How young adults are redefining kindness in 2020

While the election has proven just how truly divided the United States is, today Cassandra closes out an extraordinary week with a different topic. This year, many brands and individuals have exercised empathy and support in ways some young adults had never quite seen until now, engendering somewhat of an “unprecedented” kindness. What is the state of kindness to young people right now? The insights below are based on discussions in the Cassandra Collective from within the last week.


From political polarization to racial discrimination, some young adults have come to expect contention, not civility, as the norm. As one of our respondents puts it, kindness today just means ‘not being a jerk,’ but also that benevolence today is more important than ever. Young adults believe true kindness means doing good for others, especially those who are different from themselves.

“I think that the bar [for kindness in 2020] has significantly lowered. To me, you don't even necessarily have to go out of your way to be kind anymore, you just have to not be a jerk. I think that's because there seems to be so many more mean people in the world than before.” - Melissa, 22, FL

“[In 2020], people no longer know what the word kind means.” - Nicole, 27, PA

“I think it’s become even more important to become kind to one another [in 2020] with all the social and political strife.” - Danita, 19, PA

“Kindness means doing something out of an act of the heart and not for personal reasons, gain, or money.” - Robert, 29, WI

“To me, kindness means doing something or saying something that you didn't have to, making a positive difference in your own or someone else's life.” - Melissa, 22, FL

“[Kindness means] treating others with empathy, sympathy, and care. It's my main life philosophy: to be kind and make people's lives better.” - Danita, 19, PA

“Kindness is being nice to everyone around you regardless of how they may be different from you.” - Michelle, 32, NJ

“[Kindness] means being kind to everyone and doing the right thing no matter what.” - Beth, 15, CA


As much as 2020 has been a year of disconnection, it’s also facilitated connection in ways we may not have thought possible. From brands to strangers on the street, heroes were helping everywhere. Fashion brands pivoted to producing hand sanitizers, consumers supported struggling businesses, and Gen Zs delivered groceries for the elderly. Below are just a few of the inspirational acts young adults witnessed in 2020.

“[I witnessed kindness] at the grocery store. A mom with 4 little kids was struggling at the checkout. [There was a] man in line behind her. He paid for all her groceries.” - Nicole, 27, PA

“The kindest thing someone did for me in 2020 was my parents letting me stay at their house for most of the year. It wasn't something I was planning on and things changed so quickly that it must have been weird for them. They've also been incredibly helpful with providing transportation and just [being there] to talk to.” - Melissa, 22, FL

“I have seen companies and people come together to send shoes to our healthcare workers, people sending seniors cards to let them know we still are thinking about them… [These brands are] coming together to put out messages of togetherness and unity.” - Gloria, 33, NC

“I’ve seen people buy food for those in need during the pandemic, which was very thoughtful and showed the best part of humanity.” - Daphne, 34, CA

“One of the kindest things someone did for me during 2020 was bake me a cake. Before the elderly woman gave me the cake, I had raked her yard after a hurricane. The cake was a thank you.” - Sydney, 15, LA

“Honestly 2020 has been a dark year without much of anything, but earlier in the year there was a lot of support from my work and even my phone carrier in helping people get back on their feet… T-Mobile let my bill sit for months as I got let go from my job.” - Brandon, 31, CA

“My friend bought me lunch while I was tied up with a project! It’s a small thing but it meant a lot to me.” - Laura, 24, TX


Kindness shows up in young adults’ lives, not through grand gestures, but through small and simple altruistic acts. From listening to a friend vent on the phone to sending cards or paying for lunch, Gen Zs and Millennials showed us that they liked to help others however they could, especially in times of crisis. Young adults also told us that helping others helps to improve their own mental health, and makes them feel good about themselves and their positive role in society.

“I stayed up and let someone talk to me for a while. They were feeling really bad and needed someone to talk to so I gave them my personal number so they could call me or text me anytime.” - Melissa, 22, FL

“I like to send out notes to people for an uplifting moment.” - Stephanie, 33, NJ

“I think just being kind overall is the best thing I've done. I’m less anxious and angry and more friendly to those I don't know.” - Brandon, 31, CA

“My friend was struggling in algebra, so I volunteered to tutor him. I felt like I needed to help him, otherwise he would fail, and I would not be much of a friend if I did not help.” - Victor, 15, IL

“I visited my ex-coworker with apple cider donuts because she's having a hard time. It made me feel like I can make a difference!” - Michelle, 32, NJ