Thursday, November 24, 2011

Upstream Reciprocity

I'm at the library trying to finish my thesis proposal, when I realized that we simply can't let the day go by without acknowledging our American friends' Thanksgiving holiday. Okay call it procrastinating, but that's my story.....

The other day I read a post on my Team Inspire  website (a website that connects patients, families, friends and caregivers for support and inspiration) entitiled, 'Things for Which I'm Grateful'. The author of the post was inviting members to post a short list of things for which they felt grateful, in true Thanksgiving spirit. Interestingly, there were 40 replies, far more than any other post, and keep in mind that these are people and situations that involve serious and sometimes grave health concerns. Despite, or maybe even because of, these serious emotional and physical burdens,the members came together to express and share their gratitude. The most recurrent theme you wonder? Family and friends, hands down. I am encouraged.

I guess it isn't really so surprising given that research suggests an attitude of gratitude has been associated with better health, better sleep patterns, a deeper appreciation of life and even more acts of kindness toward others. So perhaps intuitively, the Team Inspire members know this. But did you know that in an experiment done at North Eastern University, researchers discovered that individuals who had been helped by someone were more likely to engage in 'upstream reciprocity' and help someone else - even a complete stranger. And just in case you're wondering, upstream reciprocity is psychology speak for pay-it-forward! Love it.

So here is my short list of things for which I'm grateful:
- my health - my children - my husband - my morning coffee

I invite you to engage in some upstream reciprocity, dak someone today, and share your grateful list with us.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Drop, Drop......

A couple of weeks ago, the child psychologist that our son Garrett visits once a week (we call her Dr. Pam), introduced a book to him that has changed our lives - really. I was describing the book and transformation to a friend, and between mouthfuls of a delicious lentil curry soup at Kind Food, she simply said, "Sounds like something we should all practice."

The book is titled, Have You Filled a Bucket Today. With beautifully coloured illustrations, and simple text, this heartwarming story explains how each of us has an invisible bucket. Sometimes, when we are feeling happy, confident, special, included, our buckets are full. Other times, when we are feeling sad, lonely, frustrated, angry, our buckets are empty, or low. The authors teach us that we can fill other people's buckets in simple ways, which is signified by a drop, drop, drop.....or we can dip into people's buckets when we ignore them, are rude, or mean, and this is represented by a drip, drip, drip. Most poignantly, is the reality, that by filling up some elses' bucket, we fill up our own. There is a wonderful website with support materials called, The Bucketfillers.

This morning when I set Garrett's breakfast down in front of him, he looked at me and said, "Drop, Drop." This is a five year old. He gets it. I am one proud Mama. Now, whenever we go out about our day, we look at people and discuss whether they are putting drops in buckets, or causing them to drip out. Good practice.

I just have to point out the obvious, and draw the correlation to the dakbands. Talk about bucketfilling! In reality, this concept really sums up the dakband project from another perspective. It reinforces the importance of acknowledging, sharing, encouraging kindness every day, all day long. Become a bucketfiller, dak someone today.

Drop, Drop.......

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Reachable Moments

In his book, The Art of Affirmation, Robert Furey, writes of kindness as 'reachable moments'. Moments when people can truly be touched by affirmation, but the problem, he explains, is that these moments are "fleeting and easily missed" so we need to be attentive and observant in order to capture them. Funny, that's exactly how I feel. This quote from his book is a perfect, absolutely perfect, summary of kindness:

“Those who make compassion an essential part of their lives find the joy of life. Kindness deepens the spirit and produces rewards that cannot be completely explained in words. It is an experience more powerful than words. To become acquainted with kindness one must be prepared to learn new things and feel new feelings. Kindness is more than a philosophy of the mind. It is a philosophy of the spirit.”

A friend recently sent me this amazing story about kindness. It is powerful, beautiful, simple, and like all kindness, touching:

Put your dakbands on and start looking for those reachable moments. Affirm and encourage kindness. It will change your life, and those whom you dak.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Consensus Builds Community

Although I love politics, American politics in particular, I will spare you any analysis of the burgeoning "Occupy" movement - as tempting as it may be. Having said that, I think that there are aspects and outcomes of the movement that are worth discussing. As the occupation of Wall Street persists we are witness to the possibility of community unified by the ideals of humanity: shared, mutual interests, collective concern, servant leadership, empathy and conscientious choice.

In a wonderful article in the New York Times, Sunday Review, the author writes about the Power of Place, and how public space can facilitate consciousness and democracy. He describes how hundreds of strangers are managing to live together, under rather primitive conditions, by sharing and organizing resources, tasks, and energy. But what I loved most about the article was reference to Aristotle's belief that community requires face-to-face conversation. (And in an age where face-to-face conversation is increasingly rare, especially between strangers, the model of community in the park may be an oracle of sorts.) Everyone in the park agrees that consensus builds community.

