Make Someone’s Day

Kindness benefits everyone
Stepping in for a stranger, a friend or a coworker in their time of need may be a no-brainer for you, but it doesn’t only benefit them; it can do wonders for you and for the universe. “It feels good to do something nice for someone. It boosts your self-esteem, it makes you feel like a better person and it can help you overcome any negative feelings you are experiencing in the moment,” says licensed clinical psychologist, Sarah Schewitz, PsyD. “If you’re feeling down, a surefire way to feel better immediately is to go do something nice and unexpected for someone else.” Psychologist, author, and relationship expert, Dawn Michael, PhD, adds: “When you are kind, that energy goes a long way, as the person you were kind to will feel better about themselves and perhaps do something kind for another person. I see kindness as a positive energy that, when passed on down the line, creates more positive energy in the world.”

Here are some random acts of kindness to make you a force of good in the world today.

For your significant other
While you might be the first to send a funny meme or listen patiently when your significant other needs to vent, or you’re always on call for a coworker working on a stressful project, you might not think of your significant other as someone who needs a random act of kindness. Dr. Michael says that simply acknowledging the benefit your partner adds to your life is an easy way to bring thoughtfulness into your relationship. “It can be a simple thank you to I really appreciate you when you do…,” she explains. “Letting the person you love know that you notice them is a positive act of kindness.” Psychologist Nikki Martinez, PsyD, LCPC, advises, “Do a chore that your partner hates without being asked to do so, and without the thought of being thanked for doing so. Do it simply because you know your partner hates it, and that doing it will be a welcome surprise.”

For your circle of friends
Friendship is always a give and take – the trick is to know when to give. While you might be raking in extra cash one month, your treasured friend might be struggling to make ends meet. Or, while you’re in a stable relationship, your friend may have been dumped – again. Martinez says stepping up when it’s your turn to help out a pal is an act of kindness they’ll likely never forget. “Send someone going through a tough time flowers,” she suggests. “Drop them a note and let them know you are thinking of them and what you appreciate about them. While small, these meaningful gestures will surely be appreciated by the recipient.”

For your coworkers
For better or for worse, you probably spend more time with your coworkers than you do with anyone else in your life. These communities often become your place to vent, your source of mentorship and encouragement and, at times, your pool of lifelong friends. Putting in the extra effort to make their day or help them up the ladder as you climb it too can go a long way. “In your weekly meeting, take time to acknowledge something that a coworker did that may have flown under the radar, or that others might not have known this person had done for the group,” Martinez says. “They will appreciate it, and perhaps others will start to notice ways in which they should appreciate this person on a regular basis.”

At the grocery store
Letting someone who has fewer grocery items jump ahead of you in line, or extending the same courtesy to senior citizens or people who are physically limited can show that you are cognizant of and sensitive to the world around you. Such gestures can be very impactful because people often are tunnel-visioned and in such a hurry in their own lives that they don’t see the whole picture in the moment and miss these opportunities to act kindly with little, if any, cost. If you’re able to fork over some cash, and can do it in a way that won’t make someone feel bad about themselves or uncomfortable, consider giving the cashier an extra $5, $10 or $20 for the person’s groceries behind you, especially if you see them pulling out food stamps.

While driving
We’ve all been there – you’ve got less than 20 minutes to get to work and you’re stuck in the slow lane watching someone take their sweet time getting off at your exit. Wouldn’t it be great if that person pulled over so you could zoom past? Martinez says you can perform that service to others, getting out of the way when you notice someone driving frantically. Let someone cross in front of you, or wait to turn and let them cross the street.

For a public servant
From policemen and firemen to postal office carriers, and that guy who picks up your trash from the curb, there are many people whose hard work often goes unnoticed. We’re so used to having them always present that we forget just how important it is to express our thanks for everything they do to keep us safe, informed and happy. Telling public servants something real and positive about how they directly helped you or our country can be very impactful. If you’re feeling extra generous, consider picking up a dozen doughnuts and bringing it to your local fire department. Any token of gratitude goes a long way.

For your neighbor
Whether you live somewhere like New York City or Los Angeles, where knowing your neighbors isn’t always the norm, or on a cul de sac where everyone knows your name, having good neighbors is a blessing in itself. Showing you care and that you’re paying attention can not only keep your home safe when you’re away, but it can also make the energy in your community that much more vibrant and happy. Do you have a neighbor who perhaps does not get around well? Shovel their walk, rake their leaves drop a simple gift and gesture on their steps, thanking them for being a wonderful neighbor. The gesture will be greatly appreciated, and it costs you virtually nothing to make them feel special and appreciated.

