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Make It A Family Tradition To Help Other Families

I’ve always been a Christmas guy. Meaning, I’ve always been part of a family that put much stock in Christmas. I’ve also always been part of a family lucky enough to fill our table with a full Christmas dinner, a Christmas tree with overflowing presents underneath it and plenty of love to spread around. Since having kids, we’ve had the opportunity to continue those traditions.

In Ottawa there are many people celebrating whatever holiday it is they celebrate and many of those families have plenty of the love to go around but maybe not enough of the rest. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was our kids who pointed out to us that not only is that not right, but that it isn’t right for us to do nothing about it.

So this holiday season, I encourage everyone to do something to make another family’s holiday season a bit more comfortable. It doesn’t have to be anything monetary, it could be as simple as holding open a door for someone carrying gifts through a door. Trust me, being someone who goes through periods of up and down emotional stages, something as simple as a smile can change a person’s day.

If you would like to make a financial contribution, there are plenty of organizations out there to help local families celebrate with their loved ones. Many of these organizations are smaller ones that rely on the generous donations of families who can and would be thrilled to have your help.

My personal suggestion is to make this part of your own family tradition–start teaching your children from young age that it’s everyone’s responsibility to take care of everyone else. Let them help you hold the door, let them put some change in a collection jar or let them put a non-perishable food item in a collection bin. I promise you’ll all feel better and a family you might even know will be able to put something on their table this holiday season.

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This story is courtesy of Mike Reynolds from the blog Puzzling Posts. If you have a story you would like to share with us, please head over to the Submit a Story page.

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A Little Help At The Cash

I was at Thrifty Foods this afternoon, and the little old couple in front of me were holding up the line because their debit and visa cards kept declining. They were getting frustrated, as were most of the other people in line. They tried absolutely everything including a gift card that the lady pulled out of Christmas card that she had received however it was for a different grocery store.

Finally she pulled the last of the cash she had out of her wallet, $25 and paid down half the bill, trying all her and her husbands cards again to no avail. I could see the frustration and embarrassment as they kept apologizing to everyone in line for the inconvenience.

As she started to take groceries out of her bags so she could afford the bill I took $25 out of my wallet and paid for the remainder of their bill. They were amazingly grateful and it felt amazing! Thank you to WestJet for the inspiration from yesterday!

I refused to give them my name or phone number even though they pleaded for it, but instead told them that when they were in the position, to Pay It Forward to someone else.

I share this not for your praise, but to inspire you to do the same, in whatever way that you want, or can. Make the difference in someones day. Be the Change you wish to see in the world! Starts with you, baby!

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Today’s story is from Sarah at More Than Your Average Mom. If you have a story you would like to share with us, please head over to the Submit a Story page.

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A Few Kind Words

It was a scene that I know is familiar to many moms out there…

Location: grocery store
#of children under the age of 5yrs: 3
Amount of whining/tantruming:  too much

As I left the grocery store with my 3 children in tow, each one of them audibly unhappy with some aspect of the outing. I myself was very unhappy with their collective behaviour and had noticed each and every look of irritation from the other customers. I felt like an absolute failure of a mom. You know that feeling when you realize just how tired you are and you can’t possibly do this for another 18 years? That’s how I felt when a lovely woman (angel really) smiled over at me from the next car and said, “It’s not easy is it?” That’s all she said. But it was enough. Enough to give me hope that I wasn’t the only one who felt overwhelmed and tired and not good enough. I’m sure that woman had no idea how much her words and kind smile meant to me at that moment but I will never forget that small act of kindness. And I will never hesitate to say those same words, to reach out and connect just for a second, to a frazzled looking mom.

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If you have a story you would like to share with us, please head over to the Submit a Story page.

