On August 4th of this year, Ethan and I were returning from a back country canoe trip that offered both a chance to revitalize and to connect with nature. Paddling along a small river, I noticed that the water was as quiet as my spirit. It was a moment that caught me off guard. When I took a moment to just look around and enjoy the canvas Mother Nature painted, I was rewarded with this picture.
The serenity of the moment was soon to be lost as we paddled back into the world of electricity, media bombardment and roadways. But this picture will always take me back to that moment – a moment of reflection.
On a personal note, 2014 was the year I protested commercialism and exclusivity. I protested by placing the focus of my year on kindness, and I dragged my family along for the ride. I started the year thinking this journey would ultimately benefit my children, but as the year ticks out I have come to the realization that I was the greatest benefactor from this daily focus on kindness. And after 365 days, and adding 365 pages to a book focused on kindness, I wanted to share some of my own personal reflections and favorite moments.
- Men are kinder than women – by a lot.
- Fridays are teeming with kindness, but on Monday kindness is elusive.
- Social media honours kindness. This is a bad thing, in my overrated opinion. While we scroll through the posts on Facebook, or the images on Instagram, or the videos on YouTube, we are mere witnesses to kindness, but have no direct involvement. It offers us a false sense of humanity when we hit the LIKE or SHARE button, but we remain witnesses only. Kindness is best when you are a real part of it.
- Being the giver of kindness, for me, was much easier than being the receiver of kindness. I had to conscientiously overcome my personal aversion to being a recipient. It was humbling.
- Kindness is contagious. Just buy the coffee for the person behind you in the Tim Hortons drive-through, and my guess is that the next driver will do the same.
- The small act of acknowledging kindness when you see it will pay huge dividends. Every day I would acknowledge an Act of Kindness that I had witnessed, and many days I was able to pass on the daily page to the person I was acknowledging. The results really surprised me. Most people were overwhelmed that someone had taken the time to offer them acknowledgement.
- Kindness offered without thought is the most pure form of kindness.
- People are often kinder to animals than they are to other people.
- Those with the least to give, generally give the most.
Moving through 2014, I had some favorite acts of kindness and favorite moments. We spend a lot of time at arenas, and this year we would sometimes throw a few bucks in a ziplock bag, with a quote on kindness and a note saying the treat is on us. Then we would sneak up to a vending machine and tape the bag onto the glass. It was fun to watch the faces of children as they tried to figure out if they could take the money for themselves. Because of the lack of kindness on Mondays, I made extra efforts to show kindness on Mondays. One hot Monday in July I grabbed a box of jumbo freezies and took them down to the local splash pad and handed them out. The mothers were stunned and the kids were all smiles. One day Marc offered a waitress a $100 tip. She was moved to tears. I watched a hairdresser make an elderly lad feel very special just be the offering her the care and respect she deserved. One day I picked up doggie doo-doo that a teenager was going to just ignore. The teenager watched me with a very confused look on his face – then he shook his head and muttered something under his breath. Then – he surprised me. He put his cell phone into his pocket and came over to me to shake my hand and thank me. In September I held back my own emotions as I wrote about a soccer coach who gave Ethan a spot on his team, recognizing something special in “the kid who wanted to be on the team so bad that he gave his all even though he probably should have been home in bed”. My all time favorite AOK moment of 2014 happened at the Lindsay arena.
This year was started with the hopes that I could offer a positive message to my kids- a message that was stronger than the one being portrayed in commercials and by society. I wanted them to enter the 2014 Christmas season with the knowledge that people were more important than stuff. What surprised me is that my children already knew this. The year that was meant to change my children ended up having a larger impact on me instead. I realized early that I did not have a true natural tendency for kindness. I needed to let go of my own self-centred tendencies and work on being a more natural giver and receiver of kindness. I still have a ways to go. One day in November I was walking along a grassed area next to a soccer pitch and noticed a small piece of heavy wire in the grass. A year ago I would have seen it and walked by. But I realized that this wire could become a projectile if a lawn mower went over it – or it could puncture a bare foot. I picked up that piece of wire and deposited it in the garbage can on the other side of the pitch. I did it without thought or hesitation. Yes, I am getting better.
Over the year I have shared many sayings with Jake and Ethan. I am sure they will be glad to see the end of these quotes. They grew very tired of “If you change nothing, nothing will change”, which became a real favorite of mine. They still like to hear “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great”. I loved to share this one: “Don’t let yourself become so concerned with raising a good kid that you forget you already have one.” I also shared a little advice with them about how to place happiness high on their list of priorities and how to relax and enjoy the little pleasures in life. And it really was not until I reached the closing days of 2014 and the closing pages of my book, that I realized how much this year and the making of this book has changed me.
In 2014 I found a treasure. I rediscovered some of that youthful and naive joy that I had when I was an idealistic teenager. I learned that I am truly happy and that I need to allow that joy to come forward. I learned that I am far from perfect and that being far from perfect is perfect for me. I found within me a calmness that has been missing from my life for many years. As the clock ticks towards midnight, I look forward to tomorrow.