kindness activist

kindness activist

Friday, August 26, 2016

Shot of Kindness

This kindness story is one that shows how small acts of kindness can make a big difference.

We were in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada) recently for a Fringe Festival.  From the moment we hit town, we had a hard time.  I mean, seriously, a HARD time. 

One excellent thing about Fringe festivals is that the organizers usually arrange a “billet” for out of town performers.  “Billets” are rooms in people’s homes that they are willing to open up for artists to stay in free of charge.  It’s a terrific concept!!  We have billeted in loads of cities and almost always have fantastic experiences (in fact, an upcoming Kindness Activist piece will be about one such amazing billet!!)

Anyway, in Edmonton, the first apartment we were given to stay in was, how shall I explain this, not the best…  I don’t want to be rude, but to put it simply, we were in town for two weeks and my partner David had to perform a very physical show 7 of those days, and we NEEDED a place we could rest.  The first place we were assigned…  Not much rest was going to happen there.  We made due with a few sleepless hours, then stepped out to try and re-group and figure out what to do.  We popped into a youth hostel, thinking we might end up there.  And then we made our way to SECOND CUP.

SECOND CUP - Whyte Ave, Edmonton
We like a good cup of coffee in the morning.  We know the shop Second Cup from previous visits to Canada and it is a very reliable place to find a nice cup of java!  So on that first morning in Edmonton, we straggled into the Second Cup on Whyte Ave (near the Festival), still wearing the clothes we had travelled and “slept” in.  We set up at a table, preparing to email the festival billet coordinator and ask if there was some way they could re-house us.  And we ordered breakfast, which of course included COFFEE.

Giovanni - unequivocally Canadian and unequivocally KIND
And that is where Gio comes in.  Gio was working the counter that morning.  Maybe he could tell we were exhausted and frazzled, I don’t know.  But for some reason, Gio asked, “Would you like an extra shot in that cappuccino, for no extra charge?”. 

Seriously, I about cried.  YES.  Thank you. 

Big cappuccino (in costume), at an outdoor cafe in Edmonton
Here we were, wondering where the heck we were going to sleep, how we were going to afford a hostel or hotel if it came to that, and this KIND MAN offers an extra shot. 

I don’t think it was the caffeine – I think it was his KINDNESS that gave us the little boost we needed.  We sat – ate, emailed, drank, rested, and regrouped.  Then we headed out into the world again (and ended up getting moved late that afternoon to a lovely billet with a fabulous family that was perfect for us).

Coffffffeeee at Second Cup is terrific!
After we finished our coffee I told Gio about the Kindness Activist project and that I would come back in and give him his official button another day (because we didn’t have our belongings with us when we met him).  But wouldn’t you know it, for all the times we went back into Second Cup during our stay, he was never working again while we were there.  Turns out he is an owner of the shop.  I don’t know how often he is behind the counter, but color me glad he was the morning that we needed kindness the most. 

Coffee at Chez Janette in Paris, France (one of David's favorite cafes)
Gio, I hunted for you but couldn’t find you again.  You are a man of mystery!!  But your Kindness Activist button will be coming in the mail. 

See if you can give someone a little “extra shot” of kindness today, won’t you?  At no extra charge.  J

Coffee at Henry's Coffee Shop in Indianapolis, Indiana
P.S.- the coffee drinking photos included here are from a large series of photos called “Coffee Around the World” that I have been adding to for years.

Another super large coffee at The Mission in San Diego, CA

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

$5 Kindness

We are in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada) for a Fringe Festival.  Truth be told, it has been a hard one since we touched down here...  But today, today a KIND thing happened!!

We are trying to watch what we spend, it was expensive to travel here and join the festival.  I grabbed a glass of wine between shows (with an artist discount - thanks little cafe at La Cite!!) and David ran to hand out postcards advertising our show to a line-up of patrons waiting to get into a show.

