Years ago, Daegan and I did a project called 500 Kindnesses. The principle was simple: We would ride from Toronto to NYC (1500 km – just over 900 miles) from the city considered by many to be Canada’s unfriendliest to the one considered the most unfriendly in the US. We’d treat it like a charity bicycle ride. Except instead of fundraising for money we would ask people to pledge to perform acts of kindness instead. It was an amazing experience that is worth a whole post of its own someday. But a summary of it is here:
One of the unexpected consequences of the ride was that all of a sudden I was receiving a few (anonymous) pledges a day and I would get to hear how someone in one place was going to bake bread for their neighbour and leave it for him as a surprise, or someone else was going to volunteer at a food bank, or a whole retirement home full of seniors started doing acts of kindness for one another and recording them on the bulletin board – and it helped some of them having cognitive issues remember what had happened earlier in the day. I also became the focal point for friends to send good news to. If anyone saw an article about someone doing something good for their fellow man, I would be sent a link and I would read the article. After a year of this I noticed something peculiar. I started to be very hopeful and positive about the future of the planet. Clearly it wasn’t as bad as I was reading in the top stories of any given day. Or maybe it was – but it was also filled with great people. Since then I’ve tried to continue to seek out this news to keep myself hopeful and in balance. And then, as the news and my Facebook feed got more and more negative, I stepped up my sharing online. Others may have had the bad news sharing taken care of – nobody was going to miss something terrible that happened. But there wasn’t a lot of balance in my feed. Very few were sharing stories of the good that people were, no doubt, still doing. And so I took it on myself. I quit sharing bad or outrage inducing news unless I felt it wasn’t being noticed, or that there was something people could do (donate, volunteer, protest). Otherwise I made a mental commitment to share things that other people I know likely hadn’t seen – and good news was high on that list.
I may be mostly off Facebook (except for the automated process that shares these entries there), but I’m still sharing good news. Here’s what’s in the news this week:
Acts of Kindness toward cyclists on the Road: There is something about traveling by bike that brings out the best in people. On our 500 Kindnesses ride we stayed with many strangers we’d arranged with through couchsurfing.com. While we were there we were treated like visiting family and many of them are friends to this day. But it didn’t stop there. We were offered three more places to stay by other cyclists (who happened to be traveling by car and saw us) along the way or saw us riding past their houses. And as it shows in this article, charity bike rides are another case where everyone’s kindness is brought out. Riders train hard and fundraise like crazy for the causes they believe in. Road Safety, food, and other support crews then work tirelessly to make sure the riders are safe, fed, and comfortable. I’ve worked both sides of that, riding in the Friends for Life Bike Rally and volunteering for the Triadventure. Both are very challenging but also incredibly rewarding roles to play.
A huge storm hits a summer camp – and volunteers show up to clean up just in time: This is a theme I love to see. People see a need and instead of waiting for someone to do something, they realize “I’m someone!” Get enough of people like this together and great things happen. Sometimes all it takes is to override that inner voice saying “It’ll never work.” and realizing that while there might be a small chance of success if you try, there will be guaranteed failure if you don’t.
Humans aren’t the only ones doing kind things: And it’s not just Timmy down in the well that dogs save. In this case an owner was walking her dog when the dog got to a drain cover and stopped and wouldn’t move again. The owner eventually saw that inside was a neighbourhood cat that had been missing for some time. After finding the owner and then getting city services to come the cat was rescued.
Hamilton, Ontario Bus Driver Praised for Act of Kindness: Hamilton, just a short train ride west of my home in Toronto has a bit of a gritty reputation. There’s still some heavy industry there and in many ways to me it feels like New Jersey. But some of the nicest people I know live there. (You know who you are – someday I’ll get out there to see y’all!) I especially like this article because, at least in Toronto, there seems to be a huge love for articles about how terrible transit is and how bad operators are. Even in day to day conversation we often hear about that bus driver we didn’t like or the streetcar operator who was mean. And yet, some of my best experiences in the city have been on transit. It doesn’t mean my friends and local newspaper are wrong – just that it’s always easier to remember the bad folks and forget the streetcar drivers who sing the stops or leap up from their seats to help mobility-challenged folks get on board.
More Kindness Toward Cyclists: I started this entry with a bit of talk about kindness toward cyclists and I’ll end with another story. In this case it starts out not so good. A touring cyclist visiting Oregon from South Korea had their bike and everything on it stolen. Hearing about this the good folks at BikePortland.org organized a fundraiser to help get this cyclist re-stocked and moving again. Local news media have also picked up the story and hopefully they will be back on the road and soon have a good memory of being cared for by strangers to overshadow the negative one of losing everything while out on the road.
Let me leave you with this. It made me really happy to read it today: