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December 31, 2013

Rose Simpson: Rewind and be kind (a different kind of New Year's resolution)

Rose Simpson's column appears every Tuesday morning on the OttawaStart Blog. She also blogs at Rose's Cantina.



Our old Subaru died three weeks ago. It was 13.
May it rest in peace. Alternatively, may some talented mechanic get it up and running after buying it at auction.
I'm sure a car dealership would have taken our old Sube in on trade. We could have gotten maybe 500 bucks for it.
Instead, we donated it to the Ottawa Humane Society. Hopefully it will give some family the wheels to get them out in the real world, and it will provide a little slice of funding for an organization that does great things for animals in this community.
This is our form of charitable giving. 

We don't buy lottery tickets in hopes of winning an over-the-top luxury mansion. We don't go to balls or lavish dinners. And neither of us has the knees to support a run for charity. Anyway, we don't have any friends to shake down for pledges.
What we try to do is simple. We try to commit everyday to a random act of kindness, and take small measures to make someone or something's life -- a dog, a cat, a person -- a little better.
Scott hates the term "pay it forward" but I like it.
It resonates with me. It denotes performing some action in a positive manner.
Perhaps more importantly, it means acknowledging that there is something in your own life to be grateful for. Good health. A family that loves you. A big stupid dog with a wet nose.

Paying it forward can be as simple as taking your points from the grocery store and buying someone else's groceries or small, like spotting a stranger a loonie for the parking meter or giving somebody a lift or a boost of their car.
We try to find things to do that surprise people a little, to get them thinking "wow, they didn't have to do that!"
Instead of renting our extra parking spot to somebody on the street during the winter, we give it to our neighbors while other people call bylaw on them for parking on the street. When we first moved here, they were suspicious. People can be like that in the city. But we're small town. The way we look at it, we are just being neighborly.

This month, Scott bought a Presto! pass for the bus because our car died and we didn't think we could get a car loan to replace it. Turns out, we did manage to convince a bank to lend us the cash, so Scott gave his fully paid bus pass to Kelly at our local Loblaw who, in turn, gave it to her cash strapped neighbor who got to ride the bus for free for two weeks. It was just a small thing to us, but it was a big deal to him especially over the Christmas season.

Just this week, my friend Doris called to ask me to pick up my Christmas present because her own car died. I did so, but as I was leaving her apartment, I realized that I hadn't asked her if she needed running around while she got her car fixed. She's not the type to ask.
Turns out, she needed milk and eggs, so we spent the afternoon tooling around the neighborhood and she bought me coffee afterwards. Her husband has been very sick over the past year and she has become withdrawn. My little act of kindness did two things. It got her groceries and it allowed us to spend the day together talking about some of her many challenges.
I agreed to come over and help her take down her Christmas tree, something she hasn't done in five years. While I'm there, I'll help her get rid of her bird cage which has been without a bird for three years.

Sometimes we're too busy with our own difficulties to feel the pain of others, and to think about them as we go about our daily lives.
Sometimes, we just need to look up and look around.
To switch up an old video store saying: rewind and be kind.

-- Rose Simpson


See also: Ottawa Community Guide
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