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Truvia

When was the last time you witnessed a genuinely selfless act?

Maybe someone held the door for you when your arms were laden with groceries, or perhaps you happened to see someone run into the street and grab a child's bike so that it didn't get hit by an oncoming car. No matter the size of the gesture, these purely altruistic moments probably left you feeling just a little bit better about humanity as a whole.

[rebelmouse-image 19397864 dam="1" original_size="700x423" caption="Photo by Alex Boyd/Unsplash." expand=1]Photo by Alex Boyd/Unsplash.


It's important that we don't forget about these moments, no matter how small they may be, especially in the midst of all the discord and divisiveness going on in America today.

Sometimes there are days when the news can seem so overwhelmingly negative that it can feel like there's nothing remotely good going on in the world anymore. Those days are when it's the easiest to stop trying and just give into jadedness.

However, those days are also  when it's most important to do something — anything — kind in order to remind yourself, and whoever you're helping, that, despite all the conflict out there, people are inherently compassionate.

We have the power to make the world a better place. All it takes is a moment of thoughtfulness for someone else.

[rebelmouse-image 19397865 dam="1" original_size="577x441" caption="Photo by William Murphy/Flickr." expand=1]Photo by William Murphy/Flickr.

Here are 5 acts of kindness that people experienced first-hand to help motivate you to do something altruistic today.

1. Chris Cucchiara, a personal trainer from San Jose, California, watched his roommate give a vital gift to a homeless person.

"About two weeks ago, I was driving with my roommate, and we saw a homeless guy without shoes," writes Cucchiara in an email. "I was driving, but my roommate, who had fairly new shoes on, took off his shoes, got out and gave them to the homeless man. I had sandals in the car so I just gave them to my roommate to wear for the rest of our trip into town and back to our house. I felt honored to witness that act."

When you can afford several pairs of shoes, it's easy to forget how much just one pair can mean to someone who has none.

2. These wedding vendors all decided to offer their services free of charge to a couple who lost a lot in two devastating hurricanes.

[rebelmouse-image 19397866 dam="1" original_size="700x467" caption="Marty and Lauren on their wedding day. Photo by Anne Bequette, STJ Creative Photography. Used with permission." expand=1]Marty and Lauren on their wedding day. Photo by Anne Bequette, STJ Creative Photography. Used with permission.

Anne Bequette, took newlyweds Marty and Lauren's engagement photos a year ago in the midst of a devastating scene. Their hometown of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands had been hit hard by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, but their love story managed to survive the storms.

However in the year that followed that photo shoot, Marty lost his job in the boat charter industry because of the steep drop in tourism, and Lauren lost hers because the resort that she had worked at had been completely destroyed.

When Bequette heard about this, she decided to do what she could to give the couple the wedding they deserved despite the fact that they couldn't afford it.

"After hearing their story, LLG Events was touched and immediately began planning," explains Carly Long, who works for LLG. "They first enlisted David Kimmel Design to come on board for pro bono floral design. Then, the team received a hopeful email from Marta Santamaria, owner of The Venue and The Ridge in Asheville, North Carolina, which also happened to be where Marty's family resides. Marta wanted to be involved in any capacity, willing to donate both of her venues and provide catering, linen, staff and more for the event."

This generosity was contagious. More and more wedding vendors were inspired to lend a hand until the entire wedding was taken care of.  

"What Marty, Lauren and their island community experienced was unimaginable, and to get to see firsthand a bit of redemption in their lives on Saturday night after all they've lost was just beautiful," writes Erica Berg of Collective Music Solutions in an email. She ended up donating a guitarist for the ceremony and DJ'd the reception herself.

3. Grant Wiley from Atlanta, Georgia, witnessed his friend pull people from car wrecks not once, but multiple times in a year.

[rebelmouse-image 19397867 dam="1" original_size="640x427" caption="Photo via Rian Castillo/Flickr." expand=1]Photo via Rian Castillo/Flickr.

"I have a friend, Joelle, who, over the last year, has pulled two people out of car wrecks." writes Wiley in an email. "One was a flipped car, the other a head on collision with a pole. And a month ago, after a third accident, in which one of her neighbors was hit by a pizza delivery van, Joelle tried for 20 minutes to keep her alive using basic resuscitation skills she happened to know. She never left her side, even though her neighbor died in her arms."

He continues, "She went a step further this weekend. The police had left spray paint marks all over the road, where her neighbor had been hit. It was in front of the neighbor’s house and the family had to see it every day. In the middle of the night, she went and scrubbed the paint off the road so that they wouldn't have to do it."

It may seem like a small kindness, but Joelle's efforts no doubt gave her neighbor's family some respite from the pain of losing a loved one.

4. Gary Gach, an author from San Francisco, saw not one, but several good Samaritan strangers help an old man when he was in trouble.

"I was standing on a corner, waiting for the light to change when across the street,  when an older man going from the drugstore to the parking lot suddenly fell over backwards into the street," writes Gach in an email. "Immediately, two passersby stopped and went over to him. Then two more arrived, and soon all four were helping him up. Then [they] stayed to make sure he was alright."

He continued, "The scene provided a clear mirror of an essential truth in life: we don’t have to manufacture compassion; we uncover it through action."

5. Calvin Murphy from Ocean City, New Jersey, had an altogether transformative experience with his Uber driver.

[rebelmouse-image 19397868 dam="1" original_size="640x431" caption="Photo via Jeff McReynolds/Flickr." expand=1]Photo via Jeff McReynolds/Flickr.

Murphy wasn't in a great mood when he was taking an Uber in Philadelphia for work. There was traffic and it was raining, and he wasn't initially pleased with his driver, who seemed too tired for conversation.

However, an unexpected literal roadblock changed everything.

The storm had blown a giant tree branch into the road, and it was blocking one of the lanes, causing a major backup.

"As we approach the road block, I noticed my driver wasn't even looking to switch over to the left lane," writes Murphy in an email. "Instead, he drives right up to and stops in front of this giant tree limb — maybe a foot thick, 15 feet long, with all sorts of branches and leaves coming off of it —  puts the car in park, gets out, and in the absolute pouring rain, pulls the branch over to the side of the road, opening the road not just for himself but for everyone else behind him."

Murphy continues, "And get this — when he gets back into the car, soaking wet, he apologizes to me for getting out and hoped that it didn't make me uncomfortable, and then THANKED ME, saying that because of my patience, all those people behind us will get home to their families sooner. "

[rebelmouse-image 19397869 dam="1" original_size="640x425" caption="Photo by Heath Brandon/Flickr." expand=1]Photo by Heath Brandon/Flickr.

The experience made him take a deeper look at all the things people do for each other that often go unnoticed.

"I'll be honest, my impression of this guy actually got me thinking about how that 45 second act saved so many people so much time on their commute home, and they will never even know about it. And it got me thinking how many things are done every day that make my day better, that I didn't even know about, or appreciate. Most of all, it got me thinking about the little things I can do to make other people's lives so much easier."

While they may seem extraordinary, these altruistic experiences are anything but.

People go out of their way to show kindness to strangers every single day all over the world. You may not always see them or be aware of them (as Murphy noted), but that doesn't mean they aren't making someone's life better.

And that good energy doesn't just disappear — it can inspire others to do something good for someone in their community, and so on, and so on, and so on.

What act will you add to the altruism ripple effect?

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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