However, when individuals work collectively, with compassion, intention, and respect to share in a greater vision they are also building community through deliberate acts of kindness. It's as if consensus builds kindness and community.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


When I do workshops with adults, and children, we often play a game called the Commonalities Game (from the Big Book of Team Building Games). Everyone chooses a partner, someone they do not know very well, and with a timer set for 2 minutes each couple has to write down everything they have in common with each other. It is incredibly fun, and a great way to get people to start thinking about how much we have in common rather than what separates us. In one workshop I had a 19 year old exchange student from Scotland paired with an elderly Sikh gentleman from Mississauga (Ontario)- they hold the record, with 37 things in common in two minutes. I'm still in awe. The other participants gave them a round of applause. I gave them dakbands :)

However, I recently came across another commonalities exercise from Ode Magazine in an article entitled, "Love thy neighbour, for he is me." The article speaks of the emotional and physical wisdom of being a good Samaritan, or altruist. The definition of an altruist is someone who is unselfishly concerned for or devoted to the welfare of others. Apparently altruists are healthier than those who are not. In an effort to practice compassion, to recognize how simple gestures of kindness unite us in our humanity, try (as the article suggests) this five step exercise when you see someone who attracts your attention:

With your attention geared to the other person, tell yourself:

Step 1: “Just like me, this person is seeking happiness in his/her life.”

Step 2: “Just like me, this person is trying to avoid suffering in his/her life.”

Step 3: “Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness and despair.”

Step 4: “Just like me, this person is seeking to fill his/her needs.”

Step 5: “Just like me, this person is learning about life.”

Then give them a dakband and ask them to pass it on.

As you watch this video, go through the exercise above, only ask yourself, how you can be more like him.......

Homeless Chicago Man Donates Thousands to Down-On-Her-Luck Banker:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Two Faces of Paris

Let's face it, Paris has a reputation for it's rudeness. In fact, in a recently published collection of personal memoirs, Paris Was Ours, rudeness is a common, sometimes underlying, sometimes overt theme, in a wonderful expression of an irresistible city. I think the incivility of Parisians makes such an impression because it is incongruent with our expectations. We view Paris through a romantic veil and associate it with the very essence of civility: arts, history, liberalness, style, and culture.

As someone who spent a fair amount of time in Paris over the years, I have like many of the writers in the book, come to a place of understanding and acceptance regarding the abrupt nature of the people despite the initial shock. In order to survive I even embraced their harshness when necessary - especially when it came to parking spots. During one visit, my friends and I spent an hour touring the neighbourhood of our tiny hotel looking for a parking space. While they toured in the car, I was on foot patrol. As luck would have it, I saw someone pull out and I ran ungracefully up the street and stood in the space, waiting for my friends to circle back around with the car. A local got there before my friends, but they were right behind him. He gestured for me to move out of the way. I refused, and politely told him, in french, that this space was now taken. He started laying on his horn. I refused to budge. Then he tried to pull into the space, assuming that I would jump out of the way to avoid being run over. I did not move. He jumped out of his car and screamed at me in broken english to go home to America. I politely, and calmly, informed him that I was Canadian. He drove away. My friends pulled into the space and we didn't move the car for a week.

As I don't often (ever) highlight behaviour that isn't kind, you might be wondering where this is leading. It's shocking really. My husband, son and I, just returned from a week in Paris, and not once, but twice, we were confronted with deliberate acts of kindness. Deliberate. The first time occurred when we took the regional rail system (RER) from the airport into Paris, where we had to transfer to the subway (Métro). Looking dazed and confused with our suitcases and an exhausted 5 year old, a gentleman voluntarily approached us and offered to direct us. Did you get that, voluntarily, we didn't ask for help he just came up and told us the simplest route to our hotel. Wow.

Similarly, we were walking through the neighbourhood of our tiny hotel (sense a theme?), map in hand, but nontheless a little lost. A young woman pushing her daughter in a stroller approached us and asked if we needed directions. Once we found the café (with her simple to follow directions), we toasted the kindness of Parisians with a beer, wine and Perrier, while marveling at the civility and beauty of this magical, alluring city.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Community Kindness

“The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.”
The 14th Dalai Lama

What a beautiful piece of wisdom. Not that we should be surprised, the Dalai Lama is nothing if not wise. Simple truths have a way of reaching in and touching us in quiet, yet reflective ways. This one touches me. I think of what it means to cultivate rich, fertile soil....

