It’s World Kindness Day, a little reminder of how we can contribute to our surrounding society in immediate and little ways. From taking the time to sit down with someone and ask them how they are, to giving a stranger a genuine smile, there are so many ways to extend humanity and warmth to the people around us (and this is just one day; imagine how the world would be if we all made it our habit). Me, I like to give compliments, left right and centre. It happens quick, like an “I like your outfit!” as I pass them on the sidewalk, but their resulting smile reminds me that kind words matter, and that they should be given all the time.
The team is always game to affect change in the world, and when I asked them how they’re celebrating World Kindness Day, this is what they told me.
When I used to work at a bar in the entertainment district, I would always wrap up food from events or platters we had and give it to the homeless people in the area. I still do that with any leftovers from a big dinner with friends, and this winter me and my friends are planning on putting together winter care packages to help Toronto’s homeless people with the colder weather.
One of my favourite concepts of kindness is the suspended coffee movement. And yes, it’s exactly what you think it is – an advance purchase of a cup of coffee for someone who needs it. I’ve especially wanted to participate with an affiliate coffeehouse or café, having experienced my very first Candian winter last year. I’m still on the lookout for a participating café near me (downtown Toronto – if you know of any, please let us know!). Until then, I’m going to make a conscious effort to spread the warmth this winter by handing out free size gloves and hand warmers on my commute. For when you can’t, keep those smiles going just like it’s summer. Your attitude could make all the difference to someone through the long winter.
I commute through the city often, and although it may be one of the busiest and most rushed parts of everyone’s day, the trip offers an opportunity to be kind to complete strangers. A few things you can do to help are to follow the general rules of transit etiquette (no feet on seats, no personal grooming, no loud music or talking), but you can also go above and beyond. Give up your seat to not only the elderly, expecting, injured and disabled, but also people with small children, people struggling with bags, or people who generally look exhausted. Also keep in mind that some disabilities aren’t visible, so if someone is asking for your seat, there’s probably a good reason. Not only that, but holding the doors open for others, alerting the driver if you see someone running for the bus, saying hello and thanks to the driver, letting people on or off before you, or paying someone’s fare are all random acts of kindness that can surprise others during one of the most stressful parts of their day.
It is not breaking news to tell you it is cold outside. But seriously, how lucky are we that we get to put on our down coats, layer up with all of our dry clothing and know we have a roof over our heads to protect us from the cold? We are really, really lucky. My heart always breaks a little every winter when I walk past someone on the street whom I know does not have the luxury of going home to a warm bed that night. I would always feel really helpless, not knowing what I could possibly do to help. Then, I was introduced to 311 and quickly learned that I could help. Game changer! If you see someone on the street in extreme cold weather, call 311. The 311 operators will contact outreach workers for follow-up as soon as possible and help get this person out of the cold and to a shelter. All you need to do is give a description of the person and a main intersection and the outreach workers will take it from there. The whole request takes maybe five minutes and can help save someone in need.
As they say, in a world where you can be anything, be kind.
I try to remember this everyday – but it’s especially relevant today on World Kindness Day. I grew up in a small town where I rarely witnessed homelessness. It’s not like I didn’t know it exists, I just rarely saw it. Living in Toronto I see it every single day and as cliché as it sounds, this new awareness has made me incredibly thankful to live the life I live. To celebrate World Kindness Day I’ve decided that next time I’m buying lunch, I’ll buy something extra for the next person I bump into along the cold streets.
How do you spread kindness, today and any day?