At 33, I found myself filled with anger, sadness and fear. I knew I needed a change. So, when I turned 34 last month, resolving made a commitment to embrace love, peace, and purpose. I learned how to enhance personal well-being through acts of kindness.
Well-being and kindness
On my birthday, February 14th, I bought a 100 rose and heart-shaped chocolates and I walked around Toronto giving them to homeless folks. I wanted to share joy and hoped to bring a smile to their faces for a few seconds. I hoped to spread positive energy. But what I ended up receiving was so much unexpected love. And I learned so much about myself and my community through the experience, too.
I gave one rose to a man who was curled up with his dog, sitting at a street intersection. I knelt, smiled and wished him a happy Valentine’s day.
He seemed confused as he asked me why I was giving him the rose. I looked at him with a wide smile and said “Because it’s Valentine’s day, and my birthday, and I need a bit more love and happiness in this world. So, I’m trying to spread the love with these roses.”
After a moment, deep concentration replaced his look of confusion. He replied “Well you can’t give me a chocolate. The guy has to give the girl a rose.”
I looked down, lost in my memories for a brief moment. Since I was a little girl, I’ve hoped that one day a guy would give me a rose. After over 20 years of waiting and hoping, I gave up on that dream. I considered sharing my dream with him, but felt it was too cheesy and childish to tell to a stranger.
I looked up and saw him frantically searching through his bag. A few seconds later, he pulled out a purple rose. He held it out to me with a shining smile, and said “Here you go! This is for you!”
My face flushed, and my hands began to shake. For 20 years I had been waiting for a man to give me a rose and my dream was coming true!
I told him he didn’t need to give me anything in return. But, he insisted. He said, “I don’t know any girls to give this to. And, the stem is gone, so I can’t even attach it to my dog. He would probably just eat it. The guy has to give the girl a rose.”
My voice cracked as I looked at him and asked if he was sure. He told me he was sure. I took the rose, debating if I should ask for a hug. Feeling shy, I decided to thank him instead, and told him how much the rose meant to me.
After a few more moments of well-wishes and smiles, I waved and continued on my way. My mind was smiling; an old dream had come true in the most unexpected way.
I gently put the rose in the corner of my bag, promising to preserve it forever.
A hug from home
I gave another rose to an old man hiding from the cold wind in the entrance of a closed store. I walked up to him, held out the rose, and wished him a happy Valentine’s Day.
He turned around to see if I was speaking to someone behind him, and quickly realized that the only thing behind him was a door.
He looked back at me, perplexed. “Are you speaking to me?”, he asked. When I said yes, he asked why I was giving him the rose. When I told him about my mission to share love and happiness, he asked me for a favour: “do you mind if I hug you?”
“Of course!” I said.
His hug felt familiar. It felt like the hugs my family gives me when they haven’t seen me in a long time. He held me tight and squeezed, letting out a great sigh. My heart filled with joy and warmth, as I allowed myself to be enveloped by the feeling of home.
When the hug ended, he thanked me. “I haven’t gotten one of those in a long time,” he said.
“Me neither,” I replied.
Using kindness to fight for peace
Later that day, I gave a rose to a lady in her 50’s. She sat on the street corner, placing various items into her bag. Like so many others that day, she was confused when I offered her the rose. Like so many others, she asked why I had chosen her.
After a few minutes of conversation, she said “hold on I have something for you.” I told her I wasn’t looking for anything in return.
She brought out a bag of peace bracelets and said “I made these. I want you to take one for yourself, and four others for four of your friends”. I looked at her and asked how much she wanted for them. She assured me she didn’t want money.
She said, “When I was young, my friends and I wanted to have peace in the world. We thought the solution was communism, so we fought for it originally. Along the way, I lost my spirit, my way and we never got peace. I want you to take this bracelet as a message and a reminder that you should continue to fight for solutions for peace in this world regardless of how hard it may get and to not give up like I did. You need to give the other bracelets to your friends, and ask them to stay positive and keep fighting.” Even though she looked exhausted, she spoke like a hopeful warrior.
I tried to give her 4 more roses in exchange for the bracelets, but she declined due to an additive in the chocolate. Before I left, she told me that my visit was much more meaningful for her than the chocolate. She asked if I would come visit her again, and give her an update on fight for peace and making an impact. I said I would and gave her a warm hug. I continued on my way, inspired by her desire to fight for peace. I thought about what life would be like without fighters like her, and about how I could contribute to peace through kindness.
Pursuing one’s purpose
Walking down the street, I saw a man and a woman speaking behind two garbage cans. I walked up to them, took out two chocolate hearts and held them to the man. Then, I gave two chocolate roses to the woman and said “Happy Valentine’s Day!”.
With confused smiles, they asked why I was giving them chocolates. So, I told them about my mission.
The man told me he had something to give me, and asked me to follow him. I told him I wasn’t expecting anything in return. He ignored me and walked over to two tables filled with dream catchers and metal ornaments. I realized they were both street vendors.
He picked up a copper feather ornament and said “This is a feather of an eagle. In aboriginal culture, it represents a person’s purpose. Your kindness proved to me that your purpose is to help people. I will sell this feather to you at a discount. You must put it in your house where sun light can hit it. Every time you see this feather, it will remind you to always walk towards your purpose.”
I bought the feather from the man. I thanked them both as I walked away. I imagined a strong powerful eagle flying in rain, snow and sun. I reminded myself that regardless of what life may bring, I have to connect to the eagle within me and keep flying high to reach my purpose.
The simple act of giving out chocolates on Valentine’s Day had far more impact than I first imagined. I embarked on my mission expecting some sweet smiles in return. What I received was so much more. It flushed out the negativity and established a more positive future for the year ahead. By giving to others, I healed myself. Simple acts of kindness can be revolutionary. They can be healing. And, they can bring you closer to people you never knew before.