In 2015, we were very happy to welcome local author Lindsey Barr as our Kindness blogger! Lindsey is the author of Plant a Garden of Kindness, which is a child’s guide to filling a year with weekly acts of kindness. She shared suggestions for acts of kindness that you and your loved ones (especially little ones!) can get involved with while also telling the story of when her children performed these same acts. Check out her posts for some great ideas!
4th Post: Friday, February 13th (First Official Day of Kindness Week!)
Act of Kindness #27: Buy Groceries for a Family
Very good friends of ours, let’s call them Andrew and Margaret, went through a super tough time a few summers ago. Andrew got into an accident while biking to work one morning. He ended up flipping over his handle bars and breaking both of his elbows. When this happened, their son was quite small, just over one year old. To complicate matters, Andrew and Margaret do not have any family in town, and Margaret does not drive. Margaret was now house bound with a baby and a husband who needed as much care as the baby. She could not leave them alone even if she could have driven to the store to get groceries.
So we offered to get their groceries for them for the first few weeks of Andrew’s recovery. I would ask Margaret to email me her grocery list each week and I would add it to my shopping list. I would keep the items separate in the cart and then ring them through separately so that they had their own bill and knew what their exact total was. Margaret had a cheque ready to pay us back as soon as we dropped off the groceries. This was not really that much additional work for me, and it was incredibly helpful to Andrew and Margaret.
In addition, two of my fantastic friends from the neighbourhood made dinners for me to deliver to Andrew and Margaret with the groceries. This was so kind of my friends, as they had only met Andrew and Margaret once or twice, but they both wanted to do something to help. That idea also inspired me to add a bowl of fresh, chopped up veggies and tofu to each order so that all Margaret had to do was make the rice and then throw all the contents of the bowl into the fry pan – I figured that would save her about 20 minutes in her day, which under the conditions that they were living in was a huge help.
Looking back I still can’t figure out how they survived this injury. As I am typing this, I am actually feeling badly that we did not do more for them. This is a great example of why a strong community is so important – I really don’t know how they would have been able to get groceries and eat good, nutritious food if we hadn’t been able to do this for them. Imagine if this happened to a family who was new to Ottawa and did not have any connections in their community.
3rd Post: Monday, February 9th
Act of Kindness #15: Deliver Artwork
My daughter Eleanor LOVES to draw. She will bring home many drawings each day from kindergarten and then do more drawings when she gets home. I have a hard time just putting these in the recycling bin, but I also know that I cannot keep them all. So every now and then I pick through the pile of drawings and choose some of the best ones and ask her who in the neighbourhood she wants to give the drawings away to. I let her pick whoever she wants. I might make some suggestions of some neighbours who I know would really love to receive a piece of artwork, but I always let her make the choice.
We have a neighbour on our walk to school who is older, and a bit grouchy – let’s call him Paul. He lives on his own, as his wife passed away last year. His normal routine is to walk out of his house and into his garage to get into his car, back out his driveway and drive away without making eye contact with anyone. He had never said very much to us – except that he does not like dogs (we have one and often walk him to school with us), and that he wants the kids to stay off his grass.
During one of these artwork cleaning out exercises, my daughter decided that she wanted to drop off one of her pictures in Paul’s mailbox. I can promise you this was completely unprompted, because I was still a little bit hurt about the not liking dogs or kids conversation we had had.
But that is who Eleanor chose. So, she selected the piece of artwork and I wrote a little note saying, “Have a great day!”, and included her name and address (in case Paul did not know who she was). Quite a few days went by and we did not hear anything from him. I really didn’t expect him to respond at all. Then one day as we were walking to school, Paul drove by, rolled down his window and asked if this was the little girl who gave him the picture. We said that it was. And he thanked Eleanor very much and told her that the artwork was up on his fridge.
The fact that we could get a response from Paul through this act of kindness is definitely proof that these small acts of kindness work. It is also so wonderful that we were able to brighten his day a bit. And you know what, he now waves and smiles at us if he passes us on our walk to school.
This is a great act of kindness to perform with Valentine’s Day just around the corner! Ask your child to make a valentine for a neighbour, or even a stranger. Then drop it in your neighbour’s mailbox on Saturday or give it to someone when you are out enjoying Winterlude as a family.
2nd Post: Wednesday, February 4th
Act of Kindness #63: Shovel for a Neighbour
This is an especially fitting act of kindness to perform today!
We are very lucky to have wonderful neighbours who have helped us out with the shovelling a few times. We have two neighbours who have snowblowers who have cleared the end of our driveway after the snowplow has gone by and left a huge pile of snow – which if you live in a place like Ottawa that gets loads of snow, you know how hard this pile is to clear with a shovel.