For your fitness instructor or trainer
Your fitness trainer might not be your therapist or confidante, but they’ve witnessed you in some very compromising and difficult situations and inspired you to push through your own boundaries. Thanking your personal trainer or the fitness instructor at your favorite workout class will not only make their day, but help them remember why they signed up to encourage others to sweat it out. It is very impactful to be acknowledged for the positive changes they are responsible for in your physical health and fitness.

For your family
Of all the people you probably forget to give a little nudge of love to, your parents, your siblings and your extended family fall close to the end of your list. It’s not that you don’t care about them, but since they’re a steadfast, dependable part of your life, you might not go the extra mile to make their life easier. It’s the little gestures for your family that make an impact. Random acts of kindness for your family can include taking your young niece or nephew out so your sibling who just had a baby can sleep; babysitting family members’ kids so your relatives can have a ‘grown-up’ date night out; visiting with an elderly relative in person if possible (or Skype/FaceTime) to talk about what his or her life was like and share memories and stories; giving a photo album or a CD of family photos or of a recent family event to the relatives who are involved or are being celebrated.

Why Grooms Carry Brides Across the Threshold

Carrying a bride across a threshold into a home after the wedding ceremony is a tradition that’s going out of style, but it’s been seen in dozens of romantic comedies and dates back thousands of years.

Business Insider reports that the tradition, according to the academic encyclopedia “Marriage Customs of the World,” dates back to the The Rape of the Sabine Women, an event in Roman mythology where Roman soldiers abducted and raped the women in the surrounding regions. The women were carried off against their will.

Bizarrely, the event turned into a common Roman wedding practice. The bride, according to the encyclopedia, would run off to her mother while the bridegroom and his friends would intercept her and pull her away. And a group of people, not just the groom, would carry the bride into the house.

The most direct interpretation of the tradition is that it’s a benign recollection of “marriage by capture.” But the encyclopedia also offers a more charitable interpretation: that the wife wants to make a show about how she isn’t eager to leave her parents’ home and start a family of her own.

At some point, the threshold itself acquired its own meaning. In Britain, at least, it was feared that the threshold might contain “sorcerous drugs” or other malevolent powers that could destroy a marriage or the wife’s child-bearing ability. For that reason, the groom tried to make sure that the bride didn’t touch the ground.

The renowned poet Ben Johnson immortalized this interpretation in his 1606 work “The Masque of Hymen,” where the speaker asks the bride to “lift your golden feet/Above the threshold high,/With prosperous augury.”

Doorjambs and thresholds also have significance in a few non-Western marriage traditions. In Zorastrianism – an ancient religion that dates to pre-Islamic Iran – the doorjambs are smeared in turmeric after a wedding. The groom has to pass through without touching the threshold, and his new mother-in-law marks his forehead with red pigment and throws rice at him, according to the encyclopedia.

Today, people don’t necessarily believe that the act of carrying the bride across the threshold has any significant meaning. For most, it’s just a fun thing to do.

Ten Things That May Disappear In Our Lifetime

Change is inevitable. Sometimes it is welcome. Sometimes not. In November 2011, published a list of 10 things likely to disappear from our lives. The list has been making the rounds on the internet ever since.

The article may be correct on some or all points, but there is good reason to doubt some of the predictions. Our take on why some of the allegations are questionable appears in brackets after the original item’s explanation.

1. The U.S. Post Office
Get ready to imagine a world without the post office. They are so deeply in financial trouble that there is probably no way to sustain it long term. Email, Fed Ex and UPS have just about wiped out the minimum revenue needed to keep the post office alive. Most of your mail every day is junk mail and bills.

[It remains entirely possible that the Congress may wake up some day and allow the postal service to operate like a business, rather than like a child with an allowance from Congress. There remain many folks who for reasons of location, disability, age or other things, can’t rely on electronic media to deliver to them what they currently receive in the mail. While the demise of the post office remains possible, it’s just as likely it will undergo changes that will allow operations to continue.]

2. The Check
Britain is already laying the groundwork to do away with check by 2018. It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process checks. Plastic cards and online transactions will lead to the eventual demise of the check. This plays right into the death of the post office. If you never paid your bills by mail and never received them by mail, the post office would absolutely go out of business.

[Once again, the article flails at the post office. Checks may well disappear, but for those who must use mail to make payments, money orders can replace the check.]