I have a garden in my back yard. I grow all kinds of vegetables, herbs and perennials, with lots of help from my friend and community garden specialist, Carolin. The trouble is the soil in my garden is almost dead. It has taken three years, organic sheep manure, compost, importing worms, and lots of love to refurbish and restore the soil so that we could grow something, anything. It still isn't fertile enough, but we're getting there. With my own composter, installed this past spring, I feel like my soil will be happy again soon. All this time and effort, to make dirt healthy.

Now, imagine cultivating an appreciation of goodness, of kindness. What would that look like? What would grow? According to the Dalai Lama, goodness and kindness. Seems worth it to me. And it seems to me that Hamid Chaudhry, a Dairy Queen owner from Reading Pennsylvania, is an expert. In an article in the New York Times, a story is told about a man who understands what it means to till the soil of goodness. And because the dakband project is all about harvesting goodness, we'll be sending him some dakbands to share with his customers and community.

I don't have a picture of Hamid, but I can share some photos of goodness from my garden.....(but you can see a slide show of the article on our facebook page)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Wild Kindness

My husband, two sons, one girlfriend, a couple who have been friends for years, their two adult kids, and another friend of ours went camping for a week at Killbear Provincial Park. There were ten of us in total. We try to camp together at Killbear for a week every summer. It is usually an idyllic week that conjures up the kind of memories that imprint a family for a lifetime. This week was no different, well that isn't quite true. We were definitely left with some interesting memories, but maybe ones we don't want to relive next year.

To begin, just a few short hours before our departure, I broke my right ankle while out for my early morning run. With a pair of crutches and strict instructions to be completely non-weight bearing, and a frustrating amount of logistical re-planning, we eventually departed - against doctors orders.

Upon arrival we couldn't help but notice a large sign that read, Active Bear in Campground. For someone who is completely immobile this is not encouraging. Unkindly, the jokes began (primarily from the men in our large party): 'we don't have to worry about being faster than the bear, we just have to be faster than Elaine'....and so on....Two nights later I had the last laugh when my husband got up - from our tent - to investigate the damage we could hear raccoons creating in our dinning tent. A few moments later I heard a terrible, LOUD, SNARL. It didn't sound the snarl of a raccoon. As it happened, my husband found himself face-to-face (within 4 to 6 feet) with a large, black bear who was none to pleased that he had been interrupted while enjoying the bag of sugar he discovered in a bin that had been accidentally left out.

My husband ran, contrary to all directives about what to do when one encounters a black bear. I for one, am thankful he did. We discovered the next day that the sign warning us about the Active Bear, was somewhat misleading. There should have been an "S" on Bear. There were about 7 Active Bears in the park. One visited our campsite, or a campsite near us every night. It was a week of blissful, sun filled, beach filled days, and sleepless, anxiety ridden nights. We heard car alarms, horns, dogs barking and even blood curdling screams, all efforts to scare bears away from campers hunkered down in little more than a glorified baggy.

Once the bears disappeared into the cover of day, and campers finally emerged to survey any damage and brew some much needed coffee we felt a camaraderie with our fellow campers that we hadn't experienced before at the park. Everyone began to look out for each other, warn new campers coming into the park about bear proofing their sites, and offer help and advice to those who had the harrowing experience of listening to the snorting of bear outside their tent. We were united, and kindness abounded. Interestingly, most of us felt compassion for the bears despite our fears, aware that we were after all in their environment. The fact that they are becoming conditioned to feed in the campsites, cannot portend good things for the bears.

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest to the rest of the world."
John Muir (1838-1914); naturalist, author

As for me, I traded in my ineffective crutches (as far as running goes), for a much more sophisticated means of escape transportation:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Every so Often....

Every so often a story of kindness is so inspiring it becomes a movie. Usually though, that process takes many years. In this case, it's a matter of months.

Recently, a young man, Allan Guei won a free throw competition at his California high school (Compton High). The competition allowed all students with a 3.0 GPA or better the chance to win a $40,000.00 scholarship. There were 8 finalists, but Allan won the event. However at his June commencement he announced that he was splitting the money equally between the other 7 finalists, because he had already won a full scholarship to college. There was nothing stopping him from keeping the money, or even giving it to his family, instead he choose to pay the first year tuition of the other finalists. He choose kindness and compassion. I wonder how many of us would have made the same choice, under similar circumstances? I am inspired.

The story has become a full-length documentary that will be featured at the Sun Dance Film Festival this year.

We will be sending Allan and the finalists dakbands.

To see the trailer and some photos click here

“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”
Dalai Lama

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Financial Kindness

Yet another interesting scientific perspective about kindness. This time in the form of wealth distribution. Scientists (anthropologists and evolutionary theorists) are suggesting that we, as a society, are inherently programmed toward fairness. In fact, it contributes to our survival.

