It is not despite its hardship, that my life has been very blessed. It’s because of it.

There have been wonderful people in my life who have reached out when I needed it most.  People who cared enough to reach with their hearts. People who have changed my life.

Most people don’t know this, but for a period of time  in my younger years,  I lived on the streets. I didn’t much care in those days whether I lived or died.  I was carrying the stain of my sister’s death on my soul.  The guilt was unbearable and was slowly suffocating me .

I never expected  that lost people, the people we call homeless, had their own tribes.  There was an unspoken understanding that, for whatever reason, there was something broken inside each of us; and we accepted each other for who we were.  A motley menagerie that tentatively became a family – a family without all the baggage.

I kept mostly to myself but was shown kindness from people who had not much more than I. A shared sandwich, a cup of coffee. It didn’t matter that I detested even the faintest smell of coffee, it was warm, and sweetened by the generosity of a kind gesture.  And sometimes when it was raining, I would be granted precious space, a corner of a floor, in an old dilapidated building. And I would abandon the bridge, under which I slept most nights, for the sanctity of 4 walls.

I was truly amazed by the generosity of people who had nothing, and still found a way to give.

I spent most of my days indoors reading at the library, losing myself in the most wonderful stories until the clock struck 5:00pm, and it was time to leave.

As if he stood on guard, I usually passed Tiny Tom on my way in and out of the library. He was a rough looking hulk of a man at  6’4, with a black beard, dark piercing eyes and a score of tattoos.  Most people were afraid of him and scampered away when he was nearby.  But he was kind to me, and he always looked out for me, never asking anything in return.  I didn’t think he was scary at all.  It’s amazing what you can see when you don’t judge.  I am sure I even saw his dark eyes soften once when he smiled at me.  And it wasn’t a sinister smile.  Maybe I reminded him of someone.  I felt safe near him. Everyone said he was dangerous, but I thought he was misunderstood.  Weren’t we all? Maybe he was both.

I do not mean to romanticize street life.  It is NOT safe out there.  I fell prey to violence on more than one occasion.  I was a perfect target, and it was rightly supposed that I was unlikely to do anything about it. I saw a lot of suffering and a lot of cruelty, but I know that my experience could have been a lot worse, but for the angels I had watching over me.

I met some extraordinary people and made some very special friendships.

People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.

These people came into my life for a reason.  The kindness that was shown to me was life changing. I am not sure without them I would have ever found my way home and back to myself.

Over the years I have encountered many wonderful souls who have lifted me, or who have inspired me when I see them reach out to lift others.

Kindness can be found in the most unexpected places.

I have met some amazing people on Twitter; people who genuinely care and who openly share their hearts.  People whose kindness and whose wonderful words of wisdom make me believe the world is a much better place than once I had thought.

I have many new friends who encourage me and who believe in me, friends who now walk with me on my journey.  For this, and so much more, I am filled with gratitude.

Kindness is so pure, so genuine, and so simple.

It’s not something you have to wait to give. You don’t need more money. You don’t need more time.

Opportunities abound throughout the day.  You just need to decide it’s worth your time.

  • Is your time worth letting someone know they matter?
  • Is your time worth sending a message that can ignite hope?
  • Is your time worth letting someone know they are not alone?
  • Is your time worth a smile?

This is the raw simple power of human connection.  Your actions send a message.  Not every message will save someone’s life.  But every message will make a difference.

For me, spreading kindness has become a daily ritual.

  • Often when I go to Tim Horton’s to get a tea, or even when I’m at a grocery store, I will occasionally pay the bill for either the person in front of me, or behind me. It never fails to astonish.

And I simply say, “Do something nice for someone else when you can.”

I am always rewarded with a smile, often with a look of skepticism, and then with what I hope is a glimmer of understanding.

  • There was a time when I sent 5 personal notes or cards in the mail every day – Thank You notes, I Appreciate You notes, Thinking of You notes. The messages are always hand-written so they know I took the time.  I don’t do this as  often as I have but it’s still an important part of my making a difference.

