by Achim Nowak


December 27, 2020

I drive along Federal Highway in Hollywood/Florida, my convertible top down, heading toward Dania Bake Shack to pick up my breakfast sandwich and a scone. It is two days before Christmas. My radio is tuned to NPR. A story about a Secret Santa comes on.

Nate Eaton is the founder of the East Idaho News website. For the last 5 years, Nate has been the representative of a donor who asked him to disburse several $ 100.000 worth of gifts every year to deserving members of the community. The donor insists on remaining anonymous. S/he is the Secret Santa.

Diana Goldman and her husband Cameron are both 65 years old. Each morning, they rise early to deliver 150 newspapers in their local area. They make this drive in a run-down 2003 Dodge Cameron that has seen better days. After delivering the newspapers, Diana shows up for her shift at a local McDonalds. Diana is a grandmother and would really rather retire but Cameron is disabled, and Diana is the sole breadwinner. So Diana continues to work, day in, day out.

A few days before Christmas, Secret Santa, via the messenger Nate, delivered a brand-new 2019 Hyundai to Diana straight at her McDonalds.

I listen to the story. It gives me goosebumps, and I hear the incredulity and gratitude in Diana’s voice as she describes receiving this gift.

I feel good. The NPR reporter feels good. Nate feels good. Diana and Cameron feel good. And I bet you Secret Santa feels good, as well.

Just because.

"The ideals which have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty and Truth. "

Albert Einstein


Kindness is Chemical

The car is nice, of course. But this is a story about an unexpected act of kindness. Just because.

Goodness amplified. Just because.

We all seek a path to happiness, says Dr. Waguih William IsHak, Professor of Psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai (Cedars-Sinai Blog, 2/13/2019). Practicing kindness toward others is one we know works.

Most research on the science behind kindness has centered on the release of oxytocin and dopamine in the act of kindness. Sometimes called "the love hormone," oxytocin plays a key role in forming social bonds and trusting other people.

Acts of kindness, Professor IsHak emphasizes, have to be repeated. Biochemically, you can’t live on the 3-4 minute oxytocin boost that comes from a single act.

Do you want more such “kindness boosts” or “helper highs” in 2021? Forget about the gaudy Oprah or Ellen made-for-television gift extravaganzas. The one-time events. Corporate marketing. Ego stroking. Show-boating.

No, we’re talking about consistent everyday kindness habits. The unexpected acts of kindness. Just because. Here’s what I mean.



Unexpected Acts of Kindness Are Simple

This is an entirely arbitrary and noncomprehensive list of unexpected acts of kindness:

  • Hold the door for a stranger.
  • Send a random hello email or text to a family member or friend you hardly ever see.
  • Give a compliment to someone at work or school.
  • Send a hand-written card.
  • Bring breakfast snacks to work.
  • Smile at folks in public spaces.
  • Help an elder with a chore. 
  • Say “I love you” to everyone you love.
  • Donate money or your time.
  • Stop and listen to a friend or colleague.
  • Thank your boss for being a terrific boss.

"Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."

Dalai Lama

Simple, right? We can do these things! Let us be kind. Just because. Don’t do it for the oxytocin or any sort of public acknowledgment. Those are nice, sure. Do it just because.

This may be the week when you set your 2021 goals. Do your strategic planning. Make New Year’s resolutions. Imagine, envision, dream.

Do all of that. But please, remember your unexpected acts of kindness. They are the nectar of everyday life.

While you’re at it, remember this, as well. Kindness begins with being kind to ourselves. Don’t over-plan, overschedule, overcommit, overshoot, over-seek. Don’t drive yourself crazy. Don’t defeat yourself before the year begins.

Because after the year we have all had, let’s begin by being kind to ourselves as we step into 2021.

A car is nice, yes. But it ain’t about the car.

Carry out a random act of kindness, Princess Diana said, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.

No stressful expectation, no exorbitant plan. Simple faith in how it works. YES to that. Just because.

Hello 2021. Here we come.

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