An article in the New York Times, Thirst for Fairness May Have Helped Us Survive, by Natalie Angier, presents a number of scientific studies as well as real-life examples of remote tribal peoples, that indicate fairness may be an evolutionary trait.

One particular study, was particularly interesting. Researchers from Harvard Business School and Duke University, surveyed approximately 5000 Americans (an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, across 47 states, equal number of men and women, and varying levels of personal income) about wealth distribution. What was fascinating about this survey is that all the participants greatly underestimated the current wealth distribution gap in the U.S.. As it stands, the top 20% control 84% of the wealth. More importantly however, is that when the survey participants were asked to choose an ideal wealth distribution, "All groups—even the wealthiest respondents—desired a more equal distribution of wealth than what they estimated the current United States level to be..."

Professors, and authors of, The Spirt Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, provide a list on their website that details the evidence for equality. Here is a sampling of positive outcomes of more equal societies:

  • People in more equal societies live longer, a smaller proportion of children die in infancy and self-rated health is better
  • People in more equal societies are far less likely to experience mental illness
  • People in more equal societies are less likely to use illegal drugs.
  • Children do better at school in more equal societies
  • Communities are more cohesive and people trust each other more in more equal societies
  • Homicide rates are lower and children experience less violence in more equal societies
  • More equal societies spend a higher proportion their income on overseas aid and perform better on the Global Peace Index
Do you think people are kinder in more equal societies? You'll see in Natalie's article that fairness and kindness have a lot in common. It's encouraging to learn that even if people are unaware of extent of the wealth gap, that they feel, inherently, that it should be more equal.

And they are correct. The evidence speaks for itself.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Science Behind a Kind Heart

A few weeks ago I shared a post entitled, The Neuroscience of Kindness. It can be summed up by the following paragraph that appeared in the post:

Essentially, by practicing mindfulness, compassion, and kindness, we change the chemistry in our brains. The brain is, apparently, a social organ and positive interpersonal exchanges cause more firing of neurons in our brains, and the release of neurotransmitters which puts us into a receptive state and this allows us to engage with others and to be receptive.

In other words, there is scientific evidence to suggest that by using dakbands, practicing kindness, you can positively change yourself, and others. Really, I'm not making this up. Today, I discovered yet more scientific evidence, and this time it involves the heart. As some of you may be aware, I have had crash course on heart health this past year, and whether it's true or not, consider myself somewhat of an lay expert; so I was excited to read anything heart related.

Ode magazine presented a fairly in-depth article about the science behind HeartMath, "A change of heart, changes everything." Without giving you a Heartmath lesson, let me just share just a few of the salient points:

Research suggests that our emotions our faster and more powerful than our thoughts, and as a result the heart may be more important to our overall health, including cognitive function, than our brains. (I could have told you that)

When we think of cherished memories, love, compassion, friendship we can improve the rhythm of our hearts - change the rhythm from 'incoherent' to 'coherent'. (Yup, suspected that)

The electromagnetic field of the heart, can be measured up to three metres away from the body. (I cannot tell you how many electrocardiograms I've had in the past year, and I didn't know this)

Studies have demonstrated that if someone has a coherent heart rhythm they can positively affect the heart rhythm of those physically close to them. (WOW - I think I knew this subconsciously)

Let me sum this up .....

If I am wearing a dakband, consciously thinking about kindness, and looking for an opportunity to give my dakband to someone in appreciation for an act of kindness I witnessed them commit, then I am creating a coherent heart rhythm for myself. Improving my physical and emotional health. At the same time, I am sharing that coherent heart rhythm with all those around me. A whole new meaning of synchronicity.

Sharing kindness changes the world because it changes our hearts. (I knew that)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Commencement Kindness

It’s that time of year. Commencement ceremonies are taking place around the world. Young men and women find themselves at the end, of arguably, the most invigorating time of their lives. Invigorating in the sense that rarely, outside of the four years (plus or minus) of university/college, do the intellectual and social intersect to provide such a consistent, enduring, sense of power, enthusiasm, and attainable vision. Coming to the end of that time is filled with what my five-year-old would call, mixed-emotions. As the dean at my son’s recent, commencement ceremony noted, these mixed-emotions apply equally to parents, as well as, the graduates themselves. I was grateful that he acknowledged me. He wisely quoted Erma Bombeck, “Graduation day is tough for adults. They go to the ceremony as parents. They come home as contemporaries. After twenty-two years of child-raising, they are unemployed.”

Although my beautiful son, whom I’m sure just yesterday, was crawling up on my lap with a well-loved book, leaping off the couch proudly wrapped in his superman cape, and relentlessly practicing kick-flips on the driveway, was beaming; I spent most of day unsuccessfully choking back tears. Unemployment is an emotional shock.