Caring Sharing Exchange

The Caring & Sharing Exchange – Sponsor-a-Hamper Program

The Caring and Sharing Exchange has introduced a new initiative as part of their nearly century old Christmas Exchange Program. Starting this holiday season, members of the Ottawa community can now deliver Christmas directly to local individuals and families in need through the new sponsor-a-hamper program. Sponsors are able to purchase supplies for a hamper, pack it themselves, and deliver it directly to a family in need.

“We are very excited about the addition of this program,” said Cindy Smith, Executive Director of the Caring and Sharing Exchange. “This is a very tangible and personal way for people to give back to the community during the holiday season and with the Exchange’s unique Co-ordination Service all donors can rest assured that there is no duplication of service.”

The Caring and Sharing Exchange provides Christmas assistance to individuals and families in the form of a food hamper or redeemable gift voucher. Last year, the organization’s Christmas Exchange program received requests for assistance from close to 25,000 individuals. Unfortunately, despite the generosity of the Ottawa community, they were able to provide assistance to less than half of this number, leaving thousands without.

“We hope that by offering our supporters another way to give, we will be able to assist more people this year,” said Smith. “This is a way of giving back that allows for a family, business, team or group to get involved and to be assured that 100% of their support goes right into direct assistance.”

Because this organization receives such a large number of requests each year, it allows the sponsor-a-hamper program to offer donors the option of choosing the size of family they would like to make a hamper for. This ranges from an individual or two person household to families of 6 or more. It also allows for the option of making a hamper for seniors.

“Last year, more than ten percent of those we assisted were seniors,” said Smith. “We feel that giving donors the option of choosing to support a senior or seniors in need will be one of the things that make our hamper program unique.”

If you would like to register to sponsor a hamper (or hampers!) this holiday season, please fill out an online registration form available on the Caring and Sharing Exchange’s website at www.CaringandSharing.ca, or e-mail hamper@caringandsharing.ca for more information. You can also make a monetary donation online in order to help this charity provide direct food assistance.

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Serenity’s Kindness Kookies

I don’t think there are many people who have not been moved by the devastation of the typhoon in the Philippines, but one little girl in Kanata was inspired to take action.  This is the story of Serenity’s Kindness Kookies.

One Sunday morning before church, while dining in a restaurant with her parents, Serenity caught sight of news footage out of the Philippines.  She was full of questions and wanted to know why the people were so sad and what was happening.  Her parents explained that there had been a big storm and many people had lost their homes and needed help.

When they returned home from church, Sera ran up to her room where her mother found her packing up her toys and books.  When her mother asked her what she was doing, she said that she wanted to send them to the children she had seen on TV.  She had determined that since they lost their houses, they would not have toys to play with and she would be happy to share hers.  Deeply touched, Sera’s mom, Samantha, then explained that while this was such a kind gesture, there was no way to get the items to the children and what they really needed was money to buy food and build houses.  It was then decided that when payday came around, money would be sent to the Red Cross to help the people in the Philippines.   Seemingly satisfied with this, Sera settled down for a nap.

Later that day, Sera went running to her mom with both fists full of pennies from her piggy bank and asked that it be sent to buy them new houses.  She figured she had enough in those little hands of hers to buy some.  Mom explained that while that was very generous, and the money would be sent, that it takes a LOT of money to build houses.  It was then that Sera decided that she should bake cookies to send to make them feel better.  Again, the logistics of sending cookies were lost on her and so mom agreed that cookies would be baked but they would sell them and send the proceeds.  Serenity insisted that treats from her trick-or-treat bag be used and so a big batch of Smartie cookies were made.

A post on mom’s Facebook page explained to friends and daycare clients that cookies would be sold with donations going to the Red Cross. Sera set up a little table by the front door and decorated it with her play silks. A logo “Serenity’s Kindness Kookies” was created and she set to work wrapping the cookies in plastic wrap and taping on the logos.  (Mom tells me that two rolls of scotch tape were used on that batch!).  Friends and family stopped by that day to visit her cookie store and she eagerly stood behind her table in the front waiting for more “customers”. Former daycare kids brought pocketful’s of change to buy cookies and all of their Smarties from their trick-or-treat bags to contribute and make more cookies. Another 4 batches of cookies later and the next day, Serenity went with her father to work were she raised $200.00 and had requests for more cookies!

