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Joy

Believe it or not, there was a very real global 'pandemic of benevolence' in 2021

People are helping one another more than they were before the pandemic began.

service, volunteer, benevolence
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The World Happiness Report has good news about the state of humanity's humanity.

If you spend any amount of time on certain social media sites, you might think the world has fully plunged into hell-in-a-handbasket territory. (Looking at you here, Twitter.) Viral videos of bad behavior have swept through our feeds with alarming regularity over the past few years. Even just perusing headlines may lead you to believe humanity has lost its humanity, that people are generally terrible to each other and that the partisan polarization that now dominates the political landscape has created a hopeless, toxic toilet full of division and hate.

We're obviously not all singing around the campfire before skipping off into the sunset together, but is humanity really doomed to not care about one another?

Nope. Not even a little bit.


In fact, the perception that things have gotten worse isn't grounded in reality at all, at least not according to the data.

Since 2012, the World Happiness Report has been compiled by the UN's Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Using data from Gallup World Poll, the report shares rankings of happiness based on how respondents rank their own life and on various quality-of-life factors in countries around the world.

You're probably wondering what the happiest country in the world is, so let's get that out of the way. It's Finland, for the fifth year in a row. (And yes, the Scandanavian countries were all in the top eight. Some things are just a given at this point.)

This year's report also included sections that specifically analyzed how life has changed during the 2020 and 2021 COVID-19 pandemic, comparing data over the last five years to see the impact the pandemic has had on people in various circumstances. One element the researchers analyzed was benevolence, as measured in "prosocial behaviour" such as donating to causes, doing volunteer work and helping strangers.

The verdict? We're not getting worse. We're getting better.

The conclusion of the report states:

"Although our three measures of prosocial behaviour—donations, volunteering and helping strangers—had differing levels and trends, all showed increases in 2021 in every global region, often at remarkable rates not seen for any of the variables we have tracked before and during the pandemic.

Global benevolence, as measured by the average of the three measures of prosocial behaviour, has increased remarkably in 2021, up by almost 25% of its pre-pandemic level, led by the helping of strangers, but with strong growth also in donations and volunteering."

Benevolence is up by almost 25% over pre-pandemic levels. Who would've guessed?

I shared this report with my teen and young adult daughters and both responded with surprise. We've talked about how social media and media in general can skew our perceptions of things, so it was nice to have some data-driven evidence to back that up.

People being less benevolent, not more, isn't the only skewed perception many of us gotten during the pandemic. I've heard countless people lament the mental health crisis posed by pandemic lockdowns, citing a huge spike in suicides as supposed evidence. Except there was no spike in suicides. In fact, suicides overall went down during 2020 after the pandemic hit.

When we pay too much attention to viral negativity and outrage, we don't get an accurate picture of what's happening overall around the world. I'm not saying we should quit social media altogether, but I do think we need to take news and stories and videos and everyone's thoughts about them with a grain of salt. It's just far too easy to walk away from a scrolling session with the impression that humanity sucks, when the reality is more people are helping one another.

The World Happiness Report summed up the hope we can find in the data quite beautifully:

"The COVID-19 pandemic starting in 2020 has led to a 2021 pandemic of benevolence with equally global spread. All must hope that the pandemic of benevolence will live far beyond COVID-19. If sustainable, this outpouring of kindness provides grounds for hope and optimism in a world needing more of both."

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Memories of childhood get lodged in the brain, emerging when you least expect.

There are certain pleasurable sights, smells, sounds and tastes that fade into the rear-view mirror as we grow from being children to adults. But on a rare occasion, we’ll come across them again and it's like a portion of our brain that’s been hidden for years expresses itself, creating a huge jolt of joy.

It’s wonderful to experience this type of nostalgia but it often leaves a bittersweet feeling because we know there are countless more sensations that may never come into our consciousness again.

Nostalgia is fleeting and that's a good thing because it’s best not to live in the past. But it does remind us that the wonderful feeling of freedom, creativity and fun from our childhood can still be experienced as we age.

A Reddit user by the name of agentMICHAELscarnTLM posed a question to the online forum that dredged up countless memories and experiences that many had long forgotten. He asked a simple question, “What’s something you can bring up right now to unlock some childhood nostalgia for the rest of us?”

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