Last week, Jewish people all around the world observed the “High Holidays” of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. With the Jewish new year starting on Rosh Hashanah, Jews take the following nine days to reflect on the past year and focus on how they can make a positive impact in the next one.
Growing up, I only thought of the High Holidays as two mornings of excruciatingly long services where we had to dress up in uncomfortable, fancy clothes and listen to prayers in a foreign language. The holiday had relatively no personal meaning besides maybe getting to skip school if the holidays fell on a weekday.
As I matured though, I realized the beauty of celebrating life and all of the great things in it, as well as the importance of reflecting on the mistakes we made in the past year and attempting to make amends with those whom we may have hurt.
Now, I do not consider myself a religious person. My personal Judaism revolves around more secular beliefs, such as helping those less fortunate than me and leaving the world better than it was when I entered it. These values are not exclusive to non-religious, agnostic atheist Jews like myself. Anybody can, and should, act in a way that benefits others more often.
Think about what the world would look like if every person did one act of kindness every day. We would go from a country that is divided to the point where anger and hatred bleeds through the streets, to a much happier and united society. It is so easy to accomplish this, even as a broke college student. Here are some ways to do just that.
Pay for somebody else’s meal.
One of the easiest ways to spread kindness is to pay for the meal ordered by the person behind you in the drive-thru. Most of the time, fast-food is relatively cheap, so it will not hurt the bank to pay for another meal. Also, you never know what kind of day the person behind you is having and paying for their meal can only better their mood and day overall.
If that isn’t enough of an incentive, people are more likely to buy somebody else’s food when their own was paid for by the person in front of them, therefore starting a chain of kindness that could potentially spread throughout the drive-thru line. In this case, you would not only be improving the day of the person behind you, but you would be responsible for the betterment of the entire drive-thru line’s days as well, all by paying a few extra bucks.
Give somebody a compliment.
I know that this one requires you to actually speak to another person, something that Gen Z isn’t the best at, but complimenting another person only takes five seconds, and it can improve somebody’s mood exponentially.
Receiving a compliment activates the ventral striatum and the ventral medial prefrontal cortex in the same way that receiving cash or having an orgasm does (Vice). Almost everybody has felt insecure about their appearance at one point or another, and by complementing somebody you can make them happier, more confident and feel more worthy.
Now giving out compliments can be a fine line between kind and creepy, and you have to use your best judgement to make sure you aren’t making that person feel uncomfortable or unsafe when you compliment them. Catcalling is not a compliment. Mentioning somebody’s sexual attributes is only a compliment when it is consensual and within a trusting relationship. It is best to compliment somebody on something that they picked themselves, such as an article of clothing or stickers on their water bottle.
Pick up your laundry when it’s done.
This is personally one of my biggest pet-peeves when it comes to dorm living. When you are using a shared washer and dryer, try not to leave your clothes in the machine after they are done running, in order to allow other students to do their laundry too. All you have to do is set a timer on your phone and stay close by so you can deal with your laundry whenever it goes off.
This is an extremely easy way to help out your peers and look out for others while doing a necessary task.
In a society where we are constantly pitted against each other, doing these small acts of kindness can create a chain of happiness, empathy and unity that spreads all throughout the country. That’s what the High Holidays are all about, reflecting on your actions and vowing to leave the world better than you found it.
So while I may not have gone to Zoom services for Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, I am doing my best to better the world and be a better version of myself, something that everybody can do regardless of faith.
Ben Goldberger is a sophomore at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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