Spread Some Joy this Holiday Season

By Zach Adams-Dominik

Simple Acts Can Go Far Are you ready?

An act of kindness might just be the best gift you give someone this year.

The holiday season is looming ever closer. The campus air will soon buzz with the excitement of students anticipating spending time with friends and family instead of textbooks, and the streets will hum with the frenetic energy of finding that perfect gift. Cheerful faces all around will be quick to ask, “What are your plans for the holidays?”

While the winter months conjure up warm feelings of social merriment and togetherness in most, for others, it’s a time marked by anxiety and depression. Maybe you’ve seen them, the person who stays quiet as others are making plans, or the one who can’t seem to join in while others are having a good time. Maybe you’ve been that person yourself.

Often given the disarming title of “the holiday blues,” bouts of sadness during the festive season can be a serious issue. While those with clinical depression should seek the care of a trained medical professional, there are many things we can all do to help those who may be feeling down. Studies have shown that giving, receiving, and even witnessing acts of kindness can have a profoundly positive impact on a person’s outlook. Everyone can benefit from simply going out of their way to do something nice for someone else.

In an effort to witness this phenomenon in action and spread a little holiday cheer around the campus, BCC Voice reporters were tasked with finding someone they didn’t know and performing a random act of kindness. Purposefully vague, this allowed reporters the freedom to act genuinely, without being constrained to give forced compliments or feel coerced into acting unnaturally.

Here’s a small selection of the some of the heart-warming results, as told by the do-good reporters themselves:

Leann Skallerud found herself getting an unexpected workout.

“As I rounded the street corner towards my favorite restaurant on my way to pick up lunch, I noticed a man in a bright green shirt darting across the street with a large bag. While dodging cars, he dropped a black shirt from his bag but didn’t notice and just kept on running. He was about two house lengths away from me when I decided to act. I tried to enter the street to get the shirt and chase after him, but had to stop because of all the traffic. Finally, a break in the cars allowed me to move. I snatched up the shirt and ran in the direction the man had been going. Luckily, his bright green shirt made him stand out and I found him in a laundromat about two and a half blocks from the corner I had started from. Finally catching up to him, I breathed, ‘Sir, I think you dropped this.’ He, still breathing hard himself from all of the running, exclaimed, ‘Oh! Wow, thank you!’ I waved goodbye and made my way to the restaurant. Eating my lunch afterwards felt like a reward for making the stranger in the bright green shirt smile.”

Patrick Kruger donned a cape while on the clock.

“I was closing up the restaurant I work at, when I heard shouting from the street out front. I ran outside and saw a homeless man attacking a terrified young U.C. Berkeley student. He had his shoe off and was beating the student with it. There was a bike locked to a parking meter, and the man swung it around to try to hit the student. It didn’t have the desired effect so he then tried to get the bike loose to throw it. The student ran out onto Telegraph Avenue to avoid the blows and had to dodge cars to return to the sidewalk. I ran over to where they were and shouted to get the man’s attention. He came toward me as if to attack. He didn’t have a weapon, so I put a fist up, ready to throw a punch. I don’t know if I would have struck the man, but he must have believed I would, because he paused when he saw this, and then ran away down the street. The student called the police to report the incident, and I waited with him until they arrived. He went with the police to identify his attacker, and I went back inside the restaurant to finish closing up.

This incident didn’t make me feel like any kind of hero. I can’t imagine a scenario where I would simply watch or ignore someone in that sort of trouble. At the same time, I realize the homeless man could have had mental issues. It makes me sad to know that there are many like him, alone on the street, without any friends or family to help them seek treatment and recovery.”

Darius Baier provided warmth to Berkeley’s most overlooked.

“I was researching homelessness in Berkeley and wanted to speak to homeless people about their experiences. On a cold November night, I bought an eight pound jug of hot coffee from Starbucks and walked around downtown Berkeley giving cups of coffee to the homeless people I met. The overall response was mixed. Many accepted the coffee happily and brightened up, but some declined, saying that they wanted to be able to sleep that night. It may have been a miscalculation on my part to offer coffee to people at eight in the evening. Still, those that declined seemed to appreciate the offer. Mike Zint, a homeless activist, had told me that a doing a small act of kindness for a homeless person, like buying them a cup of coffee, would ‘make their day.’ He was right.”

Conclusion: It doesn’t take much.

Each reporter went above and beyond to help out someone in need, but it isn’t necessary to risk life or limb to brighten someone else’s day. Acts of kindness such as buying a sandwich for a homeless person, letting someone with fewer items take your place in the checkout line, or asking an unhappy person if everything is alright can all help the community at large become a little better. Even something as simple as a sincere compliment or sharing a smile with a stranger can improve a day and lift a mood.

As the semester draws to a close and thoughts of wrapping paper and candy canes begin to replace the dread of finals, consider being more mindful to those around you. Perhaps a classmate or the person you pass in the stairwell could use a nice word sent their way. It surely couldn’t hurt.

No matter what color shades your holiday season, whether it’s Grinch green, rosy-cheeks red, or the holiday blues, we could all benefit from spreading some unsolicited joy. An act of kindness might just be the best gift you give someone this year.

Feelings of depression, isolation, and suicide are serious issues and can affect us all. If you or a loved one are suffering, consider seeking help from a trained medical professional. Free mental health counseling is available to all Peralta students with services provided at each campus. Appointments can be made by calling (510) 464-3535 and Laney’s Wellness Center can be reached at (510) 464-3384. Don’t let negative emotions consume you; you are not alone.
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