As such, I was intrigued when I discovered the wonderful (and new favourite) website called, brainpickings. They recently featured, “Words to live by: 5 Timeless Commencement Addresses.” I won’t torture you with my interpretation or synopsis of all five speakers, suffice to say, they are worth a listen. But I will provide you with just a couple treasures that inspired me.

J.K. Rowlings (Harry Potter fame) addressed Harvard graduates in 2008. Her address rekindled my secret longing to have been born British – how else to have such a natural sense of humour, wit, and timing? Jealousy aside, let me leave you with this, “We do not need magic to transform our world, we carry all the power we need inside us already: we have the power to imagine better.”

Then, from Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon), “It’s harder to be kind, than clever………Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy — they’re given after all. Choices can be hard. You can seduce yourself with your gifts if you’re not careful, and if you do, it’ll probably be to the detriment of your choices.”

So I would say, in my Commencement address, “ Each of you has the power to profoundly change the world each and every day. You do not have to aspire to greatness, you simply chose to be kind. Imagine that world, then make the choice to create it.”

My son Kohen, and my unemployed self.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

5 year old Kindness

On May 1st we moved my daughter, Brennyn, into her very own apartment (that she is sharing with 3 friends), in downtown Toronto. Last year was her first year of University, and although she loved her experience in residence, this is the next Big Step.
Last week my 5 year old, Garrett, and I, were going to the Go station to pick up Brennyn for an impromptu visit. This is our conversation on the way......

Garrett: "Why is Brennyn coming home to visit?"

Mommy: "She is probably hungry."

Garrett: "Don't they have food in Toronto?"

Mommy: "Yes, but you need money to buy food, and Brennyn doesn't have any money."

Garrett: "Don't they have banks in Toronto?"

Mommy: "Yes they do, but you need to have money IN the bank, before you can take it OUT of the bank."


Garrett: "Well, Brennyn can borrow some of my money in my Treasure Chest, as long as she pays me back."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Neuroscience of Kindness

I recently came across an article in Parabola magazine, that explains the science behind the benefits of living in healthy, vibrant relationship with one another. It was called the Neurobiology of We, by Patti de Llosa. As a budding scientist (I am finishing my Masters Degree, and planning on doctoral studies) I love it when science affirms what I like to call 'intuitive truths'.

Essentially, scientists have discovered, with the help of advanced imaging techniques, how the mind - your thought processes - can change the chemistry of the brain. This process, is known as neuroplasticity. The ability of the brain and mind to adapt to varying circumstances, physical or emotional. Dr. Dan Siegel, a pioneer in the field of interpersonal neurobiology and director of the Mindsight Institute, studies the neurobiology of "we". According to Dr. Siegal, we have a triangle of well-being: Our Minds, Relationships and Brains. He is convinced that the power of we can transform our society, by transforming individuals and helping to make us more compassionate.

Scientific evidence for the dakbands - how much better can it get.

Essentially, by practising mindfulness, compassion, and kindness, we change the chemistry in our brains. The brain is, apparently, a social organ and positive interpersonal exchanges cause more firing of neurons in our brains, and the release of neurotransmitters which puts us into a receptive state and this allows us to engage with others and to be receptive.

So, I invite you to engage your mind, improve your emotional and mental well-being and dak someone today.

“Our task must be to widen our circle of compassion, to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. ”

Albert Einstein (1879-1955);
theoretical physicist, philosopher, Nobel Prize winner

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

DAK Mentors

I recently came across an article by Shannon Cutts, that presented a unique paradigm for the old adage 'You are what you think'. Shannon's expertise is mentoring and eating disorders, and in the Huffington Post piece she suggests that media and advertising messages mentor us. Whether or not we are aware of it, these messages and images sink into our awareness and affect our thought processes. In other words, if the media continually presents messaging that affirms beautiful is a pre-pubescent, size 2, white female, then the thoughts those of us who do not conform to the standard have might sound like this: "I am too old to be beautiful"; "I am too fat to be beautiful"; "I am too dark skinned to be beautiful"; etc.....These thoughts mentor us. They teach us, direct us, and ultimately destroy us - if we let them.

What an interesting, fascinating concept, especially with respect to the deliberate acts of kindness project. Daks as mentors. We can choose who/what mentors us. We can choose to be mentors. What is important is the outcome. Ultimately, the thoughts and messages that mentor you, influence what you do, your actions.

Mentors = Thoughts and internal beliefs = Actions } Connectedness } Community

What you do determines how we all live in community.

So choose your mentors wisely.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Charlotte's Kindness

Do you remember the extraordinary kindness of Charlotte the barn spider? She saved Wilbur from the slaughter house with her writing skills:





E.B. White's bestselling children's story, Charlotte's Web, tells a magical story of friendship and kindness through the community of farm animals and a little girl named Fern, on Zuckerman's farm. In the end, sadly Charlotte dies, but Wilbur lives to a ripe old age and works hard to keep Charlotte's memory alive.

