June 26, 2018

Random acts of kindness aren’t so random in Canada…

I’ve been on my overseas visit to the Social Emotional Development and Intervention (SEDI) lab at the University of Toronto for 3 and a half months now and so far it’s been a great experience. One of the things about Toronto that has really caught my attention is the way that people interact with each other.  It seems like the average Torontonian places a lot of emphasis on friendliness, politeness and consideration for others in day-to-day interactions. Of course there are pros and cons of every city, and kindness and goodwill can be displayed in a million different ways but nevertheless, quite a few events in the realm of benevolence have stood out for me…

On my first day at the SEDI lab I was warmly welcomed and everyone took the time to introduce themselves to me. The lab manager, Justine, asked me when my birthday was so that she could add it to the lab calendar if it happened to fall during my time in Canada. I thought that this was really sweet and thoughtful. I soon realised that the lab celebrates everyone’s birthday with a cake so lately we’ve been having cake nearly every week!

I booked temporary accommodation for my first 3 weeks in Toronto and in the meantime I started looking for a more permanent room. One evening, after viewing one of these rooms (and feeling a tad disheartened as it wasn’t the room for me), I decided to take a walk around the neighbourhood. As I was walking, I saw a girl putting up posters so I stopped to take a look. Her name was Chelsea and she was an actress who was trying to promote her first cabaret night. We chatted for a bit, and then she told me that she had a spare ticket to a comedy show down the street called Shade (a monthly comedy show that represents and celebrates comedians of colour, comedians from the LGBTQ+ community, and comedians who identify as women). I agreed to go with her and had a really fun evening. We exchanged details and are still in contact with each other.

A couple of days later I went to view another room. The current housemates gave me a tour of the house and said that they would be happy for me to take the room at the beginning of the next month. They even said that I could move in straight away and stay in the spare room free of charge if I wanted to. I agreed to take the room and took them up on the offer to move in early. The next day, my new housemates picked me up, helped me with my bags and drove me to the new house. I immediately felt at home.

About a month later I got a PRESTO card, which is a transport card that you top up and tap when you use public transport. Unfortunately, I lost the card after just 2 weeks! The next day I went to the ticket booth at the station to buy travel tokens instead. When the guy in the booth found out that I had lost my card he refused to let me buy a token and said that I could take a free trip to make up for the lost card.

In April my family came to visit me. One day we took a trip to Niagara falls on the Megabus. My mum was impressed at the driver’s friendly demeanour and how he helped us lift and load our bags. She thanked him for his helpfulness and he replied saying “Kindness is in our constitution”. When we arrived in the Niagara region the driver started pointing out the landmarks and giving recommendations of what to do over the tannoy. He started the announcement with “Hello friends…”.

The day after my family left it snowed – in April! (apparently it’s the first time that it’s snowed in April for 2 decades). As I sat in my room watching the flurries through the window, I saw my neighbour opposite shovelling snow for a good 2 hours. The next day as I walked around the neighbourhood I saw that each household had done their bit to keep the pavement outside of their homes clear, making it is easier and safer for everyone to walk around the neighbourhood.

Last week on the way home, a homeless man got on to the bus. He was taking a while to find his ticket so the driver told him not to worry. The man got off a couple of stops later but left one of his bags under the seat. It seemed to be full of empty bottles and cans. A lady noticed the bag and immediately one of the girls on the bus got up, grabbed the bag and asked the driver to stop so that she could return it. As I watched I thought that it was something that not everyone would do, well compared to London that is, where the people are experts at avoiding eye contact and minding their own business in public. It also made me think that something that may look unimportant to one person, may mean a lot to someone else…

A couple of days later I was sitting on the subway and two girls got on and sat down. Soon after, they got up and moved to sit next to a young mother and her baby who was crying. The girls played with the baby for a while, throwing her in the air, tickling her and making her giggle. It was such a nice sight to see. The whole carriage was watching and smiling 😊

Experiencing these acts of kindness both personally and as a third-party observer can have a positive effect on us. They can make us feel warm, open, uplifted, a bit fuller, but not weighed down, lighter, in fact. In turn, we feel as though we want to share that feeling with others by also doing something kind for someone else. It’s sort of like kindness is a message that we want to pass on, that we should pass on… and it is easy to do.

Why not try make someone smile today.

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