The important thing about Christopher Robin’s stuffed-animal companion Tigger, in the beloved The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne, was that, however bouncy, big and overbearing Tigger might seem to be, he was, like everyone else, in search of kindness.
Small acts, large acts, medium acts of kindness all matter to everyone, big or small, or in-between. It has been said by family therapist Virginia Satir that we need four hugs each day just to survive, eight to maintain the status quo and twelve to thrive (https://psychology-spot.com/brain-needs/). A small act of kindness, big or small is, in a way, just like a hug, isn’t it?
In this installment RSE reflects upon the meaning and importance of kindness. We thought it would be interesting to ask for the thoughts of a few individuals in the town of Collingwood, soon to be our new home, about what kindnesses they had experienced there. We have ourselves already experienced kindness in Collingwood. What we found was that others have had similar experiences. Indeed, all of the individuals mentioned here exhibited kindness to us in their taking a few moments to speak about their reflections on the idea of kindness.
To be sure, it is not hard to find evidence of kindness. Driving down the main street, Hurontario, for example, you notice the signs on either side of the street which advise pedestrians to wait for a gap in the traffic before crossing. What is intriguing, however, is that so many vehicles stop to allow the pedestrians to cross, that it almost seems as though the pedestrians have the right of way! This in itself speaks not only to the display of kindness, but also to a sense of community.
Kindness as a builder of Community
Indeed, we found in our conversations that the ideas of community and kindness were often linked together. People often speak of the importance of community. We try to understand what makes a community strong. We think of the benefits of a community and what it takes to build one. An act of kindness is, in a very real sense, an act of building community. It is a recognition of the worth and dignity of another individual. It says that they matter. They matter to us. They matter to the community. They matter to the world.
“[You] feel as though you are part of a community where people will look you in the eye and talk to you as if you’re a human being.” - Tim
This thought is exemplified in the comments by Tim:
“On a daily basis I find people in our community of Collingwood [going above and beyond] ... I’m a fan of when people go above and beyond just by providing the little extras... which make you feel welcome, make you feel special, make you feel like you’re different and are respected as a consumer in the community... it happens a lot in this area. It is nice to be able to go to the local grocery store and the Banks and feel as though you are part of a community where people will look you in the eye and talk to you as if you’re a human being and do more than just work for the paycheque, they want that experience too.”
It is these small acts of kindness that can stitch a community together, like a quilt. And with time, the quilt becomes larger, becomes stronger, becomes more beautiful.
It is these small acts of kindness that can stitch a community together, like a quilt. And with time, the quilt becomes larger, becomes stronger, becomes more beautiful. Small acts of kindness say that we are all in this together. They say that we need each other. Small acts of kindness and cooperation underline the notions of community. They underline, however silently, our notions of our very humanity.
Indeed, a few individuals indicated in their comments that there were so many small of acts of kindness that they had experienced over the years that it was difficult to identify just one. For example, Miranda told us that “I’ve had so many amazing things happen to me, it is hard to pick just one. ... Everyone in Collingwood is so friendly.” Valerie felt similarly.
Kind acts create connections between individuals living within the same community. Aimz, for example tells us that, for her, what is nice about Collingwood are her neighbours themselves. “The neighbours... you actually get to know them, and they look out for you and you look out for them, and they drop jam off at Christmas, things like that. When I lived in Vancouver you’d live beside someone but not really know them. I find that everyone looks out for everyone else here.” These reflections highlight the connection between kindness and community. We might even suggest that kindness is the glue that first connects people, and then keeps in place their sense of community.
The Comfort of Kindness: The Kindness of Comfort
Kindness is appreciated whenever it happens. It can be especially comforting, however, when it comes at a time of loss or need. Listen to this comment by Aimee: “After my father passed away 2 weeks ago my friend Brandy and her husband Wayne, invited me for coffee and they gave me a gift and a nice note telling me what I meant to them. The gift was a smoky quartz ring. It was to help me get through a challenging time with negative emotions.”
Another Collingwood resident, Charlene, also experienced a special kindness from a friend: “I just bought this [Pure Juice] shop from a lady recently. I am also friends with her. In order for me to go on vacation she worked the shop for me. She took care of the shop for the whole week while I was away. She worked here every day. For the last couple of days, I’ve been thinking about how extremely grateful and lucky I am to have her do that so that I could go away. She is the type of person that goes above and beyond for people. She does nice things all the time. I tear up when I think of how thankful I am for her.”
The Kindness of Strangers
But kindness is not just expressed among friends or neighbours. Sometimes kindnesses come unexpectedly from strangers. Sometimes one act of kindness by a stranger inspires another act of kindness from another stranger in return, as Linda relates: “Going through the drive through at Tim Hortons, someone who was ahead of me paid for my coffee and donut. I didn’t know them. It could have been because I had let them through ahead of me. ... The coffee tasted a little bit sweeter because of that kindness.
Then, we have the story of the “great shop happening” at the Blue Mountain Music store, related by one of its employees: “A friend of mine came in the other day to buy a guitar strap. The story goes that he said that the strap was beautiful, but he didn’t know whether he could afford it at the moment. So, what happened was that two or three people who were in the store pitched in, and he walked out with this beautiful guitar strap that he didn’t expect to get.
When a person performs a kind act, purely, with no thought of repayment, it seems that there often follows some kindness, or benefit, to that person. This idea is illustrated in the experience of Sue who, when asked about her experience of kindness, replied: “I'm thinking of something from the Special Olympics, it was this winter at the Provincial Games in SS Marie. My athlete was just so proud of her racing by the end of the two-day event, that she just gave me a great big hug. And that hug meant more than anything to me and how grateful she was.” The athlete gave the hug in significant part as a response to the kindness that Sue herself displayed by volunteering at the Games in the first place.
Kindness is Everywhere
We and the people with whom we spoke found many kindnesses in Collingwood. We believe, however, that kindness can be found everywhere we truly look for it.
If you have experienced a kindness or have a reflection on the linkage between kindness and community, and wish to share it, we would love to hear from you. We will then, with your permission, share it in a future blog. Please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.