The response has been overwhelming.  Friends, colleagues and even some strangers contributed.  In the end she raised $600.00 and her father’s workplace matched donations bringing the total to $1200.00.  With the Government of Canada matching all donations – this sweet girl has raised $2400.00 through her kindness.

“Serenity’s Kindness Kookies” – Kindness Indeed!!

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If you have a story you would like to share with us, please head over to the Submit a Story page.

Burpee Dad

Thoughtful Big Sister

This is a pretty small story from a proud papa of a kind, thoughtful gesture from a little girl to her little brother. It didn’t move mountains or change the world but it did show me how pure and kind a child’s heart can be.

When my 4 year old daughter was younger, long before her brother was born, she was enamored with the Toy Story movies. So much so, Santa brought her Buzz and Woody toys one Christmas. The part she was most excited about was writing her own name on the bottom of their feet like Andy did in the movies. I happily obliged, grabbing a sharpie and writing her name across the bottom of one foot on both toys. Over time she moved on to other toys and other movies and much like in the movie, Buzz and Woody were somewhat overlooked for a period.

When her brother first saw the Toy Story movies, it was love at first sight. If possible, he was even more fixated on them than she had been. He held those Buzz and Woody toys so tightly in his little hands I thought they would snap in half. He never wanted to let them go. While the concept of sharing her toys was new to her and they were still working on reaching peaceful agreements in this area, she never got mad at him for using her toys for the most part. I could tell she was a little more hesitant to part with Buzz and Woody even though she didn’t really play with them anymore. I caught them wrestling over them a few times but she’d usually let him win.

One day as we were getting ready to leave the house she came walking around the corner with Buzz and Woody in her hands and an odd look on her face. “Dad, I have something really important to tell you.” she said and came right up to me. Assuming she was going to tell me she wanted them back, I leaned down preparing my arguments. “Can you get a marker?” “I think we should write Mason’s name on Buzz and Woody’s other foot because he loves them so much.” Boom. Floored. Fighting back the unexpected welling up in my eyes, I hugged her tight and told her that was the nicest thing I’d ever heard anybody ever say. And I meant every word.

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Today’s story is from Rob from Burpee Dad. If you have a story you would like to share with us, please head over to the Submit a Story page.

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Very Lucky

This story is about kindness that we received.  It was the first year of the iPad craze and I received one for Christmas.  We left on a holiday south and the iPad of course came with us.  On our trip back we had to make a connecting flight but with a couple of hours to spare, we pulled out that Christmas gift in the airport and surfed the internet to kill some time.  Needless to say the iPad got placed on the seat next to my husband and we walked away, leaving it sitting there.

Neither one of us thought about that iPad because we each thought the other one had it.  On the way home in the taxi after landing we realized that we no longer had my Christmas gift and I was devastated. We arrived home and our answering machine was flashing and there was a message from Jet Blue that my iPad had been turned in and to contact them so they could send to our home.  I was so blown away that someone found it and turned in…renewed my faith in people.

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Today’s story is from Kathy. If you have a story you would like to share with us, please head over to the Submit a Story page.

Gifts of Hope

Plan Canada’s Gifts of Hope

Plan Canada is a global movement for change, mobilizing millions of people around the world to support social justice for children in developing countries. They are asking that you consider a gift from their “Gifts of Hope“. A Gift of Hope from Plan Canada can be an excellent way to engage children at a young age. It presents a unique opportunity for them to learn, talk about and support important global issues.

Gifts of Hope support real projects that change lives in developing countries. Clean drinking water keeps families healthy; fruit trees grow into a valuable food and income source, and provide respite from the burning sun; a food basket provides cooking staples like beans and fortified cereal that can help stave off malnutrition. The addition of the Typhoon Haiyan relief gift is especially impactful as it will help get the necessities of food, clean drinking water, medical supplies, and shelter to children and families in the Philippines. Any of these life-changing gifts would be ideal for teachers, coworkers and even party hosts.

