The small towns I write about aren’t perfect. Neither is the one I live in. There’s hunger and deprivation and, as a result of rural poverty and unemployment, there’s disenfranchisement and loss of hope.
I’m reminded, though, how gestures large and small build a community, and make it a better place to live, renewing the sense of hope that’s at the heart of this time of year.
For the holiday season, many local businesses and charities have launched special initiatives to help those more fortunate donate to the food bank. The local newspaper has also highlighted the efforts of school breakfast programs, to ensure every child in our community starts the day with a full stomach, ready to learn.
Our junior hockey team held a toy drive at their home game last Sunday. By asking fans to bring a new, unwrapped toy to the game (and reducing ticket prices for those who did), the team did their bit to help make Christmas happier for families who are struggling.
And at my town’s Santa Claus parade, the fire department held a “boot drive” to raise money for the Salvation Army. Since most of the town turns out to the parade, a little spare change dropped into a fire fighter’s boot soon turns into much more. It’s fun and philanthropy, with some eye candy for good measure!
In my own life, I’ve also recently experienced notable acts of kindness. Owing to car trouble, and the delayed arrival of a part to the dealership, I’ve been without a vehicle for the past week.
My neighbour took English Rose to her skating lesson in the pick-up truck I’ve admired since we moved here. Friends and family have offered lifts, including to the dealership to collect the repaired car, a fifty mile round trip. And on the night the car problem arose, a staff member at the pool where English Rose swims, until then a stranger, gave me her telephone number and told me to call if we broke down on the way home. She’d come and get us so we wouldn’t be stranded on a dark country road.
In the age of social media, community isn’t limited to the ones live in. Our connections with virtual communities can be vast, and opportunities for kindness multiplied exponentially.
“Matthew’s Legacy” commemorates a young man who paid for a woman’s groceries, and asked only that she help someone else in return. Tragically, he died in a car accident the following day, but he’s celebrated in a Facebook page that encourages others to “do something extraordinary for a stranger…and help restore faith in humanity.”
I hope that random acts of kindness touch your life as they have mine. And that in the spirit of the season, we all consciously look for opportunities to pay such kindness forward.