University of Iowa professor's act of Thanksgiving kindness becomes viral sensation

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Social media can appeal to the lowest common denominator, but it can also elevate what's good about people. And that's exactly what happened with a holiday offer at the University of Iowa.

Lecturer Liz Pearce said she just wanted to make sure college kids knew someone cared.

"I sent out a message to the students saying that I know it's been a hard semester and some students, I heard, couldn't go home and I didn't want anyone to feel sad or lonely on Thanksgiving," she said.

That email offer took off on Twitter, a platform Pearce said she doesn't use, but her students do.

"I thought it was so cute. I sent it to my friend group" said student Leah Blask. "She's so wholesome."

Blask's roughly 1,000 followers have shared it, commented on it, and spread it to more than half a million people.

"So many people who read it said it brought a tear to their eye and it made me realize just how vulnerable, maybe as a nation, we are right now," Blask said. "

At the University of Iowa we have people who are in quarantine and isolation in their dorms and apartments," Blask added.

It's a reality Professor Pearce understands. Not only does she have a student in the hospital, and three more who lost loved ones to the virus, and of her own four children only three will be part of her Thanksgiving dinner.

Pearce said knowing her students will be alone hit home since her son, who is in the quad cities, will also be spending the holiday by himself after testing positive for the virus.

Blask said she too remembers when she had to isolate because of a positive test.

"That feeling of being alone, in my apartment, and my roommates have to leave. I was there by myself," Blask said.

"There's a lot of students who've been sick and I think that's been really hard to listen to their stories, especially when they're sick they're usually contacting me saying, 'please, will you accept my work late?' And I say, 'Oh my gosh that should be the least of your worries,'" Pearce said. "The main thing is to get well."

Three students have already taken Pearce up on the offer of a delivered Thanksgiving meal and hundreds more have offered to help.

But she wants to keep the intent of the original offer of her family making food for any students who need it.

"To bring that plate to your table or your porch, and make that effort to connect with you even though they can't hold your hand and be with you," Blask said. "That's why I think Professor Pearce's tweet resonated with so many people, because of that little glimmer of hope and humanity in people."

"My act wasn't a huge act or anything and yet it solicited an incredible response and made me realize maybe we're not used to kindness anymore," Pearce said.
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