentional way."
Since then, the SAL project has inspired over 1,800 "Affiliated Agents" around the world to spread the selflessness and leave anonymous acts of kindness for unsuspecting recipients. On Friday, Feb 24 at 6 p.m., Miller will be sharing her mission with Point Park University in room 212 of the University Center as part of the Confluence Psychology Alliance's community service lecture series.
According to its page on Point Park's website, Confluence is an undergraduate humanistic psychology alliance open to all majors that offers a place for multiplicity and diversity of thought, community, friendship and É activist outreach. The word confluence itself is defined as the act or process of merging which exhibits the club's goal of bringing all walks of life together to learn, engage, relate and change.
Chair Ashley Bobak, who has been involved with service organizations like AmeriCorps and the YMCA, emphasized Confluence's desire to bring students together and simultaneously reach out into the community.
"One of our slogans is ‘always fighting apathy,' so it's [about] finding a way to get students more involved outside of just academics," the junior psychology major said in an interview.
Assistant Professor of Psychology Robert McInerney founded Confluence with the goal not only to complete service projects—such as the yearly blanket drive—but also to bring intellectual and passionate lecturers to campus" to discuss topics "beyond traditional psychology," such as philosophy, film and community among others.
The community service lecture series began last semester, with Confluence's decision to bring in more people "who do a lot of hands-on work in the community," McInerney said. Thus far, they have hosted Pittsburgh Action Against Rape and Achieving in Higher Education with Autism/Developmental Disabilities(AHEADD).
Coincidentally, McInernery's idea to host Miller as the next speaker also began with a car, as he met one of her "secret agents" while working with People Helping People loading supplies into trunks to distribute to Pittsburgh's homeless population.
"Laura is an excellent example of someone who recognizes that when you do small things for others, it does more than just alleviate an aspect of their lives," McInerney said. "It begins to have a kind of snowball effect where I think that everybody in general feels more welcome in a community or neighborhood and that in turn, improves mental health overall."
The theory that these little acts affect not only the agent and the recipient, but society as a whole is akin to one he teaches in his social psychology course at Point Park.
"A little act of kindness goes a long way," McInernery said via telephone, "because a small act is really a kind of therapy that isn't so much for the individual as it is for both the individual and the community we live in."
This will not be the first time Miller has collaborated with the University. In late October 2010, Croft – affectionately referred to as Number Two – devised a mission to orchestrate a flash mob with over 20 Point Park dancers in the middle of Market Square to brighten up a dreary-weathered day. The dance was choreographed to a mix of fun, upbeat music—such as "Dancing in the Street" by Martha and the Vandellas—and can be found on YouTube by searching "Secret Agent L's Dancing in Market Square."
"At the end, I swept in with a bucket full of sunflowers [with] … Secret Agent L business cards attached for the dancers to give out to people standing around Market Square," Miller said via email. "It was incredible. I even got some emails from people who were given flowers, stating that it had brightened their entire day and they were so thankful for it."
On Friday, Miller plans to tell the full story of the SAL project and how it has grown, to discuss her involvement with the mental health community in Pittsburgh and to inspire and challenge attendees to "serve others in kindness" every day.
"I've seen first-hand that acts of kindness can change someone's day—even someone's life," Miller said. "I've received emails from people who have found the acts of kindness … in which they say that they were having the worst day or that they were going through a very rough patch in life, and that single act of kindness made them feel hope, made them feel loved, made them feel less alone. That, to me, is profound."
To read about some of the latest missions or participate in the SAL project, visit www.secretagentl.com.