Wednesday, September 2, 2020

HumanKind: How to Change the World One Small Act at a Time - Brad Aronson

Hey all!  We're back!  Did you miss us?  

We are so excited to share our thoughts on all our summer reading,! I moved this title to the front of the pack for reasons that will become apparent in my review.

Enjoy!

Summary: When Brad Aronson's wife, Mia, got sick with leukemia, they were overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness from friends, family members, and complete strangers.  Inspired by the many demonstrations of "humankindness" that supported their family through Mia's recovery, Brad began seeking out and writing stories of individuals and organizations whose acts of kindness transform lives every day.

You'll meet the group of volunteers who mend clothes for homeless people; the woman who created a movement that has provided more than 500,000 meals for the hungry; and the construction worker whose kindness saved a homeless man during a chance encounter.

The perfect, feel-good gift book, HumanKind will leave you feeling grateful and inspired, and provides resources that help you to create positive change in your own community and around the world, one small act at a time.  (Summary from back of book - Image from amazon.com - This book was given to me for free in exchange for an honest review)

My Review: Let's be honest.  From pandemics and protests, to elections, mask wars, unemployment, and educational woes, the year 2020 has been straight-up savage.  The world is overwhelming, crackling with tension, vitriol, and despair so that most days I'm afraid to turn on the TV.  Humankind provided a much needed respite from the distressing news cycle, lifted my heavy heart, and restored my faith in humanity.  This.  This. This is what I needed to read right now -- and I'm guessing you do to.

The idea for this book was born from the countless acts of kindness shown to author Brad Aronson's family during his wife's two-and-a-half year battle with leukemia.  Brad was so touched by the generosity of family, friends, acquaintances, and even complete strangers that he began to keep track of all the good deeds that helped the family make it through the tough times.  Taken on their own, many of these acts might have seemed inconsequential but, collectively, they made all the difference to Brad and his family.  Brad says, "Each small act was a link in the chain mail that protected our family.  I'm guessing those people don't know that it was only with each of their seemingly small contributions that the armor was complete."  In this book, Brad tells more than his own story -- he builds on it -- sharing stories of countless others who have been touched by simple acts of kindness.

Humankind is comprised of ten chapters that center on different ways we can change the world, one small act at a time.  From a structural standpoint, I felt the book was well-organized with nice segues and a beautiful flow. Each chapter is a mix of quotes, the author's personal narrative, third person accounts, and specific ideas of what we can do to lift and sustain others, including a special 21-page Hall of Fame section that highlights certain organizations that play a vital role in making this world a better place.  Aronson shares countless specific instances where a single act of goodwill made a meaningful impact and occasionally led to an avalanche of awesome.  Instead of disparaging these acts as 'drops in the bucket' Humankind lauds them as life changing and offers suggestions that inspire you to be that drop in the bucket.  Here are just a few of my favorite examples (and in the interest of space I whittled my massive list down to 10 for you):
  • An entire neighborhood moved Halloween so that a sick child would not miss his favorite holiday.  
  • A teacher takes the time to teach a one-handed boy how to tie his shoes, and inspires that kid to dream big.  And then... *snowball effect*   
  • An grocery store owner that allows impoverished children to exchange crayon drawings for groceries. 
  • A sewing group uses their talents to hand delivers hope, dignity, and freshly-mended clothes to the homeless community in their area.  
  • A young man decides to fill one garbage bag full of trash every day on his walk -- a simple act that cleans up a large swath of land and inspires a global clean-up effort.
  • A judge who knows he can do more for at-risk youth helps create a volunteer program that advocates for abused and neglected children. 
  • A construction workers kind words help save a homeless man's life and help him find a life off the street.  
  • A group that repurposes the flowers from special events into beautiful bouquets for hospice patients.  
  • A special dog brings comfort and security to one special boy and his family. 
  • A company's unbelievable dedication and sacrifice in the aftermath of 9/11 that brings comfort and security to so many families who lost loved ones.
  • A family's dedication to finding a rare bone marrow match for their loved one creates a mechanism for saving lives.
When I truly fall in love with a book, I tend to underline crap out of it.  Here are just a few of the quotes that hit me hard:
Yes, it can be paralyzing to think about the level of need out there, but if we do what we can, that will be enough. No expression of love is wasted,and even the smallest gestures tend to go much further than we think they will.
 Of the many forms that love takes, maybe the most obvious one is a simple decision: a decision to put in the effort to make someone's life easier or more rewarding, even if just for a day.  A commitment to do more than hoping for the best for each other.  It's bringing a homeless person a meal.  It's being a positive influence for someone who needs one. It's helping in the wake of a disaster.  It's taking some of the load off a guy whose legs are starting to buckle under the weight.  It's picking up the slack."
"You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you.  What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make" (Jane Goodall, quote in the closing note)
We don't perform kind acts to be rewarded for them or to increase our life span -- those are just possible side effects.  We perform them because it's what we're here for.  We were given the capacity to love for a reason...loving acts help others through difficult times -- can you think of anything that has greater value?  Can you think of a better use of our time and talents?
Why not think bigger than our daily routines and crossing items off our to-do lists?  Each of us has the power to "be awesome" every day.  If you say to yourself, "I"m going to make someone's world better today," it will happen.  All it takes is looking for opportunity, following through, and that resource we all have within us: love.
Are you feeling it? That's HOPE.  Feels good, doesn't it? 

HumanKind is brimming with all the feel-good, inspirational stories that never seem to make the news but really really should -- of everyday people doing what they can, where they can to lift and sustain others.  It offers inspiring examples and suggestions that are doable for all kinds of budgets, personalities, and interests.  Throughout the book, I was consistently impressed at how a simple word of encouragement or act of kindness could change the course of a human life and, in some cases, transform the lives of countless others.  I started crying (good tears) on page thirteen and alternately sniffled and bawled my way through the rest of the book.  THIS is how we make a difference.  If you feel like this world is full of crap people doing crap things, get your hands on a copy of this book.  It will brighten your overall outlook and (hopefully) inspire you to small acts of service. Good people are out there. You can be one of them.  In Brad Aronson's own words, "The little things are often the most meaningful, and the key to finding these opportunities is remembering to look for them."

My Rating: 5 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  One F-word, used in a quote (and it's by the guy who ended up starting the whole 'Secret Santa' initiative, so imma let it slide)..  Otherwise, all clear.

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