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The term "epidemic" means "something that spreads really fast."

The flu, dengue fever, the recent Zika outbreak, or sudden plant-based outbreaks that threaten large number of crops are all classic examples of epidemics.

When an epidemic hits, it hits hard. The flu can make everyone in your office sick within days, and viral outbreaks can quickly threaten the population of an entire country.


A health professional fumigating against the Zika virus in Honduras. Photo by Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images.

But did you know that not all epidemics are bad?

Yes, there is such a thing as a "positive epidemic." And according to researchers at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, positive epidemics actually spread faster than negative ones.

Amazing, right?

Examples of positive epidemics include the spread of good viruses that protect their hosts instead of harming them or even beneficial social phenomenons like the use of agriculture technology spreading among humans.

We don't normally associate positive things with the word "epidemic," but when these positive epidemics (nicknamed "benes" for the purposes of this study) take hold, they are capable of affecting a lot more hosts than a negative epidemic can and in a much shorter amount of time too.

Or, to put it simply: The study found that good epidemics spread faster and wider than negative ones.

When you think about it, this pattern actually makes a lot of sense.

Imagine you just heard about a new Gmail trick that increases your productivity and saves you a ton of time. The first thing you're going to do is tell as many people as possible, right?

"F*** yeah! Gmail!!!" Photo via iStock.

When the people you tell find out about it, they get the same excited feeling as you and start telling as many people as they can. Pretty soon, your entire office building is buzzing about it. The fact that this "epidemic" is motivated by a positive feeling and a beneficial change in work flow means that it can spread without anyone trying to stop it.

A negative epidemic, on the other hand, like a stomach virus, still spreads within communities but has more obstacles trying to prevent it from doing so. If you have a stomach virus, you'll (hopefully) stay home from work, cancel your social plans, and lie down on your bathroom floor in the fetal position until you feel better, cutting out key opportunities for the virus to spread to other people.

"F*** no! Stomach virus!" Photo via iStock.

When it comes to those beneficial viruses I mentioned earlier, the kind that prevent a host from getting sick, those might increase your energy and happiness, which in turn make you more likely to interact with other people and spread the awesome, protective, healthy virus more quickly. The people you interact with then get the same protection.

Weirdly, this same epidemic pattern also applies to positive and negative words.

The researchers used Google's Ngram Corpus to track the popularity of certain beneficial words over time.

They found that when a word is highly useful and beneficial to society, its usage spreads very quickly. "Personal computer" and "aspirin" both became highly used words after they were invented and their popularity increased exponentially.


"Such a headache from staring at my personal computer. Someone get me an aspirin!" Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Because of the positive benefits associated with both aspirin and personal computers, people learned about both of them extremely quickly and wanted to share that knowledge — spreading the words far and wide at a rapid pace.

People say that positivity is contagious, and this study shows that in many ways that is ... literally true.

We're drawn to things that help us out, and we're eager to "infect" other people with them. Human society can make giant leaps based on positive and beneficial epidemics.

From the implementation of agriculture to the space age to your new fancy Gmail trick to paying it forward at the Starbucks drive-through, we all move forward as a society when we help spread the positive wealth around.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


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