I couldn't help but be reminded of this timeless story when my friend Marty Mako sent me some pictures of a real life Wilbur who needs saving. His suggestion, in fact, was that perhaps Wilbur could become the dakband mascot, wearing multiple bands on each stubby leg :) Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure my 10lb Havanese, Mojo, would be fairly intimidated by Wilbur. However, I will absolutely play the role of Charlotte in an effort to save Wilbur.



House Trained!

If you are interested in making Wilbur part of your family, the Lincoln County Humane Society would most certainly appreciate your kindness - and so would all the Facebook fans.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Kindness for Japan

I realize that I am, perhaps, a bit late to jump on the Japan bandwagon. What more can possibly be said? Some of my favourite bloggers have posted thoughts and images that are eloquent and moving. For example, my blogging hero, David Lebovitz shared this post with beautiful images.

However, last weekend when I answered a knock at the door, I was surprised to find our neighbour's two young daughters. They were selling origami cranes, in an effort to raise money for Japan. Paper cranes that they themselves had made. The story of the origami crane is incredibly inspiring, and under the circumstances so apropos. I was impressed and encouraged by their effort to make a difference, their creativity, and their kindness. As it turns out their Sensei is from Japan, and so their dojo decided to do something to help. But I think they can tell their story so much better than I can......

Making Japanese cranes – raising money for the earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan

Our Mom and Dad told us about the horrible thing that happened in Japan. They showed us internet pictures of what happened to Japan after the earthquake and the tsunami. People dying, losing their homes and belongings, being separated from their families – what can we do to help being so far away from Japan? We belong to a karate school and our Japanese sensei sent a newsletter on Friday morning during our March break. Our dojo was going to make a thousand cranes and sell them at two dollars each to raise money for the Red Cross in Japan.

We know how to make cranes and enjoy making them. We made lots of cranes that Friday and started selling them in our neighbourhood that weekend. We did not tell people how much the cranes were and told them to give us whatever they want to pay for them. Many neighbours were happy in seeing the cranes (we made the cranes that can flap their wings) and gave us lots of money and would only take a few cranes. One the first day within one hour we sold 29 cranes and made $79. We went home and made more colourful cranes and sold more cranes the next day. We
just went around our neighbourhood during one weekend, no more than two hours going door to door and made $225 for 50 cranes. We were very impressed and excited. Many people told us that we are doing a good job raising money for Japan. We took more cranes to our dojo on the Monday after March break. There we learned a different way to make cranes (these cranes are not able to flap their wings). These cranes were threaded onto a string which has a sign on the bottom saying “I Japan” on the front and has Japanese writing on the back. So we taught our friends how to make cranes so that they can sell them in their neighbourhoods.

We also went to our principal in school to see if we could sell cranes there. She agreed, but the moneywould not go through our dojo, but go directly to the Red Cross. We made a box with the Japanese Flag on top and taped letters on the side of the flag saying “Support Japan” and put 60 cranes into the box. Then our neighbour asked us to send in a picture of us and the cranes so that she can put it onto her blog.We hope with all the cranes and making people aware of the suffering that is going on in Japan, we will make a difference.

from Sonja and Katja

Raising children with empathy and compassion - now that's really kind.

Monday, March 28, 2011

It's that time again

On April 30th students graduating from grade 8, and grade 12 will be 'shopping' for prom dresses, suits and accessories.

Two years ago Deliberate Acts of Kindness hosted the first Cinderella Event. In less than 8 weeks Kara and I managed to collect over 1000 dresses, hundreds of pairs of shoes, boxes full of jewelery, and a team of volunteers that helped 100 young girls (who would otherwise not have be able to afford to attend their graduation) find the perfect graduation dress and accessories. And because it was Mother's Day weekend we invited the mothers to shop as well. All this was made possible by the incredible generosity and kindness of friends, family and complete strangers, from all over Southern Ontario. They donated amazing dresses and accessories, and then they volunteered the day of. Then after the event, many of them sent notes thanking us for the experience.

So when the Halton Learning Foundation asked us to help them host the event this year, we were thrilled. It's a win win situation. We get to be part of a transformational event (but with a lot less work :) and the Halton Learning Foundation (HLF) gets our expertise to co-ordinate a transformational event. This year the event was expanded to include young men as well.

Over the next month, leading up to the event, I'll be posting about the developments, the volunteers, the sponsors, and hopefully we'll even have some personal stories from some of the young girls who participated in the last event.

