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Being Nice Can Save A Life

Most of the articles you may be used to reading on the Inciting Altruism website talk about why doing good deeds is beneficial – not only for the cause or person you might be helping, but also for yourself, such as the many ways in which your mental health and overall life satisfaction increases when you’re kind to others. Well today I want to talk about the same thing from a different perspective. It’s a somewhat radical point of view, so bear with me.

In its own way, modern life has become pretty tough. Even though we all need a hand to get through certain situations, somehow people seem to have lost interest in extending that hand to those in need. Rarely do you ever run into people who are willing to take a few seconds of their day to help out in any way, or even to offer you a nod and a smile for that matter. I won’t bother getting into the specifics about why this may be so, but I will do is my best to share with you why choosing to take a moment and offer a helping hand to someone may mean more than you think.

Instead of talking facts, figures, or statistics, I want to tell a story. A story of how a smile and a basketball saved me.

All of this happened almost a decade ago, and although that feels like an eternity away, I still feel its impact like it was yesterday. I was in the first grade of middle school. In all honesty, I was not super popular with girls, nor the smartest, nor the best at sports, I wasn’t even the funniest of guys. All of my elementary school pals had transferred to different middle schools and there I was: a freshman, with no friends, trying to fit in during one of the toughest periods of adolescence.

I got bullied occasionally. Made more enemies than I did friends. My self-esteem was at an all-time low. Needless to say, it was a rough first year.

By the time second grade rolled around, I had sunk into a spiraling depression. I would wake up, go to school, sleep and repeat. My parents were worried sick about my troubling routine - I barely even noticed it, numb to it all. As is typical in such situations, my grades had also gone down the drain, accompanied faithfully by my sense of self-worth. They were truly the darkest of times.

As the Christmas holiday break approached, a teacher decided to organize a Secret Santa for my class. We drew names randomly from a hat and had to get that person a gift by the end of the week. That week had been extraordinarily tough, and my head was in dark places, at times even thoughts of the “S” word were drifting around (I know, back then I didn’t know better).

So, Friday came, and the class was ready for “Secret Santa”. Honestly, I couldn’t have cared less, but it was during school hours and I kind of had to be there (thank god I was).

Gifts came and went for around an hour and then, when it was finally my turn to receive a gift, I looked up to see this seven-foot freak with a smile big as the state of Texas, looking down at me. “Well get up,” he said. As soon as I was on my feet, he revealed the present he got for me.

“A basketball. A basketball? A basketball.” I said to myself. And then came the lifeline I never knew I had needed,

“It’s so we can train together. So you to get onto the team with me,” he said. And the rest, as they say…. Is history.

You see, it’s not the basketball as an object that saved me. It was the gesture – the genuinely kind action of a guy who had chosen to lend me a hand and get me on my feet. A simple, short, almost ephemeral moment in which he did his best to be kind to another.

Shortly after, my life took a turn for the better. I became friends with some amazing people, developed a sense of belonging, and found within myself a feeling of self-worth and relevance in this world – the feeling that I mattered and that I too could make a difference in people’s lives. Today I am proud, and immensely grateful, to call that seven-foot monster of a man, my brother.

The reason I tell this story, is that you never know what’s happening in someone’s world at any moment. You can’t really tell whether they are good or bad, compassionate or selfish. But if you do know that they could use a hand, just remember this: offering it to them might save a life.


Engage Further

- If you have read this far into the article, let it serve as a push to do something kind for someone today. Chances are you know someone who could use a pick me up. Here is a list of 261 Acts of Kindness, in case you are having trouble getting started.

- Organized sports can be an incredible opportunity to build the resilience, confidence, and friendships to help get people through a lot of life's problems. Many cities have nonprofits that support at risk youth through sports program's like 360 Degree Skills Academy, which combines basketball participation and instruction with education, career development and community service to promote the physical, intellectual and emotional development of New York City youth.

Francisco Javier López Galván

About the Author

Francisco Javier López Galván works alongside his father by day, independently as a media producer by night, and somehow has found time to nurture an incredible drive to help others as part of the iA team.

He is a lover of adventure, of travel, of basketball, and apparently of never getting any sleep. Some compare his nocturnal nature to that of a vigilante, fighting for justice by night with an iron will... and lots of coffee.

For more of Francisco's work, check out his author's page.

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