For 65 minutes, Eaton performed 65 acts of kindness, handing out $5 bills. He was surprised by some reactions, because some people refused the money, instead asking Eaton to give it to someone else in need of it.
Strangers: They surprise you, and they can definitely inspire the notion of “paying it forward.”
Sometimes, though, things are so painful and gut wrenching that you have no clue how to cure it. That’s when you have to remember that…
3. It’s OK to laugh
Everyone has heard the saying “laughter is the best medicine.” You’ve heard it because there’s truth to it.
On the physiological side of things, laughter can help reduce blood pressure, increase the response of tumor- and disease-killing cells, defend against respiratory diseases, and improve alertness and memory.
Your mental health is also improved by laughter. Laughter can strengthen relationships, according to neuroscientist Robert Provine. Heck, he wrote the book on it.
Provine also said laughter is contagious, but you already know that. It’s like yawning: You hear or see someone else laugh and you can’t help but laugh with them.
And that’s the goal of 20-year-old Shane Burcaw: to remind people that it’s OK to laugh.
Shane has spinal muscular atrophy and has been in a wheelchair since he was 2. Although he lives with this horrible affliction, he created a blog to share his story and to encourage people with the fact that, if he can laugh at his situation, then anyone can.
Here’s a video showing how Shane’s positivity has kept up his, and his family’s, spirit:
Shane took to reddit to host an open forum, letting redditors ask him anything. One of the most moving statements he made sums up his quest in succinct fashion:
I just want to make people laugh. It is one of my all-time favorite things. If you can take anything from my life, it should be that a positive attitude and sense of humor can go a long way toward overcoming your own problems no matter what they are.
Inspired by the feedback, Shane created a nonprofit called Laughing at my Nightmare, which allows people to help each other find a “positive and humorous perspective” in their lives. All because Shane believes (say it with me) laughter is the best medicine.
Shane’s a young guy, and there are even younger than he making strides in their own communities, which is why we should…
2. Have faith in our children
The boy pictured is Johnny Karlinchak of Springfield, Va. He’s not even 10 years old, but that didn’t stop him from raising money to help his neighbor, Elissa Myers.
He sprung into action shortly after a strong storm hit the area and caused a giant tree to crash into Elissa’s house. Knowing it’d take money to fix, Johnny raided his piggy bank and donated the money to the rebuilding efforts. When he learned it would take $500 to cover the insurance deductible, he sprung into action again, this time creating a lemonade stand to help raise the money.
And raise the money he did. In short time, he and his lemonade stand had covered the deductible twice over.
When The Washington Post spoke to Elissa, she had this to say:
I lost many, many things that day. But things did not make me cry. The overwhelming kindness of Johnny did.
Jordan Somer was barely a teenager in 2007 when she hosted her first Miss Amazing pageant, which gives girls and young women with disabilities the chance to be amazing. It’s a pageant that focuses on all beauty, and helps girls build self-confidence and see that they have support in their communities. It’s still going strong in 2013.
When a 6-year-old has the idea to help feed the hungry, you better help.
That was Phoebe Russell’s idea: To raise $1,000 to help feed San Francisco’s hungry via the city’s Food Bank. Her idea gained speed, snowballed and erupted in the best way possible: Within a few months, she raised $20,000. That turned into more than 12,000 meals for the hungry.
If someone who is 5 years old can have this kind of impact, you know, what can we as adults do and how can we magnify our efforts? — Paul Ash, San Francisco Food Bank executive director
What began as a simple notion turned into a infection of generosity.
Brendan Haas created a Facebook page called Soldier for a Soldier, in which he wanted to trade a toy soldier for a trip to Disney World to give to a fallen soldier’s family. It was successful, to say the least.
I just think they do something good, so I wanted to do something good back. — Brendan Haas
But his giving didn’t stop there.
Haas’s story reached the producers of “Good Morning America,” and they invited him onto the show. There, they surprised him with his own trip to Disney World. Since it’s in Haas’s nature to pay it forward, he gave that trip away to a fallen soldier’s family, too.
Meet Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old Pakistani girl who is the youngest nominee ever for a Nobel Peace Prize for her education and women’s rights activism in a volatile region of the country where the Taliban oppressed women.
In October 2012, Taliban gunmen shot her in the head and neck as she was returning home from school. Much to their chagrin, Malala survived and her resolve is as strong as ever.
Malala knew an attack on her life was a sure thing, and she played the scene over and over in her head. She had this to say about it just months before the Taliban tried to take her life:
I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.
Kids, right? They’re something else, and more often than not they surprise us with their insight, kindness and understanding. It’s like Yoda said: “Size matters not.”
Which brings up the fact that…
1. The little things matter, and they add up
Just because some good deeds are small doesn’t mean they’re tossed aside to make way for the perceived bigger acts of kindness.
After all, what’s the barometer for these sort of things? Who decides that? What’s small to one person might be huge to another.
For instance, everyone remembers when this happened:
Socks and shoes are something many of us have. Sadly, though, far too many of us don’t. So what might get re-gifted next Christmas by one person might be another person’s greatest possession.
The truth is: The little things matter, and they add up.
Random acts of kindness are done every day, and all of us have been a recipient. It could be something like a stranger buying your meal. Or your sibling taking your dog on a walk while you’re at work.
Kindness is one of those things that makes us human, and helps define us as a people.
When you’re in a wheelchair, most everyone is taller than you, so ordinary things like going to a concert can lead to disappointing results.
That almost happened to wheelchair-bound Patrick Connelly at a Blake Shelton concert last year. He became distraught when he realized he wouldn’t be able to enjoy the concert because he couldn’t see the stage.
Enter two strangers, who held up Connelly for a good portion of the concert, despite the 100-degree temperature:
Now, get to know Erik Martin. In 2010, Erik’s wish came true: He became a superhero.
He was 13 at the time, and battling liver cancer. The Make-A-Wish Foundation in the Seattle area, along with hundreds of volunteers, made Erik’s day, which included him saving the day.
Turns out, Spider-Man needed Erik’s help, because Spidey knew Erik was secretly Electron Boy, a hero who uses the power of light to fight evil. So, when Spider-Man made the call, Erik answered:
These stories remind us humanity is worth loving, and that it’s worth caring about. The acts of a few don’t speak for the rest of us, and it’s important to remember that when bad things happen.
Comedian Patton Oswalt said it best earlier this week:
I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, ‘Well, I’ve had it with humanity.’
But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.
But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. … This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.
But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.
So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, ‘The good outnumber you, and we always will.’
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