To start, I want to give a shout out to Glad Tidings Church in Burlington. They have generously donated their venue for the event.

Then we have Joelle's, a fabulous women's boutique in Burlington, that has offered to be drop off location for those who have dresses or accessories to donate. If that wasn't enough, they are offering a 20% discount on a new dress for your donation, as well as, 10% discount on any new accessories.

Finally, as far as partners go, we have Charles Sturt University. Students have volunteered to help coordinate the event and serve in all the various roles the day of.

Here is our event flyer:

Please visit the HLF website to see how you can help at this year's event.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New Bands, and Tulips

Well, our new samples of our new bands finally arrived. The kerning is perfect (spacing between letters). For comparisons sake here is the original sample, and here is the new sample:

We'll be placing our order shortly, and at the same time, sharing some special projects that will be using the 'old' bands. Maryann is full of wonderful ideas (as usual).

I have a few Carolin related kindnesses, that can be shared simply with pictures. Because Carolin is an artist, in spirit and vocation, I like to share how her kindness enriches my life with photos. Isn't that what makes kindness so valuable, a simple gesture, or attitude, that can profoundly change a life. I wish I could photograph the silence that Carolin and I sometimes share as an expression of our friendship. It is magical, peaceful, and kind.

I think this photo of tulips (a gift from Carolin) in the morning light might come close to capturing what I mean.....

Finally, a couple more of her Heart Cards:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Thought About it......

"People who think too much before they act don't act too much," (Jimmy Buffett).

As much as this might work in Margaritaville, I'm sure Confucius has some tidbit of wisdom warning of the foolishness of acting without thinking. And if it's true that wisdom comes with age, then I shouldn't need any reminders. However, I have to confess to 'gushing without thinking', yet again. A couple of posts ago I gushed over Secret Agent Laura Miller, a young woman who performs anonymous acts of kindness in the Pittsburgh area. I stumbled upon her story, because it was about kindness, and had momentum, I was all over it. Yet a few days later, I had some thoughts - some thoughts I should have had at the time.

Although I think what Secret Agent Laura is doing is wonderful, it is fundamentally different from what the vision and purpose of dakbands is all about. Which is to say, we want kindness to connect people, to encourage a kindness consciousness that appreciates the importance of making kindness something we do for each other, not under a shawl of anonymity, but in the presence of community. By sharing and offering dakbands to individuals who do something kind, in the presence of others, we send a message to the witnesses of the exchange that inspires more kindness, more connection, more community. Then of course there is the beauty of being able to track all the stories associated with each band, as it is passed on. There is value in seeing how one deliberate act of kindness, leads to another, which leads to another....

“I learned that inspiration does not always come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic, striving, but it comes into us slowly and quietly and all the time. ”
Brenda Ueland (1891-1985)
Journalist, editor, teacher

I will always be passionate about kindness, and I will always look for and share stories about kindness. Kindness inspires kindness in whatever form it takes. However, I'll also remember to share the context of the dakband project because I believe that it is slowly and quietly inspiring kindness around the world. And hopefully, through sharing, I can speed the process up :)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

25 million

By chance, I happened to see this evening's 60 Minutes. I say 'by chance' because we don't have cable and only get about 3 channels, so it's not often I'm sitting in front of the TV. But this evening, my husband made a roaring fire (in the fireplace) and I couldn't resist curling up on the couch and looking for something to watch. Now I'm wondering how to share the story. About half way through the segment I began frantically looking for a pen and paper to take notes, but we all know how that turned out.

How is it possible that within a year approximately 25 million American children, 25%, will be living below the poverty line? Right now, that number is about 20 million. In tonite's segment, Homeless Kids: the hard-times generation, Scott Pelly interviews a group of children in Florida whose families have recently become homeless as a result of the recent great depression. These bright, beautiful, articulate, children describe what it's like to go to bed hungry, the shame of living in their mini-van in a WalMart parking lot, having the electricity shut off and doing homework by candle light, the fear of stigma should friends discover their secret, the fear that they are somehow responsible, the shame of seeing your father stand on the side of road with sign - begging for work.

I can tell you that despite the misery, every family, every story, shared a simple dignity, and great love that enabled them to persevere. And like many stories of suffering, there was also a redemptive theme of kindness. To the neighbours who opened their home to family who had lost theirs, we will be sending you dakbands, to the woman who found a job for the father with the sign, we will be sending you dakbands....and to all the families, and children who had the courage to share your story, we will be sending you dakbands. And to the ninety some odd people who left offers of help within moments of the show ending.....your kindness has not gone unnoticed.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Car Show Kindness

I am well aware that the Toronto International Car Show is over, but it has taken this full week to recover from our Family Day experience. Admittedly I am not really a big car fan, my relationship with automobiles is purely utilitarian. Soooo, spending an entire day at an event that involves looking at and appreciating cars doesn't top my list of fun things to do on a rare day off. However, my five year old LOVES cars. Did I say LOVE - that wouldn't quite capture his absolute adoration of anything that has four wheels and an engine. He can name the model (and make) of just about any vehicle on the road, at a glance. For him the car show was heaven.

