All week people across the city will be going out of their way to be more kind to one another. They’ll find ways to volunteer their time or donate what they can in clothing, food, and money. They’ll smile at strangers and offer up their seats on the bus.
This is all thanks to Kindness Week, an initiative launched by Rabbi Reuven Bulka and his colleagues at Kind Ottawa that is now recognized across the province. There are plans to take the week Canada-wide.
It is a wonderful idea.
Over the years I have watched as Kindness Week evolved from being a seemingly sentimental and trivial initiative to one that has the backing of the Mayor, provincial ministers and some of the biggest players in Ottawa’s philanthropic community.
And it has grown to be looked on with legitimacy as a reminder to be kinder all of the time and not just during one week of the year.
It’s fitting that this reminder comes in February when we are all inclined to stay cozy inside alone or to scowl from beneath our layers of scarves and hats and hoods. A smile from a stranger on a cold day like the ones we’ve had this week brings a good deal of warmth to fight that chill.
As Deputy Mayor Taylor said at Friday’s Kindness Week launch, you never know what someone else is carrying with them. Your kindness could mean a world of difference to a stranger.
Studies have shown that kindness actually makes people happier, too – both the person being kind and the person on the receiving end.
One study showed that kindness makes you happier and being happier makes you kinder, creating a kind of loop that sees people’s happiness grow exponentially.
But you probably don’t need research to tell you that.
Think of the last time you did something for someone without the expectation of anything in return. How did that make you feel? Probably pretty great.
We also feel great when we hear about others’ kindness.
For example, meet Tysen Lefebvre.
This boy’s dream of meeting Adam Sandler came true when he was granted a wish through the Make a Wish Foundation in 2012.
“I didn’t want to stop with just a wish,” he said, telling me about his campaign to raise $1 million to make sure 100 other children have their wishes granted, too.
Through Tysen’s Mission to a Million he has raised over $215,000.
It makes me so proud to know there are young people like Tysen choosing to direct their energy to helping others in such a grand and profound way
The way you choose to be kind doesn’t have to be such a grand gesture. But it should begin today.
I’ve been very lucky to have met so many people in my career who actively choose every day to be kinder, to be compassionate and to get involved in their community. It is incredibly inspiring.
I have also learned through those interactions how far a kind word and a smile can go toward brightening someone’s day. And in turn my day is better for it.
It can be simple. Smile. Say, “Thank you.” Say, “You’re welcome.” Listen. Ask questions. Remember the details of what people tell you. Hold open a door for a stranger. Say hello. Call someone just to tell her you love her.
It can be more complex. Donate your time, energy, skills, or money to a cause you believe in. Recognize the kindness someone has shown to you. Register as an organ donor or take time to donate blood.
Whatever you choose try to take note of how it makes you feel. And take note of the impact you have.
You’ll probably want to be kinder all year long.