I was sitting in the outdoor cafe, chatting with a performer and drinking wine, when a woman came up and showed us a $5 bill.  "Is this anyone's money?  Did anyone lose a $5 bill???".  Well, I had just given David the change from our wine purchase - a $5 plus some change - before he rushed over to market the show, and I figured out what must have happened:  he put the money IN his pocket, then pulled OUT the postcards, causing the bill to fall out.  It was a super windy day so it blew right over to the lady who found it.

The very kind SHERRY, and David with his returned $5
So maybe you think it is not much - $5 (Canadian).  But to me, it meant a lot. That woman, who I learned is named Sherry, didn't just pick up the money and pocket it.  She certainly could have, and no one could have faulted her for it.  But she was KIND and hunted around to find the person who lost it.  And she returned it.  THANK YOU SHERRY! 

Sherry was a good reminder that there are kind people all around us. 

If you know a Kindness Activist, please tell me about them.  Email me at kindnessactivist@gmail.com.  And don't forget to "like" Kindness Activist on Facebook so you can be reminded when new Activists, like Sherry, are found.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Breast Milk Kindness

Before we talk about a specific KINDNESS, let’s take a moment to celebrate:

HAPPY BREASTFEEDING MONTH!

(Ok, ok, maybe it was BREASTFEEDING WEEK, and maybe it finished on August 7, so maybe I am a little bit late…  I thought I had read that it was a MONTH, I thought I had TIME, I thought it was all of August 2016, but now it looks like this important topic only got assigned one lousy week.  Unfair!!  Let’s just call it a MONTH ok??  Let’s celebrate it all of August – cuz breastfeeding should be celebrated!!!!)

To celebrate, here are photos of some incredible moms I know who agreed to share their beautiful breast feeding photos here:

Benny and his mamma

Lena and her mommy

Super Sam and his mom
Ryker and his mother take a little break from eating
(By the way, here is an official link to World Breastfeeding Week (which in my opinion should be month…) - World Breastfeeding Week

Ok, so now that we have our general celebration going on – let’s look at an amazing example of KINDNESS via breast milk.  I saw a piece on the courageous Demi Frandsen online*, and knew she needed to be dubbed a Kindness Activist.  And when you hear her story I know that you will agree.

Demi donated 17,503 ounces of her breastmilk.  That is 131 gallons.  And she woke herself up EVERY 3 HOURS to pump to do that. 

Adorable baby Leo
And really, her life at the time must have been stressful enough, without the constant waking up and pumping…  Her son, Leo, was born 2 months early and was very sick with gastroschisis.  He was in the NICU at Children’s Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska.  Demi talked with a lactation consultant there when Leo was a couple of weeks old and still unable to receive her milk.  The hospital was storing the pumped milk for her and noticed how large her stored supply was getting – they were practically running out of room to save it.  So the consultant introduced the idea of DONATING the milk.  Demi explained to me how it works, “You contact a lactation consultant or the milk bank directly. Then they do a quick over-the-phone interview with you to make sure you're eligible (healthy, not on medications, etc). They do a free blood draw and test to make sure you're healthy. Then you bring your frozen milk to your nearest "milk depot" and they ship it off. The milk bank provides all of your storage bags. You don't pay a cent through the whole process.  So Demi decided to save half of her milk for Leo and donate the other half. 

Demi and Leo having a snuggle
As Leo got older (still in the NICU), because of his illness he still wasn’t able to take much milk, so Demi donated more and more – in fact she donated the majority of the milk she pumped.  She told me, “Donating his milk was emotional every single time.  That milk was for him.  I pumped every ounce for my baby’s benefit.  But knowing that other babies and other moms would benefit from it gave me the strength to want to give it away.”

What a sweet little fella
Sadly, the last donation Demi made was the toughest.  Leo passed away unexpectedly at only ten months of age, and Demi still had a large supply of milk stored, which she very kindly donated.  She weaned her supply for another month and donated that milk, too.  The milk “is just one more way Leo’s life has touched so many.  His milk is saving lives of other fighters like him.”