I want to extend a great big thank-you to all of you who showed such patience kindness during the course of the day. To all of you who waited in long lines to sit in the drivers seat of your dream car, only to have a five year slip under your arm and hop into the seat before you even knew he was there. He really was sincere when he said, "Thanks Mister for opening the door for me." He simply couldn't imagine that you weren't holding the door open for him.

If you are wondering why I didn't try to stop him from butting in, well, that was me you saw running frantically, weaving in-and-out of crowds of people, laden down like pack-horse with coats, purses, bags, trying to figure out which was the Tyota/Ford/etc he was sprinting to next. I never quite caught up. And when I did finally reach the drivers door, he was crawling into the passenger seat, out that door and into the next car. Not once all day did anyone utter a impatient comment, or make him feel anything but thrilled. So, again, Thank-you.
Heaven or Hell - I guess it's all a matter of perspective :)

Here is a picture of our Little Guy (with Luigi)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Secret Agents and Superheroes

Ingenuity has always fascinated me. Kindness, of course, is one of my passions. So, when you combine the two, as they are in Laura Miller, I become almost incoherent with excitement. Seriously, it's what I imagine a fix must be like for addict. I get jittery, my mind races with ideas, I'm overwhelmed by all the potential for good. Right now, I'm in the middle of a fix I've just bear with me as I try to channel my thoughts coherently.

It started with an article I found about a pre-school teacher at Missoula Community School in Missoula, Montana, who has her students don capes and become 'superheroes of kindness'. WOW. What better superhero could there be? The children perform weekly gestures of kindness in their community, that have inspired adults to become superheroes of kindness as well. (Kindness has that power doesn't it.) Apparently, Krystal Burns, the teacher of the superheroes of kindness, was inspired by Secret Agent L. (aka Laura Miller).

Secret Agent L, from Pittsburgh, anonymously performs acts of kindness throughout her community, and then blogs about them - sound familiar? (except for the anonymous part :) She now has affiliated agents all over the world helping her to perform missions that change the world we live in. She calls them missions, I call them daks. I think there is a great connection here. I think Secret Agent L needs some dakbands. So although we don't have secret agents, we do have dakscouts. And my dakscout is going to send some dakbands to Secret Agent L., and the superheroes of kindness at Missoula Community School.

One thing is becoming clear, as my adrenalin starts to find a normal level, I need to get daks on the twitter bandwagon!!

Stay tuned for updates on our new and improved map, our new dakbands (arriving early next week) and some exciting new projects I'll soon reveal!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


I need to apologize for my inconsistent (read, lack) posting the past weeks. It certainly isn't for a lack of material. In fact, I've read, witnessed, shared, and experienced, many acts of generosity, empathy, compassion, and gentleness over the past few weeks. Yet sometimes it is more difficult to write at these times. It's as if my spirit is overwhelmed by the spirit of kindness, and to try and express the depth and width and height of emotion that moves me is too difficult. Or perhaps I'm afraid of disappointment. That I will not be able to translate the power of these small acts, of deliberate acts of kindness, to change individuals, communities and the world, to others. Sometimes I feel like I need to do more, and ironically, I do less. But make no mistake, it is precisely, the effort each of makes to "bring heaven to earth" that changes the way we live in the world - and inspires others to do the same....

DailyGood: Over Ten Thousand People Attend His Funeral

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Time Flies

I wouldn't say I've been having fun exactly, but the past couple of weeks have certainly flown by. It's hard to believe that February is here and Wiarton Willie has predicted an early spring, despite the frigidly cold temperatures and mock snow storms. I've been crazy busy marking papers for the sport psychology course that I am TAing, and spending way too much time at doctors appointments.

Nevertheless, I have been looking for great stories of kindness to share. Last weekend my sister showed me the Youtube video of Chris Medina on American Idol. Although I am an American Idol fan, I missed the show last week. When Steve Tyler whispers into Julianne's ear at the end of the segment it is incredibly moving. What an exceptional act of kindness and grace. I think we have to send him some dakbands.
Have a look:

Speaking of dakbands, we did receive the samples of our new silicone bands. Unfortunately, the kerning on our website address is waaaaay off, so we are waiting for new samples :( Here's the problem:

I'm not sure what kind of acts of kindness the bands are promoting, but sure doesn't look like deliberate. Hopefully, I'll be able to share the real thing in a couple of weeks.