Make 2015 Your Year of Kindness and Good Deeds

A note from our founder and board president, Laura Hale:

One resolution can change your life and your community. Resolve to do good deeds.

Nine months ago I founded the ONE Good Deed Fund to cover the costs of doing good deeds in my neighborhood, Burlington’s Old North End (O.N.E.). Like many places, the O.N.E. is full of wonderful people who want to help but can’t afford to, don’t know what to do, or are dealing with significant struggles of their own. With a high percentage of people piecing together a living working multiple jobs, and constant turnover of residents in rentals, it can be tough to bring people together. So the ONE Good Deed Fund was born to overcome those issues. The fund was designed to be easy to access and to prompt people to think about what they can do for someone else. All that’s required is a short application and we award up to $100 depending on the materials and services needed for the good deed. So far we’ve granted out the cost of a truck to haul away debris from a shed that was burned down in an act of arson, exercise equipment for a person whose insurance stopped covering physical therapy, a child care bill for a parent who lost their subsidy during a job change, and waterproof boots for a grandparent who has given everything she has to raising her grandchildren. Our goal is simple: to help build relationships between neighbors by encouraging good deeds.

My inspiration was a neighbor of mine. S.J. had not had an easy life. She had been homeless, she had lost her husband and son to illness, and she had battled cancer four times. She shared her small apartment with several relatives and it was a tense situation on the best of days. And yet she was the kindest person you’d ever want to meet. She knew everyone. She smiled brightly. She gave gifts of wind chimes from her prized collection. She always thanked me for listening to her. When her dog passed away, she and I created a headstone to remember him and put it in the garden. Her smile and her kindness to others are what made our neighborhood special. One night, a few years ago, my partner and I saw an ambulance pull into the driveway and we knew the second we saw it that she was gone. We cried. She passed away peacefully in her sleep and left a huge void behind. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of S.J. and am inspired to make someone else’s day a little brighter in her honor.

Bad events stick with us humans far more than good ones. There’s a large body of research showing that the psychological and physiological impact of negative experiences outweigh those of positive experiences. But we can combat that by increasing the good. In his 2001 The Review of General Psychology article “Bad Is Stronger Than Good,” Roy Baumeister writes that it takes five good events to outweigh one bad event. It’s on all of us to be the source of those good events. And there are a lot of benefits to being part of the good. According to author David R. Hamilton, being kind can make you happier, improve your cardiovascular function, slow aging, improve your relationships, and spread to those around you. In short, kindness makes everything better.

So please, be kind. Spread it like the air we all need to breathe. Smile at strangers. Listen to someone else instead of just waiting for your turn to talk. Open a door for someone whose hands are full. Genuinely thank people. Before you speak, ask yourself if what you’re about to say is necessary, helpful, and kind. Give meaningful things away. Be one of the 5 good experiences someone will need to overwhelm the impact of a bad one. Shine your light out there in the dark world.

Look at your community for what it is – a collection of people who are capable of good deeds and great kindness – and join in.

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