I asked Demi how she felt donating the milk, and if she had communicated with any of the fortunate moms who received her milk to give their children.  She said, “It feels incredibly rewarding to donate.  As a mom, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for my children.  My two boys are my whole world.  And for moms who want so badly to give their babies breastmilk but for various reasons can’t provide it, it’s one way I can help. I have heard from a few moms whose babies received or are receiving donor milk, and it's so rewarding to know that they know the love that was in those ounces. They feel it, too. I was actually able to donate a little of my milk to a close friend whose supply hadn't come in very strong yet. That was a pretty amazing experience.”

Beyond beautiful - Leo and Demi
And, like almost every single Kindness Activist I have interviewed for this project, Demi downplayed her kind actions.  “I feel a bit sheepish receiving so much praise for doing something any mom would want to do. I did this all for my baby. Leo is the one who should be recognized for all of this. His life was so full of meaning, he changed so many lives. Especially mine.”

Thank you, Demi.  Your actions were beyond KIND.  You think “any mom” would do what you did, but it took a lot of courage and strength.  And you DID IT.  Thank you for sharing your story – and Leo’s.  May we all take a moment today to pause, be thankful, and BE KIND like you.

Little Leo
*Here is a link to the story that introduced me to Demi’s Kindness:  WOWT story about Demi

Friday, August 5, 2016

Turtle Kindness

Some people just have kind souls.  They always seem to find a need for kindness, and they fill that need.  Erin Harrison is that sort of person, and she is especially kind to ANIMALS.  So when I saw on Facebook the other day that she had RESCUED AN INJURED TURTLE (who, by the way, was barely bigger than the size of a human hand), well, she HAD to be dubbed a Kindness Activist, right??  Here’s the scoop:

This is Erin, our hero
Erin was driving to work in Laurel, MD.  She was rocking out (she seemed embarrassed to admit to me the tune on at the time might have been the Bangles “Manic Monday” – hey Erin, I love that song!!  It’s stuck in my head now that you mentioned it…).  She told me, “I saw a small motionless lump on the wide shoulder of the road. A flash of color caught my eye and I knew it was a turtle. I immediately screeched to a halt (okay, I might have kept driving for a bit trying to convince myself that he was just over there taking a little breather before moseying back into the woods - but I knew I had to whip a u-ey and check, just in case. At the very least, I could shoo him off the dangerous road, which I've done several times in the past.  Pro-tip: don't try to pick up snapping turtles, not only do they weigh a ton, they can reach you back there!) and retrieved my animal ambulance lights from the back seat (okay, maybe I just turned on my hazards).”

Aren’t you enthralled by her telling of the tale??  Aren’t you SO CURIOUS about what she will find when she turns around and returns to the scene of the FLASH OF COLOR????  I am!

Well, she got back to where she had seen the little guy (she swears she is not an expert box turtle sexer but she needed to pick a gender for this turtle so she could have a pronoun to use for the rest of her story…  Did I mention that Erin, like me, is a sign language interpreter, so pretty much by default loves WORDS??) and when she saw him, she says, “My heart just sank. He was still as a stone with his back legs hanging out (not even shrugged safely in like the rest of him) with bright, freshly pooled blood and chips of glaring white bone across his crushed rear shell. I feared he was dead, but I remembered a snippet from somewhere mentioning how turtles could take more from a vehicle impact than we assume and can often survive with treatment.  So I determined to investigate further. I touched his legs and wiggled them -no response.  I picked him up off the ground - no response. "Dead," I thought, and started to well up.”

This is where the story would end for most of us, right??  I mean, in actuality, the story would never have gotten THIS far…  We would have seen the turtle goo on the side of the road, cringed, and driven on.  Or maybe we wouldn’t have even NOTICED it and just kept singing along doing car-eoke.  But not Erin – she didn’t give up yet…

She continued, “Then I realized that I could see his little tail in there.  Since tails are generally well known as particularly sensitive anatomical structures (I certainly react when my tail is unexpectedly fussed with!), I figured why not get fresh and see what happens. Sure enough, there was a little wiggle in return for my audacity!” 