I also love to do things for people when they have no idea it’s me – the anonymous act of kindness.

  • I used to think it was sweet to sneak notes in people’s pockets with wonderful  messages. Unfortunately, I watch to many movies, have an over-active imagination, and do not wish to be the cause of any unfortunate break-ups, so no more of that!
  • In the winter, and I happen to LOVE winter and  LOVE shovelling snow,( shocking I know!) I like to sneak around and shovel driveways and sidewalks  for others.

My next door neighbour is an elderly gent, so one day after a rather significant accumulation of glorious snow,  I decided that I would shovel his after mine. His car was not there and I did not need him to know who had done it. I just wanted him to think that SOMEONE had been kind enough to do it. The thought of it had me beaming through the stomach crunches as I lifted each heavy shovelful.  I felt great when I was done!

Much to my dismay, he would never know that someone had done him a service.  Little did I know the snow plow he had under contract was to get the credit for my work. No wonder the plow honked at me when he drove by! Oh well, maybe I helped him make up some time.

  • During the holidays and with the help of my own elven crew, my family, we buy gifts and leave them on the doorstep for people we know need some help. We never sign the card. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about letting people know that someone cares.

During the holidays this past year, I also took my daughter downtown to Toronto for a few days, to spend some quality time. I wanted her to see how different life is down there on the streets.  I don’t think she’d ever seen a homeless person before.  We talked to them, we loaded our pockets with twoonies and spread it around to as many people as we could. We also bought extra food and gave it away.  I think it’s important that our children see how blessed they are and that not everyone is as fortunate.  I’m not sure that anything we did that day was life-changing for the people we helped, but I am hoping it was for her.

And the amazing thing is that when we give, WE get to feel AMAZING!

This video shows 5 simple acts of kindness that you can do yourself.

Do you have people who have reached out and touched your life?

What do you do to make a difference?

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44 Responses to Simple Kindness

  1. Betsy Cross says:

    Shelley,
    What beautiful thoughts and experiences you’ had, created, and shared! Thank you. Yes, I’ve had a lot of people reach out and help me out emotionally and temporally, even spiritually, when I’ve had nowhere else to turn. I remember the day I was told that we’d be homeless in a month (at the time we had 7 children) and I sank to the kitchen floor crying into the phone, listening to the person on the other end apologize. And then she put me on hold. Within minutes she had an appointment made to sit down and get us into a house. I went from night to day in minutes! 

    I’ve been blessed with a wonderful network of friends who watch out for me and my family. And they know I.m there for them, too. My home feels like Grand Central some days, but all I have to offer is friendship and a meal most days.

    You are a beautiful soul Shelley. Your story is fascinating. I’m glad you told a part of it. 

    Have a wonderful week!

    • Hi Betsy..

      wow! That’s quite an emotional roller coaster to have to experience! I’m so glad things worked out for you.

      You are so blessed with a wonderful extended family that includes friends, as well. And I love that Grand Central feeling! The house I grew up in was like that too!

      I’ve unfortunately been mostly a loner much of my life. But that too seems to be changing. I never knew that such wonderful people, people like you, were really not so far away.

      Thank you for your kindness, Betsy. YOU are a beautiful soul. You spready love and joy in so many wonderful ways. I am so glad to know you.

      Be well. xox

  2. Burl Walker says:

    Shelley! All I can say is Wow! That was such a personal post. Thank you for sharing it and encouraging all of us to take the time to do something for others. Have an awesome day! Keep up the incredible writing! 

    • Hi Burl… I appreciate your taking the time to share part of my story. I do believe it’s important to reach out to help others, even if it’s just to brighten their day. We can all make a difference, and we cannot possibly always know what a difference we’ve truly made. Thank you so much for your support and kindness.

  3. Mila Araujo says:

    Shelley, beautifully written as always. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself on line, this is a beautiful gift.  Hardships have ways of wither hardening the soul or opening it up to share and spread kindness. its so important to walk through life leaving people feeling like “they matter” – because they do…everyone does, everyone. Its a beautiful message that you share here, how to do these little somethings just to show those who may have forgotten, or maybe are having a hard day, someone cares. Thank you Shelley!

