I’ve become an avid binge-watcher of old television shows. One of my current favorites is “The Great British Baking Show.”

For those not familiar, this competition features 12 amateur bakers pitted against one another in a series of themed baking challenges, with two humorous hosts and two serious judges. There is no monetary prize  – just a fancy cake plate for the winner.

I’m enamored with Paul Hollywood, the steely blue-eyed judge who does not lavish praise on the mediocre. In the series I’m watching now, the other, gentler judge is Mary Berry, a baker esteemed throughout the British empire.

As harsh as Hollywood’s critiques are, though, it seems the competitors genuinely find joy even in their failures, because they have learned something new from the master bakers, and from the other competitors.

But it’s not just the learning. I’ve noticed how the bakers support one another, whether an encouraging “Well done” whispered after a judges’ review, or hugs all around (pre-COVID) for both the winners and “the person leaving us today.”

One such finalist, Danny, summed up the supportive atmosphere upon her departure in the quarter finals: “One of the nicest things for me is the number of people around me who have really taken pleasure from my success. I now know how much the people around me value me, and I think that’s pretty cool.”

I think that’s pretty cool too. And I wish we all could experience that on a regular basis.

What a joy it must be, even in losing, to feel valued, to feel that even your competition finds pleasure in your success along the way!

Put another way, these people were playing nicely together in the sandbox of the competition. They weren’t throwing sand in others’ faces. They weren’t digging holes for others to fall into. They were being kind.

Throughout this COVID year, we’ve experienced many, many acts of kindness among our neighbors. We’ve written about random acts of kindness in our newspaper. We’ve heard the stories on local TV stations, on the radio, on social media and at the coffee shop.

We are fortunate to live in a small town where most people are good to one another. We are a generous community, we welcome strangers, we help out when we can.

But every now and then, we hear about “one bad apple.” I don’t have anyone in particular in mind, but I’ll bet you can think of an incidence of meanness, bullying, unkind words, or just plain nastiness that has occurred in the past nine months.

Whether the cause was differing views on politics or policies, athletic teams or gun control issues, some people have had trouble being kind. Perhaps on-going stress is part of the reason.

Indeed, this is a time when so many are hurting, physically and emotionally, when businesses are suffering and failing, and our personal economies might be tanking. Loved ones have lost jobs, some have been ill, some have died.

Understood. But can’t we at least be decent to one another?

Another quote I came across recently gives a good reason to be kind. I think I’ll print this in a nice font and post it everywhere I go. For now, I’ll leave it with you: “You never know who you are inspiring or saving, just by being you.”

As Christmas approaches, and we consider how different this one will be for so many of our neighbors and friends, maybe this is a good time to think about finding pleasure in the success of others, at the same time we are trying to just be ourselves.

I fully believe that down deep, most of us are decent people. Maybe we just need to be reminded every now and again.