Every semester, the University of Michigan Student Union hosts an event called The Breakfast of Victors. One evening midway during final exams, students are provided with a free breakfast from 10:00 PM to 1:00 AM. Faculty, staff, administrators, and athletic coaches are invited to be the servers. The last two semesters, I was asked to help serve up the food, and I enthusiastically accepted. The "breakfast" is long after my bedtime, but hey, I teach positive psychology. If I am going to profess the virtue of service to others, I should provide some service myself, even if it means I feel rocky the next day.
We serve up scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausages, and pancakes (with syrup). The first time I did this, we fed 800 students in three hours and close to 400 in the first hour. The last time - Thursday, December 16 - we had "only" 600 students come through the line, and they went through at a more leisurely pace.
Regardless, it was all good. The students actually said please and thank you, and the servers had a great deal of fun dishing out the food. One student the other night did ask for an egg whites only omelet, and we politely told him that he was crazy. But I also suspect that he was teasing.
What's the positive psychology point? Research shows that giving to others is psychologically beneficial, perhaps more so than receiving. I'm sure our young students would have survived just fine without the free breakfast, but those of us who served them were walking on sunshine, even at midnight.
I love this university. And our students know that we love them because we feed them.
PS - A special thanks to the staff of the Michigan Student Union who worked behind the scenes to make this happen and did not ask the servers to help wash the dishes!