    • Thank you, Mila. I agree! Everyone does matter. And it is so simple to send that message through word and deed. It can make all the difference in the world.

      I share my stories, or parts of them, because I need to. I need to take my lessons and share them with others, because it helps me, and well, maybe it will help someone else. Maybe it will help me connect with others. In fact, I it already has.

      Thank you for your kindness and encouragement. I really appreciate you. : )

  4. This is so beautiful. I must read it again several times, before I can even meaningfully comment. 

  5. Shelley,

    Your acts of kindness are noticed and the world is a better place because of you. What you share helps us all remember to pay it foward! Thank you!

    • Thank you for your kindness, Deborah. I am always inspired by your own generosity and your soaring spirit. I KNOW you are out there making the world a better place. You touch the souls of all those you meet. Thank YOU!

  6. Shelly, you moved me… Thanks for the reminder. You are awesome for paying it forward.

    • Thank you so much, Tamara. We all need reminders. We can all make a difference. Thank YOU so much for the kindness you share. You make this world  a better place.

      •  If we all do a little part we make  whole!

      • Christy says:

        Ale sa różnice, i to poważne. Reichego nie przetrzymano na posterunku przez noc. Pozwolono mu spokojnie odejść, do czasu rozprawy w sÄ…dzie. Nikt mu nie wymyÅ›laÅ‚ grubiaÅ„sko. Nikt mu nie kazaÅ‚ pÅ‚acić grzywny – czy kaucji – od razu. A kto nosi kilka tysiÄ™cy euro przy sobie w kinetsei?Pyzanie, czy takie roznicy nie wynikaja z roznic w zachowaniu. Reiche nie sprzeciwial sie i od razu poszedl z policjantami. Reiche na miejscu placil kare krzywna. Wiec roznice w traktowaniu wynikaja z tego, ze Rokita nie zachowal sie jak czlowiek.

      • Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum

  7. Deeone Higgs says:

    What a beautifully written, and extremely touching post you have here, Shelley! Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your life with us. I was just telling a friend of mine this morning, how it seems that those who have experienced the roughest hardships in their lives, are usually the ones who exhibit the sincerest forms of compassion; and they are also usually the most genuine of people. You have exemplified that statement in this piece, and through your online presence, on many levels. It’s truly been a pleasure connecting with you.

    We, as humans, often look for the best conditions to perform a kind gesture, but rarely do the right conditions to show a kind gesture ever show up. So that’s why we must jump on them when they present themselves. I thoroughly enjoyed this read, and I also enjoyed the video you shared with it as well. I think I do pretty well showing other’s kind gestures, but this post has inspired me to step it up a bit. Thank you for that inspiration today. Cheers! 😉

    • Dear Deeone, I know firsthand what a generous soul you are. You go out of your way to encourage, support, and help others. You share so much of yourself while you do it that it inspires others to do the same. I know, because you constantly inspire me, and you have helped me find a little faith in myself.

      You’re right. We often wait for the perfect opportunity to perform a grand gesture… but that perfect opportunity is always now.

      Every time we give a piece of ourselves, we shine. And that shine reflects and others shine back. It’s really quite miraculous. As are you, my dear friend.

      Thank you for sharing.

  8. Kellit1231 says:

    Beautiful and God bless you Shelley

  9. Dmcclure says:

    Awesome. Even just a smile will work – we all have that and it’s so easily shared and you’ll never run out of them!

  10. Lance says:

    Shelley,
    What you have shared here, and what you have experienced – know that it’s reaching me and giving me new eyes as I look out into the world – and into all those who journey here.

    Life is such a wonderful gift…and when there are beautiful souls like you shining goodness and kindness into this world…it just everything so much more amazing.

