Author Archive

Provide opportunity/Seek opportunity | @Marsh_Ward10 #12Days4Good

December 19, 2016

Today’s #12Days4Good campaign theme of OPPORTUNITY reminds me of that old phrase: “There but for the grace of God go I….” When we see a person down on their luck, struggling, or troubled, it’s easy to jump to conclusions about how they got to that position. Maybe they didn’t have enough opportunity provided to them. Maybe they didn’t try hard enough to seek out opportunity to better their situation.

Well, really, we human beings are complex creatures, and a quick glance into a person’s life can’t give us the full picture. The important thing to remember, in my opinion, is that it’s truly none of our business, and moreover, who are we to judge. If not for the grace of God, or just good luck, we could easily be in that same situation.

I am approaching today’s topic from these two angles with a few anecdotes, and I invite you the reader to find ways to provide or seek opportunities to make our community a better place.

  1. Provide opportunity

As a person who has had plenty of opportunities provided to me, I do my best to pass it on. One particularly rewarding aspect of my role as a city councillor is that I am able to share opportunities with residents. On a regular basis I meet with people who have ideas for how to better our community, and it is my honour to help them find new connections with others, or with resources to apply to so they can turn their good ideas into reality. I also participate as a mentor in the Leadership Waterloo Region’s Youth On Board program. On a personal level, our family participated in a sponsorship group to provide a Syrian family with support for their first year in Canada. What opportunities can you provide to others in 2017? What skill or knowledge or resources can you share? How might you maximize your ability to make a difference in someone’s life, and in your own?

  1. Seek opportunity

Opportunity is not always a static object, waiting to be taken. It is fluid, and it isn’t always obvious when it is in front of us. To find new opportunities, we have to open the door, and use our resources to investigate ways forward. Seeking new opportunities usually comes with a fair bit of fear of the unknown. It can be debilitating, but I’ve come to realize the trick is to try anyway, to tell someone out loud about your goal, and push through regardless of the fear. For myself, I used to be terrified of public speaking. After putting myself in situations where I have to speak publicly anyways, and working on my skills, now I actually enjoy it. What opportunities would you like to seek in 2017? Who will you tell about your goal? What’s the worst that can happen if you try?

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As you reflect on your own relationship to the theme of opportunity, I hope you can appreciate the gifts of opportunities you’re able to provide and/or seek, thanks to the grace of God, or as I like to think of it, just plain good fortune. Thank you for the opportunity (pardon the pun) to be a ‘Do-Gooder’ this season, and may you have a wonderful season filled with peace, love, and joy.

-by Sarah Marsh

Sarah Marsh is our featured Do Gooder on this, the last day of #12Days4Good. You can learn more about Sarah at www.12days4good.com 

 

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Healing is a choice | @aquarry #12Days4Good

December 18, 2016

Healing is a choice made by an individual. And then it requires a team effort to succeed.

We can decide that life has hammered us so hard there is no hope of us recovering.  We’re down and we are going to stay down.  We’ve all been there.  It’s a deep, dark place.

Healing is a process. And it begins when we choose not to be entombed. We refuse to be buried alive. We realize that our wounds can heal. We have enough strength left to start inching forward again. There are signs of life.

One of the strongest actions we can take in our existence here on the third rock from the sun is to ask for help. To let our families and friends know that we could use a hand.  “We’re struggling a little bit over here guys. Please don’t feel sorry for me, that’s not the point, but how about a hug?”

As a person who deals with chronic depression I know that Christmas time can be very difficult to handle.  Sometimes Santa’s sack seems to be full with lumps of coal instead of toys and joys. A vast majority of us in the healing process have good coping skills. And support of our loved ones.  We can enjoy the spirit of the season.  

One of the best ways to help ourselves is to help others. What a great feeling!  We feel better and better as we understand how even our smallest acts of kindness are assisting the healing process for others. At this time of the year it might be a cash donation to the Food Bank. It might be helping someone dig their car out of a snow bank.  It might be a smile and a ‘hello’ on a crowded sidewalk.  It could be giving a family member a hug or sharing a pleasant memory with them.