3. The Newspaper
The younger generation simply doesn’t read the newspaper. They certainly don’t subscribe to a daily delivered print edition. That may go the way of the milkman and the laundry man. As for reading the paper online, get ready to pay for it. The rise in mobile Internet devices and e-readers has caused all the newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance. They have met with Apple, Amazon, and the major cell phone companies to develop a model for paid subscription services.

[It’s a bit of an exaggeration to say the younger generation doesn’t read the newspaper, though they may be less faithful at doing so than their elders. And even this article notes that the newspaper may disappear in printed form, but not electronically. The “Oracle of Omaha,” Warren Buffett, has sunk many millions into purchasing newspapers in recent years. One of the world’s richest people, Buffett doesn’t normally make huge mistakes when it comes to money. His faith in the newspaper business surely does not indicate that the death of newspapers is imminent.]

4. The Book
You say you will never give up the physical book that you hold in your hand and turn the literal pages. I said the same thing about downloading music from iTunes. I wanted my hard copy CD. But I quickly changed my mind when I discovered that I could get albums for half the price without ever leaving home to get the latest music. The same thing will happen with books. You can browse a bookstore online and even read a preview chapter before you buy. And the price is less than half that of a real book. And think of the convenience! Once you start flicking your fingers on the screen instead of the book, you find that you are lost in the story, can’t wait to see what happens next, and you forget that you’re holding a gadget instead of a book.

[Maybe, but a good many readers have shut off their Kindles and gone back to flipping printed pages to get the true satisfaction of reading a book. “Fahrenheit 451″ didn’t get rid of all the books, and neither did the dark ages in Europe, when Irish monks took it upon themselves to save and make copies of every written thing they could get their hands on.]

5. The Land Line Telephone
Unless you have a large family and make a lot of local calls, you don’t need it anymore. Most people keep it simply because they’ve always had it. But you are paying double charges for that extra service. All the cell phone companies will let you call customers using the same cell provider for no charge against your minutes.

[Land lines certainly are on the decline and may cease to exist. But they are vastly less expensive than cell phone services and there are certain situations when only a land line will do. For example, inmates on furlough from the Nebraska corrections system must stay only at a home with a land line so that the corrections department can phone them via that land line to ensure that they are where they are supposed to be.]

6. Music
This is one of the saddest parts of the change story. The music industry is dying a slow death. Not just because of illegal downloading. It’s the lack of innovative new music being given a chance to get to the people who would like to hear it. Greed and corruption is the problem. The record labels and the radio conglomerates are simply self-destructing. Over 40% of the music purchased today is “catalogue items,” meaning traditional music that the public is familiar with. Older established artists. This is also true on the live concert circuit. To explore this fascinating and disturbing topic further, check out the book, “Appetite for Self-Destruction” by Steve Knopper, and the video documentary, “Before the Music Dies.”

[We don’t have enough knowledge of this industry to dispute the article. But new and innovative music remains available for purchase on-line and new groups continue to pop up and thrive.]

7. Television Revenues
The networks are down dramatically. Not just because of the economy. People are watching TV and movies streamed from their computers. And they’re playing games and doing lots of other things that take up the time that used to be spent watching TV. Prime time shows have degenerated down to lower than the lowest common denominator. Cable rates are skyrocketing and commercials run about every 4 minutes and 30 seconds. I say good riddance to most of it. It’s time for the cable companies to be put out of our misery. Let the people choose what they want to watch online and through Netflix.

[Cable and network TV may be the big losers here. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and the like are thriving and seem destined to dominate what’s watched on TV.]

8. The “Things” That You Own
Many of the very possessions that we used to own are still in our lives, but we may not actually own them in the future. They may simply reside in “the cloud.” Today your computer has a hard drive and you store your pictures, music, movies and documents. Your software is on a CD or DVD, and you can always re-install it if need be. But all of that is changing. Apple, Microsoft and Google are all finishing up their latest “cloud services.” That means that when you turn on a computer, the Internet will be built into the operating system. So, Windows, Google and the Mac OS will be tied straight into the Internet. If you click an icon, it will open something in the Internet cloud. If you save something, it will be saved to the cloud. And you may pay a monthly subscription fee to the cloud provider. In this virtual world, you can access your music or your books, or your whatever from any laptop or handheld device. That’s the good news. But, will you actually own any of this “stuff” or will it all be able to disappear at any moment in a big “Poof?” Will most of the things in our lives be disposable and whimsical? It makes you want to run to the closet and pull out that photo album, grab a book from the shelf or open up a CD case and pull out the insert.