 

 image001 New! Typhoon Haiyan relief: $95
Typhoon Haiyan, possibly the worst storm on record, destroyed entire communities and shattered millions of lives when it struck the Philippines. The storm swept away homes, schools, crops … and lives. But with this gift, you can help children and families recover and rebuild. Plan has worked in the Philippines for more than 50 years and has extensive experience responding to natural disasters and other crises, deploying teams of technical experts to support the immediate delivery of clean drinking water, food, medical supplies, shelter and educational resources.
 image002 New! The Quinoa Project: $35
This superfood is a super gift for almost 15,000 families in developing countries, where poor nutrition and health run rampant. This gift of a family garden includes everything necessary for growing that garden: quinoa seeds and other grain crops; training for growing and harvesting the crops; and the know-how to turn those crops into nutritious meals with cooking classes and recipe books. With this gift, you can help families become healthy and strong for life.Gift-giving idea: If you have a gardening enthusiast in your life, this gift can be wrapped with packages of heirloom seeds for next year’s gardening season.

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New! Fruit Tree: $12 each or 10 for $120
When you give this gift, your efforts will bear fruit in many forms. Planted around homes, fruit trees provide shade from the unrelenting sun and give families nutritious food to eat, helping them stay strong and healthy. Help families in more developing countries reap the harvest of this gift.Gift-giving idea: A perfect gift to give with jars of delicious homemade fruit preserves.

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New! Girls’ take-home rations: $25
Give the gift of food and the gift of education! Many girls in developing countries are often kept at home and out of school because of existing gender roles and stereotypes. With this gift, each month that a young girl regularly attends school, she will receive essential food items such as cooking oil or grains to take home to her family. Feed families, feed young minds, and be part of changing communities, one educated girl at a time.Gift-giving idea: For a daughter, niece or granddaughter, this gift given along with a contribution to an education fund (RESP) emphasizes the importance of an education.

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New! Food Basket: $50
Filled with staples like sugar, peas, beans, and cooking oil, it’s a basic food basket with an impact that is anything but. This gift of food for thousands of pregnant women, mothers and young children under five who are malnourished is ultimately the gift of life, especially in countries like Sierra Leone, where maternal and child mortality rates are among the highest in the world. Along with the food, nutritional training is given as well to help them stay healthy and strong. Basket by basket, you’ll be saving lives.Gift-giving idea: Perfect for home cooks and foodies, give this life-saving gift with a basket of gourmet food items.
 image006 New! School Essentials: $17 for one child, $250 for a class
Fill schools in developing countries with all the essentials to give students the best possible education and the best possible start to a better life. With this gift, you’ll not only be helping provide basics such as textbooks and pencils, you’ll be funding essential school lunch programs and teacher training. This gift will also help children receive education in emergency situations, support programs to reduce school violence and work on improving school hygiene. All of which will help make schools into productive, safe, inspiring spaces where children can get the education they need to make their own choices about the future.Gift-giving idea: A perfect gift for teachers, can be given with a gift certificate from their favourite book store or coffee shop.
 image007  Goat: $75 or $775 for a herd of goats
It just might be the most unique gift you’ll give this year. Goats may make us chuckle with their antics, but the impact they have on a family’s health and income is profound. They provide milk and essential protein for growing children, and the sale of offspring means an income to pay for housing, health, food and schooling. We’re m-a-a-a-d about this gift!Gift-giving idea: A great way to teach children about charity and the developing world, give this gift with a small stuffed goat. Or for an adult, goat’s milk bath products pair well with the spirit of this gift.

This year, give back with Plan Canada’s Gifts of Hope, which can easily be purchased over the phone at 1-800-387-1418 or online at plancanada.ca/gifts.  Recipients will receive an electronic or hard copy greeting card letting them know about their personal gift and a tax receipt is issued to the giver.