I do not believe that Christmas is about shopping and exchanging gifts.  I believe Christmas is about sharing and caring. We help each other simply by caring for each other with just a little more understanding and kindness.

We help, we help heal

“True healing is the willingness to treat yourself and others better than the past ever did.”

Merry Christmas!!! Be a Do Gooder !!!
-by Alan Quarry

You can learn more about Alan and #12Days4Good at http://www.12days4good.com

 

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Inspiring the next generation of do-gooders through books | @Strong_Start #12Days4Good

December 17, 2016

Books are pretty magical. They can transport us to faraway places, they can introduce us to new ways of thinking and living, and they can be “mirrors” to help us better understand our own experiences. We’ve all been moved by a powerful story, and take lessons from each and every book we read. For children in particular, books can be a useful tool in helping them understand important topics, giving complex ideas age appropriate context. Books can be used to teach children about the world we live in, and how they can bring kindness into our world.  

It’s incredibly important that we help our children develop empathy and understanding of the lives others live. Stories allow us to walk a mile in another person’s shoes, as we connect with memorable characters and experience the emotions they feel. The themes behind this year’s 12 Days 4 Good provide a perfect opportunity to talk with your child about these important life lessons. From teaching compassion and inclusion, to hope and opportunity, there is a story out there that can support you and your little one.

As our way of giving back, our team has collected some of the best picture and story books to help you start a conversation with your child on these powerful topics. Every day, we will be posting our top story pick on our blog, along with a small act of kindness you and your family can do to benefit the community. By getting involved, your child will learn they can make a difference, and that their actions do matter. Together, through stories, we will inspire the next generation of community leaders, giving them the tools they need to do-good.

We invite you to follow along with our journey, and connect with us by visiting: http://strongstart.ca/whats-new/.  – The Strong Start Team

 

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Just walk beside me and be my friend | @snapkwgirl #12Days4Good

December 15, 2016

“Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend”

– Unknown

Friendfluence;

I recently heard the term “friendfluence” and it resonated in me. Friendships are relevant on so many levels. Personally, I am proud of our collection of friends. In fact, I am in awe of the amazing people we have in our lives. No one person is more special than the other. There may be “close” ones, but I refrain from using the word “best” (i.e. of the highest quality, excellence, finest, unparalleled, matchless, ideal, with most advantage or success). No one person is secondary, lesser or peripheral in my world. Exclusion can sting. Of course there is a natural ebb and flow to friendships. I believe people come into our lives exactly when we need it while others may fade due to moves, schedules or changes in lifestyles, but they are just as crucial and impactful. The deepest ones will leave an indelible mark.

Some friendships may even turn into full-on relationships. Sean and I are a case in point. In high school we were closer than close in the “friends only” world. We shared our deepest secrets, wrestled, went to movies, bitched about our current partners and laughed all the time. We never crossed lines; it never felt like it was time. It wasn’t until years later, after running into each other at a party, that we realized our hearts were missing each other. Have you ever heard the term “The heart wants what the heart wants”? We experienced this. The realization was palpable! I was on my way out West, and he followed shortly thereafter. That was almost 27 years ago (that math just hurt my feelings by the way). Due to our deep friendship, we have always been able to work together. And by “work”, I mean both on our relationship and professionally. To make our sweet story short, I believe the power of our friendship is what makes us who we are today. This falls in line with friendships taking many forms. Friends will challenge, push boundaries and contribute to our happiness. Friends offer support when needed and opportunities to support as well. In other words, we can fill each other’s buckets.

Strength in numbers I say!

Friendfluence – It can be hard to fight a cause or raise money and make a difference as one person. Quite simply, we have surrounded ourselves in many amazing friends who not only make a different in our lives personally, but who also band together to generate a ripple effect of goodwill within our community. We are blessed…truly blessed and we look forward to creating even more friendships along the way.

