“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Everyone can agree that there are many things that have been really awful about quarantine.
Among the positives has been the extra time I have had to spend with my sister. Usually we are both so busy that we don’t always have the time to appreciate each other or even realize how much fun it is to be together.
All the extra time at home during quarantine has helped my sister and I remember how lucky we are to have each other and to create a lot of new adventures. That got me thinking about this topic for my column.
Gracie and Molly Banzhoff were sisters, best friends, dancers, musicians, students at Rundlett Middle School and Concord High School and just your average teenagers. But there is one thing that made them unique and which we need much more of in this world. They were the kind of teens who were and are known for their kindness to everyone.
Unlike some teens whose #lifegoals might be popularity or gathering up likes on social media, Gracie and Molly put their energy into being kind. They stood up for kids at their schools who they saw being left out, they were includers rather than excluders, and they were kind to everyone long before #kindnesschallengenow was a thing.
When they were in middle school (Molly) and high school (Gracie) they spent an afternoon playing American Girl Dolls with my sister and I when we were in elementary school. They must have been bored at some point but they acted like it was the most fun activity ever. That’s just the kind of people they were. They were happy helping make others happy.
Tragically, Molly died of a brain tumor when she was 13. She is the author of this quote that relates to kindness and making other people happy: “Do you think you have a purpose? If so, what? I think mine is to make people happy! Does that make you happy? Yes? Purpose fulfilled!”
So, my question for you all is this: What makes you happy? Is it your friends? Your family? A delicious meal? Traveling or going on vacations? Is it the number of likes you have on Instagram? Is it a movie that makes you laugh until you can’t breathe? Is it pulling off a great prank on someone? Or is it a book you just can’t stop reading? Is it receiving a compliment? Maybe even a new puppy? (hint, hint Mom).
What if I told you that research proves that when you are kind to others it doesn’t just make them happy but it also increases your happiness!
Molly probably didn’t know about this research when she decided that making others happy was her purpose but her quote and how she and Gracie lived their lives shows they were just as smart as these researchers below! In “Kindness Makes You Happy, and Happiness Makes You Kind,” Alex Dixon describes a study done in Great Britain that proves that doing acts of kindness makes you happier. Three groups of people were studied and given “life satisfaction surveys” before and after the study. The two groups who were told to complete daily acts of kindness for 10 days “experienced a significant boost in happiness” based on the life satisfaction surveys. Another study done by the Harvard Business School found that the people in the study who could remember the times when they did kind acts for others were happier than people who reported kind things others did for them.
Of course it’s easy to be happy when life is easy, but what about staying happy and being kind to others when things are hard? How many people can do that? Can you? When Gracie lost her sister and best friend when Molly died, she could have become mean, angry and full of hate because of the terrible event that affected her life. No one would have blamed her. Instead, Gracie continues to go out of her way to help others just like she and Molly always did together. She takes the time to send others a positive message randomly just to brighten their day. She teaches dance to little kids at CDA and she loves them just like she’s their big sister. She gives motivating advice to younger girls and reminds them what matters in life and she stays positive and hopeful even when she faces difficult times.
On the anniversary of Molly’s death this year, Gracie posted this message below on Instagram as advice to us all about how to live life. These are very wise words that we should all follow:
“Never take life, and the people in it for granted, especially ones that are the most close to you. Because in just an instant they could be gone forever. I know we can’t exactly hug one another right now but you can still call and tell them how much they mean to you and that you love them. It’s never too late. Be kind to someone today, and everyday.”
This week’s Kindness Challenge is the Gracie and Molly Banzhoff ‘Make Someone Happy Today’ Challenge.
This week, do one kind act for someone else every day for seven days. Keep track of what you do. Make it your goal to make others happy with your acts of kindness and your own happiness will grow too! Acts of Kindness do not have to be huge – hold a door open for someone, smile at a stranger, lend a helping hand at home without being asked, give a compliment, call someone you haven’t talked to in a while, make a kind comment on someone’s social media that you don’t usually comment on. Pay attention to your own happiness during the week as you do kind acts to make other people happy. At the end of the week you will have added happiness to many other people’s lives and you will increase your own happiness too.
Share your acts of kindness from the week and your stories of how your kindness added happiness for yourself and others. Post your stories of Making Someone Happy Today to Instagram @kindnesschallengenow or email your stories of making others happy to firstname.lastname@example.org.