a peek inside the fishbowl

18 Feb, 2012

Kindness, part 1

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Yaktivism

There are a few big things happening around here right now and we have found ourselves at a crossroads of sorts. I will be writing about it later, but right now it’s too early to be certain of anything. I just wanted to say thank you to a few individuals out there. You know who you are. xo.

What if someone told you that you had a superpower, and that this superpower gave you the ability to change people’s lives?

It’s Kindness Week here in Ottawa right now. In 2010 I wrote about a time someone unexpected was kind to my family. Last year I wrote a couple posts about smiling. This year I have two posts I want to share with you about kindness. Today I wanted to tell you about something that happened to me a couple of months ago.

True kindness is unconditional, when someone does something without expectation of receiving anything in return, not even a thank you or even a pat on the back. Kindness without strings attached is the best there is. I don’t like to blog about my own random acts of kindness because I am not very comfortable with doing so and don’t seek praise for my actions. Knowing that I did a good turn for someone is thanks enough, but I’m breaking my rule today because I think simple acts of kindness can have the biggest impact, and I hope my little story reminds people that everyone deserves a little kindness in their lives.

Kind Ottawa’s motto is “Choose to be kind.” I think this is as close to a perfect idea as it gets. Kindness is the superpower I was talking about above, and it is within every single one of us.

I believe that random acts of kindness have a butterfly effect, and for all we know the effects can be far reaching. Someone does something nice for you and it brightens your mood. You hold the door open for a flustered senior, chat with the girl pouring your coffee, give your seat to someone on the bus. In turn, your action might brighten their day too. And they – hopefully – infect others with their kindness. Who knows what ripples you make in the world when you use your superpower? Maybe it will mean that the flustered senior will make it to his doctor’s appointment on time instead of rushing through a red light and causing a car accident? (Take it from me, who not to long ago was involved in this exact same scenario. I am not even kidding.)

Besides, we never know what’s going on with other people, do we? Maybe the girl who poured your coffee is in an abusive relationship and is fighting to find a way out. Maybe the person who needed the seat on the bus just lost her spouse. Ripples.

I was second in line at the grocery store, waiting behind an older lady.  I couldn’t help but overhear what was transpiring in front of me. The lady did not have enough money to pay for her groceries. There weren’t even a lot of groceries on the counter in front of her – it was groceries for one – the types of things you’d buy if you dined alone.

The three of us stood there in our own silent bubble, staring down at the groceries in question. The cashier didn’t say anything. The lady looked down at the twenty in her hand and back at the groceries, calculating what she could take away from the small pile.

“I guess I won’t take the strawberries,” she said.

The cashier wordlessly picked up the package, passed it back over the scanner, and laid it down on the counter beside her. The new total was within the twenty. The rest of the exchange was unremarkable. The lady gave her the twenty, the cashier gave back some change, a receipt, and wished her a good day. And then it was my turn.

“Can you quickly ring those in for me,” I said, nodding at the strawberries. The cashier looked puzzled. I wonder if she just thought I had a sudden hankering for strawberries. I motioned to the lady, who was still packing her groceries. Signal understood. The cashier passed them back over the scanner and turned to give them to the lady.

“Here,” said the cashier. “Your strawberries.”

The lady looked puzzled. “But…”

The cashier turned back in my direction. “She paid for them.”

The lady and I stared at one another for a tiny second.

“No one should go without strawberries,” I said.

She grasped the package in her hand, thanked me, and left.

The cashier gaped. “That’s the nicest thing I’ve ever seen,” she said.

Hearing that made me a little sad, and it still tugs at me a little. If that was the nicest thing she’s ever seen, what kind of world are we living in?

18 Responses to "Kindness, part 1"

1 | Stacey K

February 18th, 2012 at 10:34 am


We live in a cynical world… I did the same thing once, bought a coffee for an older man in front of me who only had enough money for one coffee.

The cashier tried to talk me out of it. So sad.

2 | Pam @writewrds

February 18th, 2012 at 1:10 pm


I love this. We need a world and a collective mindset that’s all about sharing the strawberries.

3 | Alison p-h

February 18th, 2012 at 1:50 pm


Your post was very moving. A great reminder that kindness does not have to be big acts. I think I will adopt a mantra of ” no one should go without strawberries” to help foster a more giving spirit. Thanks for sharing.

4 | Kat

February 18th, 2012 at 2:01 pm


I love this story.
Perhaps we could begin each day thinking ‘what random acts of kindness can I commit today, without expectations of reciprocity or recognition.’ Our communities would be nicer and more serene.

5 | Krista R

February 18th, 2012 at 3:36 pm


“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”.

Simple acts of kindness really can be far reaching. Well done with the strawberries ~ that is a sweet story.

6 | Cindy W

February 18th, 2012 at 7:03 pm


I know it’s not only that I’m 38 weeks pregnant that has me weeping at this post. What a wonderful gesture. Thank you for the reminder that it’s the simple things that can really make a difference.

7 | Carly

February 18th, 2012 at 7:46 pm


It is sad that we don’t do things like that often enough. So glad you stepped in, took a risk (for often being kind is or can seem like a type of risk-taking) and helped out your “neighbour”. I’ve always enjoyed paying for the person behind me in the drive thru whenever I have the extra money. And at home, we talk a lot about how to be kind to one another. It’s so important!

8 | Giulia

February 18th, 2012 at 8:43 pm


Great post! I asked a homeless man that was rumagging through garbage this week in front of Starbucks if he wanted a coffee, he said yes, we went in, i had my money to pay for his Grande and the Starbucks Barista said …that’s fine, it’ on the house.
I also see another man nearly every day at the same red light, I pack an extra apple or banana which I give him on the days I see him. Little, but he smiles and seems pleased.

9 | Mara

February 18th, 2012 at 8:51 pm


Im glad you decided to share this time. You’re right-it’s sad that that’s the nicest thing the cashier ever saw, but I have to say its up there. Not just the actual act, but the quietness of it.

10 | SoberJulie

February 19th, 2012 at 9:53 am


It’s always shocking to me when people are unkind….a shame that when we see genuine independant kindness we’re surprised.

Thank you for sharing this week that Ottawa has…I’m going to look into having our town adopt it!

11 | Judy

February 19th, 2012 at 10:19 am


I think the smallest, simplest acts of kindness are the best.

Hopefully, you are getting some kindness back to you this week!

12 | LO

February 19th, 2012 at 10:45 am


Your post brought tearS! Don’t do that without warning:) It brought tears as it was touching-your act of kindness but also sad that it was the nicest thing she had seen…..Sometimes I get caught up in the issues of everyday life and thoughtless and rude people ….and then I put myself in check so that I don’t become one:) and try to do nice things for others-little things R big!

13 | Derek

February 19th, 2012 at 12:48 pm


It’s a great initiative the city is taking. There is no doubt that even a little kindness goes a long way. Time spent helping someone out is time always well spent.

14 | Capital Mom

February 19th, 2012 at 7:32 pm


Lovely Andrea.

I sometimes feel like I am not kind enough to other people. But I spend the whole day being kind to my kids. Often I don’t have a lot left. And whatever I have I try to use to be kind to myself.

15 | Kathleen

February 20th, 2012 at 10:04 am


Lovely. I believe in ripples too. Sending kind thoughts to you and your family, Andrea.

16 | Candace

February 20th, 2012 at 8:53 pm


You are part of the reason Ottawa is such a lovely (and kind) place to live.

18 | Kindness, part two >> a peek inside the fishbowl

February 23rd, 2012 at 10:47 am


[…] Part one is here. Thank you for your feedback! […]

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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