    Thank you for sharing this very personal part of your life, and for being a beacon of love and light in this world…

    • Thank you for taking the time to share your kindness, Lance. We can all so easily make a real difference in this often wearying world. Your words do matter, and so do you.

  11. Shelley,

    The daily acts of kindness are an amazing foray into a life that so many of us take for granted.  We rush around with only ourselves on our minds.  I was, and often still am, one of the worse offenders.  I felt that my life was too busy, or I had more important things, or my day was far worse than yours.  We try to trump the others in our martydom.

    This new life in kindness you talk about is generating a truly God given thing:  community.  People realizing that they are important to other people.  People who are in need of someone to just care for them, even if it is only for a moment.  As you mentioned, you were often the recipient of such kindness and community.  That moment when community rises up to care for you is an indescribable emotion that just makes one want to care for someone else and continue to spread the community.

    Doug

    • Yes, it does. When you have felt someone care and you know what a difference it makes, it is easy to reach to do the same for another. A smile, a hand, an ear… so easy to give, even for a moment. Thank you for dropping by and taking the time to share. : )

  12. Farouk says:

    amazing post Shelley
    how can i contact you??

  13. Jessica says:

    I learned by watching others in my life give without expecting anything in return. I was a sick individual just wanting to become “well” , and I started to emulate their behavior. I have toned it down quite a bit, but I still give through random action. “Faith without works is dead”. Believe me, I do have some improvements to make. 

  14. Jessica says:

    By the way, I learned a great deal by reading the Prayer of St. Francis. It’s about taking the focus off self entirely.

    • I love that prayer! I am a very spiritual person and although I am not religious, the Prayer of St. Francis hangs on my wall as a daily reminder:

      Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.Where there is hatred, let me sow love;where there is injury,pardon;where there is doubt, faith;where there is despair, hope;where there is darkness, light;and where there is sadness, joy.O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seekto be consoled as to console;to be understood as to understand;to be loved as to love.For it is in giving that we receive;it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

  15. Jon M says:

    Shelley,

    Thanks for sharing your story and encouraging us all to do more acts of random kindness. Doing this is so vital in so many ways. It sparks something inside us and, more importantly, it sparks something in another.

    Human connections are what make communities blossom into meaningful, long lasting relationships. We need to make those connections, as they are the foundation for growth in all areas of life.

    Appreciate all you do, Shelley!

    Jon

  16. Shelley, this is such a beauitfully poignant, heartfelt post – from your personal story to the detailed recommendation on how we can express kindness in so many different ways. You have such a huge heart, and I’m inspired by you! Love and Hugs to you, my friend!

    • Thank you, Alice. I pour my huge heart into all that i do. We all have the power to make a difference and to inspire others. Thank you for being such an inspiration to me. Love and hugs to you too, my friend! xo

  17. Matthew says:

    wow….Shelly! God bless you…This piece is emotional and is moving…I tried as much to picture myself into the story and I wonder what life would be if I haven’t got people around me. It was so touchy that I was lost and found. This is a lesson that i need to share and to learn from. I have received so much love and I haven’t given much. I see people around me that needed helped and I haven’t done much to them. I am guilty Shelly and I pray God will forgive me and strengthen me to do more. “Act of Kindness” is one of the beautiful virtues. Both the story and the video are so educative and informative that you don’t need to wait till you amass wealth before you can show love. God bless you real God dear. This article has touched my life and I’ll strive to always at all time show kindness even if it is just a little. Thanks a million

    • Dear Matt, God bless you. I am glad this story moved you and helped you to find something within yourself. Don’t be hard on yourself, my friend. When we have an awakening, we grow. Do not worry about what you have done or not done, take today and make a difference. I assure you, you already do. You touch my life with your kindness every time I see you. Thank you for being a kind and loving soul. Share it with the world. You are blessed. xo

  18. Dede says:

    Shelly, you are an amazing person and you share your kindness and warmth with so many of us! It is greatly appreciated. I look forward to your inspirational messages and they always either make me smile or bring tears to my eyes from emotion:)

    Thanks for being a friend to us all!

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