The year 2017 was, by no means, a banner year for humanity. The United States controversially ushered in Donald Trump as president, deepening the preexisting divide between political parties. Tension with North Korea rose, and several investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election created contentious media headlines. We wept as the death toll rose in the Las Vegas shooting, and prayed for the victims of the Texas massacre. Twenty-two children and adults were killed when bombs struck an Ariana Grande concert, and devastating hurricanes like Irma and Harvey tested the strength of our compassion and humanity. But despite a gloomy outlook on the year’s events, there were moments of goodness in 2017 hidden between the headlines of terror.
"This year, however, it was especially difficult to see the shining notes buried underneath the appearance of our divided country. Searching for these instances of goodness, I decided to roam the streets of North Conway, NH..."
I’ve always been an optimist. I’ve always searched for the gold among the dull darkness. This year, however, it was especially difficult to see the shining notes buried underneath the appearance of our divided country. Searching for these instances of goodness, I decided to roam the streets of North Conway, NH, and ask the people what they thought. The town is always bustling with tourists during the holiday season, so in the spirit of reflection and introspection, I asked others about the kindness they have experienced in 2017.
One of the highlights of Christine Stewart's 2017 was meeting her significant other.
Some stories of kindness included anecdotes of family gatherings and the importance of those you surround yourself with. “I’m very fortunate because I have beautiful children and grandchildren, and we all got together for Christmas. That was very special and it means everything to all of us. It’s so good to be with family--that’s the best part of Christmas.” Nancy Ingemie of Washington D.C. reflected. One of the most important aspects in the lives of many are family and friends, the support system that remains by our sides through even our darkest days. Christine Stewart of Weymouth, MA, remarked that her significant other was the best part of her year. “Well I did meet you this year,” she noted, glancing affectionately at him.
Eliza Cornejo, who teaches at a low-income school, saw the kindness of an anonymous stranger in her 2017.
Others reflected on the kindness that was shown to them. “I teach in a pretty low income school,” said Eliza Cornejo of Baltimore, MD. “An anonymous donor, right before Christmas, filled all of the lunch accounts for all of our students so they didn’t have to pay for any of their meals. We have 750 students so that was a pretty cool thing to do and all of the students were really happy about that.” Kelly Rogers, an employee of North Conway’s local shop Zeb’s General Store, spoke about the kindness that she sees in her hometown each year. “I know that we do have an awful lot of people in this area who donate to animal shelters, so that, to me, is a big cause.”
"Kindness can come from anywhere and everywhere, and it’s up to us to prioritize and pursue it."
Alaina Mishley discovers kindness in the simplest forms on her college campus.
Sometimes the simplest and most effective acts of goodness in the world can be as small as teamwork. “I’m in my last year of college, and I’m in fashion design.” Framingham State University student Alaina Mishley noted. “It’s pretty competitive and really stressful, but this year a lot of the students came together and helped each other out with our projects and final exams. I would say that that was very impactful because it’s the most [kindness] I’ve seen so far.”
Sometimes the greatest acts of kindness come from inside your own heart. When we take a day, an hour, or even ten minutes out of our busy lives, we have the incredible opportunity to share our own humanity and the goodness inside of us. Nicholas Bell, of Weymouth, MA, shared his own unique act of kindness. “Someone ran out of gas on a main road right on the street from a gas station and I pulled over and jumped out and helped them push the car to the gas station.” he said. Kindness can also be found in dedicating time to better the lives of others, as noted by Amy Defilippo of Massachusetts while she reflected on her own contributions to improving the lifestyles of those around her, “I own a spinning and barre studio, and I’ve helped people meet their fitness goals. I think that making people healthy and emotionally happy is huge.”
"When we take a day, an hour, or even ten minutes out of our busy lives, we have the incredible opportunity to share our own humanity and the goodness inside of us."
One exceptional story shared a family’s journey on Christmas to visit the mother of a dear friend in a rehab and senior home. “We have some very deep roots in the hometown we grew up in.” Ann Muir, of Winchester, MA reflected. “My girlfriend from childhood’s mom is in a rehab/nursing home. We went to go visit her there, and we brought her candy and an ornament.” The family smiled as they reminisced on their act of kindness. “She started crying because we came to visit. She was so happy--it was as though we did the best thing in the world but all we did was visit someone who was always nice to us.” Muir’s daughter, Marie Rose, shared that it not only brought joy to the woman’s face, but to their own. “She hadn’t had anyone there to visit her for Christmas.” Marie Rose explained. “She brought us so much more joy than we could have brought her--she was just so enthusiastic to have someone [visit her]. It made us all feel really special and feel the Christmas spirit.” Muir’s son Don had his own take on the meaning of the visit. “I think I’m fortunate that my mother brought me out on Christmas to visit someone that I didn’t necessarily know. It added a lot of value and emotion to her Christmas day, and my mother’s Christmas day,” Don voiced.
Don Muir recounts a visit to a family friend, a memorable act of kindness from his 2017.
Sometimes, an act of kindness doesn’t have to reach every corner of the world, but simply extends from the tips of your fingers to the end of your toes. Small steps towards world peace begin with holding the door open or asking someone how their day was. No measure of kindness is too small, and maybe the year 2018 will be a little brighter if we hold this notion close. Although world goodness isn’t the headline that is dominating the media, we can surely find it on a smaller scale--written within our hearts.
Cover photo by Bailey Fortenbaugh. In-body photos by Clare Mulroy.