“Homeless, please help.”

Let me tell you a story that I hope will make you smile and inspire you to do the same.  It’s a random-act-of-kindness story, and I haven’t stopped thinking about how it all played out, more than three weeks ago…..

My family and I had been out running errands on foot, while getting in a nice long dog walk and chilly fresh air on a Saturday afternoon.  We had mailed some Christmas packages, stopped at a bakery for a treat, and zipped into the pet store for some dog supplies.  As we walked past our local grocery store, we noticed a man perched on his knees, bundled in blankets, holding a cardboard sign that read “Homeless, please help.”  A dirty, worn coffee cup sat in front of him, revealing a small amount of change, and a plastic shopping bag sat behind him, well-worn and stuffed with belongings.

When we spotted him, my kids asked for money to give, and walked over to place it into his cup.  We walked on, and talked about his situation further.  The day was cold, but the plaza was busy, and we stood further down the sidewalk and watched as dozens of people walked past without a glance.

It broke our collective hearts.

“I’m going to get him a gift card at Tim Horton’s,” my husband said, and he and my daughter headed down the street.  My son and I went into the dollar store to see what we could find.  We found warm socks and hand warmers, and bought lots of them.  We assembled our care package of sorts, and walked back towards the shivering figure.  My husband knelt down and offered him the bag full of items, “I hope this will help you to keep warm,” he said.  The man smiled, and reached a cold glove out of his blanket pile to shake my husband’s hand.

The four of us walked away in silence, and I began to cry.  I looked to my husband, who also had a tear in his eye, and to my children, who always cry when I cry.  We were quite the sight, the four of us crying and walking, the dog trailing close behind.

I was crying about the handshake.

I was crying about the fact that he just wanted someone to see him for what he was; someone down on their luck who needed a helping hand.  I was crying about the pride he would’ve had to swallow to ask for money in the first place.  I was crying about the people who walked by, not even acknowledging his presence.  I was crying about the generosity of my children.  I was crying about this tough lesson taught.  I was crying for him.

That day opened up the floodgates for our Christmas giving;  it has inspired us to give more than ever before, and we’ve found some wonderful local organizations to put our dollars behind.  We made a difference in that man’s life, if only for that one day, and it proved to us that random-acts-of-kindness help those on both sides of the transaction.

Give.  Spread the word.  Repeat.

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Saving/Spending/Charity

I need to throw in a plug for the remarkable people that my children are becoming.  Every once in a while, I turn up the sap on this blog and make some of you cry on the GO train.  Today might be one of those days.

Let’s start with a little back-story…..

Since my children were very small, we’ve piggy-backed an idea from my sister-in-law in regards to their money and finances.  We use a three-jar system; one jar for “savings,” one jar for “spending,” and one jar for “charity.”  Any money that comes into my kid’s hands, everything from birthdays or shovelling neighbour’s snow or the quarters that Grandma and Grandpa hide around the house when they come for a visit, gets divided into three equal parts and put into their jars.

The “savings” jar gets taken into the bank a couple of times per year and they see their bank balance grow.  The “spending” jar can be used for whatever their hearts desire, from Beyblades to Pokemon, video-games to candy.  And although I encourage them to think long term and “save up” for a special purchase, they are young enough that the spending jar rarely gets above $15.  The third jar, arguably the most important, is the “charity” jar.  They know that this is the jar that we use to help others, and it’s another tool that we, as parents, are utilizing to try to grow our children into compassionate, caring adults.  This weekend showed me that it’s working.

We were watching the news coverage of Hurricane Florence.  I have a close friend who lives in North Carolina, so Florence has been at the top of my mind for awhile now.  As we watched, I was texting with my friend, and was relieved to hear that she was safe and relatively unaffected.  My kids sat there watching the devastation on TV, whispering to each other on the couch before heading upstairs conspiratorially.  They came down with their charity jars in hand: “Mom, we want to give our charity money to the people affected by the Hurricane,” they said.

In years past, we’ve donated to whatever cause is closest to our hearts.  My husband and I have a “charity jar” too, and a few times a year, depending on the circumstances of our world, we give it out accordingly, usually pooling the kid’s charity money in with ours.  We’ve given to friends fallen on hard times, needy families at Christmas, natural disasters, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Food Bank, and most recently, to the Humboldt Broncos tragedy.  We always talk about this giving with our kids, putting our money where our mouths are, and my son has taken to asking if we can bring our “charity” money whenever we go to BlueJays games so that he can pass it out to those in need along the PATH system.  So when they came downstairs with their jars, my heart swelled with pride; $86 is headed down to the Hurricane Florence rescue efforts, but there’s been far more than $86 worth of lessons learned.

Good job, my babies.

Be kind.  Always.

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What Cancer Cannot Do

The world lost a fighter on Sunday.

That fighter’s name was Jen Young, or JY, as she’s known.  She was a member of Crossfit Altitude, the gym I’ve been a part of for more than five years; if you know anything about CrossFit, you’ll know that we’re a tight-knit bunch.  And while JY and I weren’t close friends, I have certainly admired the battle she’s waged over the past year and a half.  In her case, the cancer began as cervical cancer and metastasized to her liver.  She was 31 years old.

I’ve written about her a couple of times here and there, but now I’m going to share her education and advice, in her own remarkable, touching, transparently honest words, courtesy of her blog ‘From Potato to Paleo.’

How she was initially diagnosed:

“One of the first things people seem to ask me is how I found out. Since cervical cancer is one of the most preventable and can often be detected earlier than most, I don’t mind sharing. In May I went for my regular annual physical, and the doctor did not see anything abnormal. I did not get a pap at this time, because paps are only every 3 years now and I had had a normal one the year before. In principle, I am very much against this change in policy, but my particular cancer tends not to show up in paps in the pre-cancerous “abnormal cell” stage like many others do, so it likely would not have made a difference in my case. In June/July I noticed bleeding outside of my cycle that seemed different. I went to the doctor again in August and asked for a pap and exam. She could see the tumor, and sent me to the gynocologist right away for a biopsy. The gynocologist took one, but was convinced it was just a fibroid given its rapid appearance; most cervical cancers grow much more slowly than my mutant variety (aren’t I just the overachiever). Obviously she was incorrect, although I’m not in the least bit upset with her. I would rather have spent that week believing it was no big deal than all stressed about it waiting for results.”

Her take on fear and inspiration:

“I’m not inspiring. I’m just terrified, and too proud to show it…. That said, you needn’t feel bad every time you talk to me about some aspect of life, yours or mine, that is not cancer related. Just because you didn’t feel terrified at any point today doesn’t mean that you don’t have problems. Having cancer didn’t make me suddenly immune to “ordinary” problems. I still get unreasonably angry at old people in parking lots and irritable with poor customer service. Problems are relative in the life experience, and I am not judging yours.”

Her advice:

“1.  Smile more”.

“1b.  Do things that make other people smile”.

“2.  Pay attention”.

“3.  Trust the universe”.

lts-logoJY also co-founded the Love the Snatch Foundation while fighting her courageous battle.  LtS goals include fundraising, cervical cancer awareness, open conversation, and promoting/supporting wellness through health and fitness.  If you’re inclined and able, please consider donating here.

Lastly, have a read of this image that’s been floating around the internet.  “It cannot conquer the spirit“.

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RIP JY.