If you watch the news, it can be easy to fall for the illusion that we are living in dark times. When it appears that all the news is bad, or stress-provoking or fear-mongering, it helps to remember that the news is a business. Newspapers and other news outlets promote what will get attention. And what gets most attention is the negative news.
“If it bleeds it leads.”
Of course, that only perpetuates our perception that the world is a dark place and creates a self-reinforcing cycle. When all we see are stories of fighting and name-calling and violence we lose trust in others, see others as “separate” from us, and fall into patterns of judgment and blame. That creates more hostility, which leads to the type of news we see every day.
This becomes the new normal, and it reinforces a belief that this is “just how the world is:” people look out for themselves and don’t care about others.
What if the world is not as dark as we think it is?
There’s an alternative to just accepting the news that is presented to us: we can actively look for the places of light.
The world is filled with people performing kind acts for others. It’s easy to miss them when we’re caught up in outrage over the latest political scandal, or caught up in our quest for ultimate productivity or the next big deal.
Kindness is contagious. Studies show that even witnessing acts of kindness makes us feel good and increases our tendency to perform acts of kindness.
Witnessing acts of kindness is like medicine for the soul. When we watch these acts or even hear about them, they uplift us and make us feel good about the world. They engender trust of others and remind us of our shared humanity.
Medicine For Your Soul
If you’re done with all the political fighting and other dreary news, and in need of some medicine, I invite you to check out the East Idaho News Secret Santa videos on YouTube.
To borrow a line from Seth Myers, these are the kind of stories we need right now.
Here’s the premise:
A local “Secret Santa” anonymously donated $500,000 and asked East Idaho News to distribute it — generally in the form of checks, gift cards, and cars — to recipients in need, who are nominated by members of the community. In each video, Nate Eaton, the news director, gives a brief description of the recipient before he approaches the people to surprise them with gifts.
Make sure you have your tissues handy.
Many of the recipients have been or are going through hard times: sudden deaths of family members, illness, or caring for sick family members.
Most of the recipients have devoted their lives to serve others, and you can tell that receiving is out of their comfort zone. Many are left speechless or reduced to tears by the unexpected generosity.
As I watched these videos I was reminded that you never know what someone else is going through. Accidents happen in the blink of an eye and can change the course of someone’s life. Health issues and caring for loved ones take their toll. Often, it’s the people who don’t ask for anything who need our help the most.
Nate approaches each person with sensitivity and compassion. He is clearly attuned to what each person needs and how much they might be willing to share. His people skills are worth studying and modeling.
The Power of Positivity
Beyond the generosity of the anonymous donor and the uplifting effect of watching people receive these life-impacting gifts, what stood out for me the most in these videos is not the video content but the comments.
YouTube has a reputation as a nasty place, and it’s not known for cuddly comments, but in this little corner of the internet, kindness reigns supreme. Empathy and compassion lead the way here, and self-proclaimed “tough guys” admit to being moved to tears. There’s nary a troll in sight.
It’s a perfect example of how kindness is contagious
One of my favorite comments was a user who said they used to want to be a celebrity but now they want to be a Secret Santa.
Some commenters have expressed a desire to see more of this on mainstream news.
This is the power of sharing the positive stories.
Imagine if the major news outlets led with stories of kindness instead of burying those stories. What could our world become?
Light creates light.
You can watch the Secret Santa videos here:
East Idaho News Secret Santa