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The Kindness of a Stranger

At 11:15 Monday night, I was trying unsuccessfully to dislodge my car from an unplowed side street. You know – the famous rock the car back and forth to get on top of the snow and then out, to freedom.

Unfortunately, those pesky hidden ice patches were hampering my efforts.

And then, this man appeared, descended the steps from one of those classic Montreal multilevel dwellings, with metal contraptions you put under wheels to provide traction.

He wasn’t wearing any gloves, just a big helpful smile. A few minutes went by as I followed his instructions: “Now turn her slow and ease gently on the gas, good, good. Now hold your foot on the brake.” He ran around the car repositioning his metal gadgets, gripping the side of the open window and told me to give it some gas. The car went back and forth until I was out.

I had nothing to offer him but some mint leaves that he declined, saying it was his pleasure.

That’s Montreal.

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Today’s story is from Deirdre. If you have a story you would like to share with us, please head over to the Submit a Story page.

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Raising a Compassionate Child

One of my proudest parenting moments was when the Grade 1 teacher described my daughter’s compassionate behaviour when a classmate wet herself. While the other children stood around in horror, Clare had taken the disgraced child by the hand with a, “That happens to me too” (not the case) and led her to the washroom.

I’d like to claim that my five year old’s act of compassion was the result of the remarkable examples set by her mother but unfortunately I was often too stressed with kids and work to let my inner compassion shine through. It’s tough to consider others when wet laundry is rotting in the machine and your work pants are held together with tape. However, here are simple things to do in daily life with your child, and who knows where they may lead.

It’s NOT about money or even time
Donations, fundraisers and volunteering are important contributions to model to children once there is more time (and money) but you can sow important seeds of compassion without leaving home or giving money. What you do want to model is a compassionate attitude.

It IS about judgements
Try not to judge other people’s behaviour in front of your child. Maybe the mom that pushed by you wasn’t intentionally rude, maybe her rent cheque just bounced and her son needs glasses. If you do find yourself issuing judgements, discuss it later, “Remember how mommy complained about the smelly man on the bus? What I should have realized is that he probably doesn’t have a home.”

You never know what someone else is going through
It’s infuriating when Sophia comes to daycare yet again with lice. Can’t the mom get it under control? In this situation, it’s easy for a mom to criticize the negligent parent. Alternatively you could say, “I’m sure Sophia’s mom doesn’t want her to have lice, she must be ill or have bad things happening.”

Be sensitive to the less fortunate
When your child hosts a birthday party, makes the team or talks vacation at show ‘n tell, encourage him to be sensitive to the children who don’t have those benefits. “You know how you’d feel if Ethan got a cell phone? Well that maybe how some kids feel when they see your new bike.”

Practice regular random acts of kindness
You probably don’t have the money to buy coffee for the homeless or energy to garden for your neighbours, but next time there is a woman with a screaming baby behind you at the cash, encourage her to move ahead of you. Your child may express surprise and there’s your chance to explain the mother needed to get home more urgently than the two of you.

Talk about mental illness
Many children are confused by people who beg for money and frightened by those who create disruptions in public. When you teach your child to behave politely and with caution around these people, it’s also an opportunity to explain that mental illness can make people act in confusing ways. Greater knowledge is linked to more sympathetic attitudes. Stigma tends to emerge when children don’t understand mental health behaviour and have no other language to describe it. If your child can say “He has an illness that makes him do that” the world will be a better place.

Sow the seeds
My little Clare was a wise old soul in many ways but for years she freaked when she spied the developmentally disabled woman collecting carts at our supermarket. Despite coaxing from me, she couldn’t let go of that fear. However, now at university, she takes a similarly challenged woman for a weekly gym workout.

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Today’s story is from Lydia at TogetherMoms.ca. If you have a story you would like to share with us, please head over to the Submit a Story page.