WHAT???  HE WAS ALIVE??????  Oh man!  See, the story is getting even better!!!!

LOOK!!!!  He is alive!!  Go Erin go!!!!
Erin recounted, “After that it was all adrenaline, running to the car, making phone calls, and narrowly avoiding speeding and red-light camera tickets (at least I hope I avoided them. not sure "turtle rescue" would get that waived).”

She took the turtle to an animal hospital, where she says, “The staff seemed fairly surprised that I had stopped to collect him up. (Editor’s note:  ERIN YOU ARE ONE IN A MILLION – I AM GUESSING MOST PEOPLE READING THIS WOULDN’T HAVE STOPPED, EITHER!) The animal hospital staff gave me the spiel about how bringing in any animal, even if not mine, makes treatment my financial responsibility (I was aware of that from other rescues, and had already started planning "Go Fund Me" pages in my mind…).  But I lucked out - the exotics vet I took the injured guy to has a soft spot for turtles in particular and offered to take him in!  On the turn-over forms, they had me write "Good Sam(aritan) Turtle" as his name.  J  Turns out Good Sam didn't respond when I wiggled his hind legs because they were paralyzed.  Brainstorming with the staff for a wee turtle wheelchair or a Lego cart for getting around began immediately.”

See people???  Kindness begets kindness!!!!  Out of all of the vets Maryland area, Erin happened upon one with a sweet spot for TURTLES…  Seriously, kismet!  And get this – Erin couldn’t sit around the vet all day with the turtle, she was already late for work from stopping to rescue him.  But a random woman in the waiting room (on her day off) with her dog offered to keep tabs on the turtle and text Erin updates!  See – kindness spreads like ripples, people!!

Erin and her dog Verbal
I asked Erin how she even NOTICED Good Sam(aritan) on the side of the road, and she told me, “I look at things on the side of the road. Rspecially things that might be "road kill" because, in my experience, road kill is often not actually dead and needs help.  I wish more people would look and would stop.   ESPECIALLY if you are the one that hit the poor thing.”  I don’t think any readers will be surprised to learn that this is not Erin’s first side of the road rescue…  And she says that almost all of them were done solo.  In her words, “If YOU don’t do it, no one will”.  Words to live by in life in general, and of course in animal rescue, too. 

In my Pollyana version of this story, Good Sam(aritan) gets a little Lego cart and uses it to get around his new friend Erin’s house.  The vet waives the crazy expensive bill for his treatment, and they all live happily ever after.  And in real life, while Erin OFFERED to adopt the turtle, apparently the state of Maryland won’t let people own turtles anymore so she can’t L.  But the GOOD NEWS is that in an update posted a couple day after she rescued him, Erin reported that Good Sam moved one of his back legs so he might not need a special Lego cart to get around!  And the vet will contact nature preserves and find him a good home to live in where he can teach Maryland kids about wildlife!

Let’s let Erin finish this piece up in her own words, “It really was a fantastic day of positivity and kindness - from the animal hospital staff who didn't waive me off like a loon nor stick to the letter of the law about "owning" turtles, to the vet who took Good Sam in as a personal project despite it looking like he would have a lifelong disability, to the random woman in the waiting room with her dog on her day off who offered to stick around and send me text updates as they learned more, to the folks at work who took my tardiness in stride.”

A beautiful, KIND human being

Erin, thanks for reminding us to stop and help.  I know that after hearing about your kindness, we will all be more observant and won’t just “give up” on animals on the side of the road without pulling over to check them out.  THANK YOU!


If you know of someone who is kind to animals, to people, or just KIND – please tell me about them!  I am hunting for more Kindness Activists to recognize!  Email me at kindnessactivist@gmail.com , and while you are at it, follow Kindness Activist on Twitter @KindActivist .