[It’s a bit of a stretch to label electronic files as the “things” we all own. Today, six years after publication of this article, there is indeed a great deal of our data etc. in the cloud. But computers with huge memories are popular and likely to remain so.]

9. Joined Handwriting (Cursive Writing)
Already gone in some schools who no longer teach “joined handwriting” because nearly everything is done now on computers or keyboards of some type (pun not intended).

[And already many of those schools are bringing cursive back. The invention of the printing press did not kill handwriting and it seems unlikely that today’s electronics are about to deliver the fatal blow. We still want to be able to read those old family Bibles and tales and the letters grandfather sent home from the battlefield.]

10. Privacy
If there ever was a concept that we can look back on nostalgically, it would be privacy. That’s gone. It’s been gone for a long time anyway. There are cameras on the street, in most of the buildings and even built into your computer and cell phone. But you can be sure that 24/7, “They” know who you are and where you are, right down to the GPS coordinates, and the Google Street View. If you buy something, your habit is put into a zillion profiles, and your ads will change to reflect those habits. “They” will try to get you to buy something else. Again and again.

[This one seems spot on. And it grows ever worse in the interests of “national security” or just plain “security” as with the new rules mandating that anything going into Memorial Stadium in Lincoln must be contained in clear plastic so it can be seen on entry.]

B.C. Women Can Kick Off High Heels

Great news for the women of British Columbia. The province has passed a law banning mandatory high heels in the workplace. British Columbia’s government announced that it has deemed the requirement of high heels unsafe based on the risk of injuries, as well as the damage that comes from prolonged wear.

“This change will let employers know that the most critical part of an employee’s footwear is that it is safe,” Shirley Bond, minister of jobs, tourism and skills training and minister responsible for labour, said in a release. The regulation “ensures that workplace footwear is of a design, construction and material that allows the worker to safely perform their work and ensures that employers cannot require footwear contrary to this standard.”

Under the new regulation, employers must consider specific safety factors when choosing mandatory footwear codes – factors such as uneven terrain, ankle protection and foot support, and tripping hazards. The release notes that British Columbia’s Human Rights Code already protects against gender-based discrimination, which can include enforcing a dress code based on gender.

The news comes nearly a year after a photo of a Canadian woman’s bloody feet and accompanying story went viral. The woman was allegedly “berated” for changing into flats at her restaurant job, despite the fact that the heels she had been required to wear were making her feet bleed and causing one of her toenails to fall off. At the time, the restaurant in question said its dress code policy had recently changed, making flats an acceptable option and nixing its requirement that heels be over 2.5 inches.

Dress code regulation has come under scrutiny in other places. In May 2016, a U.K.-based woman who was working as a receptionist was sent home for not wearing heels. The experience prompted her to start a petition that garnered over 150,000 signatures and was brought to Parliament. The government concluded that “dress codes which require women to wear high heels for extended periods of time are damaging to their health and well-being in both the short and the long term in the U.K.,” but that there were “not currently enough disincentives to prevent employers breaching the law.”

In short, while the government acknowledged the issues with enforcing dress code, the repercussions are not yet harsh enough to make companies stop using them.

In the United States, there is some disparity on federal and local levels. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that  “an employer may establish a dress code which applies to all employees or employees within certain job categories,” with exceptions made for a person’s religion or disability.

The New York City Commission on Human Rights, on the other hand, announced guidelines in December 2015, which say dress code enforcement based on gender “may be a violation of the law.”


Be a Better Friend

An expert on aging offers some tips on things you can do to be a better friend and attract more friends. Anthny Cirillo, a consultant and professional speaker who lives in North Carolina, offers these suggestions:

Be a good listener. Friendship is less about you and more about the other person.

Be interested in other people. Focus on finding out about them by asking thoughtful questions.

Be positive. Positive friends add emotional and health benefits to your life. People who can put it all in perspective and move on are often the ones that have an easier time making friends.

Be proactive about helping friends. Be ready to help friends through a difficult time. Friendships sometimes end when one person experiences a rough patch and feels that the other person just wasn’t there for them. When a friend is hurting, reach out before your friend needs to ask you for help.

Engage with the people you meet. Make an effort to talk to five people per day. The conversations don’t have to be long or involved, but by actively engaging others you will be more aware when a new friendship opportunity arises.

Be genuinely happy for your friends. Don’t get competitive with your friends. Life isn’t a race. Celebrate your friend’s accomplishments as if they were your own.

Cirillo, president of The Aging Experience, says isolation and loneliness can lead to negative health consequences. He says everyone needs to do their part in staying connected to family and friends.