I will end with an all-time favourite quote by Virginia Satir – “I want to love you without clutching, appreciate you without judging, join you without invading, invite you without demanding, leave you without guilt, criticize you without blaming, and help you without insulting. If I can have the same from you, then we can truly meet and enrich each other.” Now that is true friendship!

– by Dawne Taylor Gilders for Do-gooders ,“Team Gilders”

Dawne and Sean are today’s featured Do Gooders, creating good together during #12Days4Good. You can learn more about them and join in the good at 12days4good.com!

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How can you provide shelter? | @kjparkes #12Days4Good

December 14, 2016

Life is shaped by scarcity. Our history and humanity — both culture and biology — have always been shaped by need. Everything about us, from what we eat, wear, where we live, the language we speak, how we spend our time, and much more is a product of necessity. The story of technology is our work carefully fabricating solutions to the problem of scarcity.

Every one of us has to confront this problem. Having enough calories to keep our bodies going. Having shelter to keep us safe from the elements. Having clean water to drink. Fundamentally, we all have these needs in common. And yet many people have none of the above, forced to choose between food or education, medicine or shelter. It isn’t acceptable.

Technology is making everything cheaper than ever before, and more connected. Global conversations on topics like food scarcity and affordable housing are happening every day. Endless opportunities pop up on social media feeds to contribute to crowd-funding campaigns dedicated to someone’s well being. It’s amazing to see people around the world come together like that. But something is wrong with the system when you see a homeless man using his cellphone light to find cigarette butts at the local park.

It’s time to start focusing on the innovation so desperately needed in the areas that provide basic human needs: infrastructure, affordable housing, food security, and environmental research and protection. I applaud research into a basic income by places like Y-Combinator in the United States, nations in Africa and Europe, and the province of Ontario. Even if they prove a failure, this is the kind of thinking we need to encourage as we determine the best, most just way to shape our society.

It’s always been interesting to me that people go to an animal shelter and pick a dog that’s been kicked, beaten, and has maybe lost a leg or an eye, and they’ll take that dog home and give it all the love and support it needs. But we don’t do that with people. Recognizing that every single person’s life circumstances are unique and often times out of their control is the first step towards understanding how you can help.

I volunteer and give back to this community because I want to use my voice and skills to help make a difference. It makes my life better. I think that’s the secret. There is something about being on a mission that is bigger than you, something selfless, one hundred percent giving, that just feels right. It’s gives me a sense of belonging to this community.

Somewhere near you, somebody right now is trying to help those in need: providing food, shelter, clothing or simple kindness. It’s astonishingly simple. Join me and “do-gooders” across our community in recognizing the needs of others today, and consider donating goods to the wish list of local shelter YMCA, or get involved with a youth services organization like oneROOF.

by Katie Parkes

Today Katie is our featured Do Gooder. You can learn more about Katie and join her in doing good at www.12days4good.com!

 

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The Gift of Hope | @HeatherR297 #12Days4Good

December 12, 2016

“Hope is an embrace of the unknown” – Rebecca Solnit

Hope. You never know where it will come from or when it will arrive. Sometimes you don’t even realize when you are giving this gift to someone in need. It can be as complex as food in the belly and a roof over heads, or as simple as a smile.

In the spirit of hope, I feel it is time I share a slice of my story.

My early years, from very young to budding teens, I grew up requiring the kindness from my community to get by. Food banks filled my cupboards and Christmas gifts came from strangers. These strangers never met me. They did not know my name, my age, my personality, or anything I was going through. Strangers who did not realize they were gracing me with a very special gift; the gift of hope.

One year, as I did for many years, I unwrapped my Christmas gift from a mysterious soul. I pulled back the wrapping to reveal a Swiss Army watch.  The watch was beautiful. Usually these Secret-Santa-like gifts would reveal a warm pair of socks or a pack of mittens.  I could not believe that someone would gift so generously.