We got a pretty big snowstorm on January 9 of this year. I shovelled our whole driveway earlier in the day, but then the snowplow went by and buried us in again. I texted my husband at work to give him a heads up that I was going to be leaving the end of the driveway for him. When my husband got home I sent out our seven year old son Finley to help him. They shovelled the end of our driveway and then went across the street to shovel the end of our neighbours’ driveway who had not yet gotten home from work – let’s call these neighbours Derek and Tina.
Now Derek does have a snowblower, and he had cleared his driveway before he left for work in the morning, but since the snowplow had gone by and left the big pile at the end of the driveway, he would have had to park his car on the road and climb over the pile of snow to get to his garage to start the snowblower. We thought that it would make his Friday evening a bit more pleasant to already have this task done.
We went over to Derek and Tina’s house later in the week – that is a whole other story ….. Tina collects donations for a fantastic charity in our neighbourhood called Better Beginnings, Better Futures. We were there to drop off donations that another neighbour had given me to pass on to Tina. While we were giving these items to Tina, she asked my children if we had done this shovelling job for them last Friday. We said that Finley and his dad had done the work, and Tina thanked us. She said it was very nice of us to do. She also mentioned that she had a pair of skates and a bathing suit that her granddaughters had outgrown, and she passed these on to us for our daughter Eleanor. Eleanor was pretty excited about having a beautiful pair of skates to grow into!
1st Post: Friday, January 30th
Hello and thank you for reading my first blog post!
My name is Lindsey and I am the mom of two children – a boy who is seven and a girl who is four. We live in a wonderful neighbourhood in Ottawa. We are very close to our school and surrounded by fantastic parks, with wading pools in the summer and ice rinks in the winter.
We are very fortunate to have a lot of amazing people in our neighbourhood. Our children spend a lot of time playing together outside of school hours; the families get together for dinners at each others’ houses; and the parents get together quite often for dinners, or concerts, or nights out (without the kids!).
I am always very interested in reading books and articles on community building, the need for humans to connect with one another, and anything to do with the idea that it takes a village to raise a child. And as I read more on these topics, it seems the main theme out there is that our communities are failing, and that people are feeling more isolated and alone then ever.
I felt saddened by the fact that not everyone feels that they have a neighbourhood where they are connected to other families, where they are surrounded by friends. And I wanted to do something to help make this situation better.
So I started really listening to parents when this topic was brought up. I heard many parents remember their own childhood so fondly. They talked about how their time was less structured, kids were more innocent, and how they played outside all the time. Doors were always open and kids came and went throughout the neighbourhood. There were always parents watching out for all the kids.
And then the parents would sigh and resign themselves to the fact that their own children’s childhood could never be this way.
But I think we can give our children all the great aspects of our childhood. We have the power. We can choose not to over schedule them with extra-curricular activities. We can choose to get them outside to run free. We can bring our neighbours together to create a strong community.
We can build the community that will give our children a solid grounding, and a sense of security. A community where the kids know they are accepted and loved. This will allow our children to have the confidence to try new things and really push themselves to be the best they can be.
So with the hopes of helping other people build a community of friends that is like the one that I am so lucky to live in, I have written a book called “Plant a Garden of Kindness, Volume 1: Building a Community of Friends” The book consists of 75 acts of kindness that children between the ages of 2 and 10 can do to make their community a friendlier place.
It is our hope that the book owner will select 52 acts of kindness and complete one a week for a whole year. After a year’s worth of acts of kindness, the book owner will notice that they have created a friendlier community.
This book will help children build empathy and will show them that by completing acts of kindness for others, they will make themselves feel happier. It will allow children to build deep connections with other families in the neighbourhood, which will result in an increased sense of security and self-confidence for everyone. With this book, the book owner will be able to create a community where everyone feels included and everyone takes care of one another.
I know this can be done, because I have seen it in my community. Nearly every act of kindness listed in this book has been completed by families in my neighbourhood – either by a friend surprising my family with the act of kindness, by my family completing the act of kindness for another family, or by someone completing an act of kindness for a complete stranger. And I have seen the positive effects on our children from being part of these acts of kindness, from being included in a community of friends.
I do believe that it is the small acts of kindness that have the power to change the world. If we raise our children to also believe this, and they are able to practice this in a community of friends, with the knowledge that we will always take care of each other, imagine what our children will be able to do when they are the decision makers in 30 years. Imagine how they will be able to change the world.
Watch this space leading up to Kindness Week as I will share acts of kindness from my book that you can do as a family while recounting my children’s experience doing these acts!