I never wore the watch. Instead I kept it in its box, with hinges opening to reveal it’s contents. I did not wish to have it broken, worn or lost, for that gift was more than it’s hands to tell time. It was more than the dollars it cost to purchase. It was more than the name branded on the box. That watch was a sign of hope.

In the dark days, where hope seems unfathomable, I sit on the floor and hold that watch. Admire its craftsmanship and dream of the gifter. What were they like? Had I ever met them? Passed them on the street with a smile?  

How did they live? Did they spend their days in a factory and come home dirty at the end of the day? Did they wear a suit and tie to work, outfit complete with a similar timepiece? Would I ever be able to afford such a gift myself?

One never knows the effect they may have on others, or the need that person has for such a gesture. Whether it be a smile, a door held, a gift, or something more.

I’ll never know the person who sent that watch through our community to my hands.  That person will never know how that gift brought me hope for years to come. How I would stare at it and dream up a better life. How I built that better life, in time.

There is a child out there, a teenager, a mother, a father, who is in need of a little hope this Christmas. How will you impart this a gift on the soul in need?

by Heather Riemersma

Heather is today’s featured Do Gooder for #12Days4Good. You can learn more about Heather at 12days4good.com and share the gift of hope!

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Call it dignity, call it the Golden Rule | #12Days4Good

December 11, 2016

There’s been a *bit* of angst and contention in the digital world this year about how to speak to each other with dignity. From the U of T students rallying against Psych prof Jordan Peterson for refusing to use gender-neutral pronouns, to the individual in Waterloo being told he won’t get hired due to his Somalian ethnicity, and a bit further from our community but still pertinent, the entirety of Donald Trump’s campaign.

I’ve given a lot of thought to this topic because for 8 years’ of my life in this community, I worked with individuals with cognitive/physical delays & disabilities, and now, I manage marketing at The Walper Hotel.

In the previous line of work, the way you communicated with the people you seek to support is the literal difference between validating them as a human being versus treating them as a diagnosis – person first, diagnosis second.

In my current role, it’s the difference between being competent versus potentially misrepresenting the brand I’m responsible for. So I am glad to address people as they ask.

But…

Isn’t it also fair to let people have their freedom of speech? To let them say whatever they want? Isn’t that what a truly advanced society represents? Sort of. It’s a timely yet tired tussle: Your right to address someone as you see fit versus your right to be spoken to the way you feel is appropriate. These shouldn’t conflict, yet here we are…

Is it too cliché to ask what happened to the Golden Rule? Have we, in pursuit of political correctness, over-complicated our speech patterns? Did we push so hard for equality that we inadvertently created a backlash? Is it fair to ask people to change their own behaviour just so we feel respected?

Yes.

Let’s keep it simple: When the laws preventing women from owning property or voting were challenged, you better believe people resisted out of fear of change. “What’s next, COWS casting ballots?” That never happened. When we decided maybe it’s ok that people of colour were allowed to sit with white people, we all know there were (likely still are) people who resisted that request. People of colour just wanted to be treated with dignity and it didn’t end the world, it made it better. More recently, the LGBTQ community spoke up,  ‘hey, maybe we are real humans?’ And although some are resisting yet again, most of the world gave a resounding “Yes, you are valid, too!”

Now, people of other gender-identities are asking that we respect them, and of course, some people are resisting. *Yawn* Are we starting to recognize the pattern? We occasionally grow smarter as a society, and some fear that change and resist it. We’ve seen how this show ends too many times. Maybe let’s be on the right side of history for once?

Call it dignity, call it the Golden Rule, call it whatever you want, but a better community starts with your choice of words.

Happy Holidays, Waterloo Region.

by Chris Martin

Chris is today’s featured Do Gooder for #12Days4Good. To find out more about Chris visit 12days4good.com and share the good!

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Justice is Truth in Action and the Truth is children are our future | @caitlinquarry #12Days4Good

December 10, 2016

I am very passionate about Waterloo Region in so many ways! An issue impacting Waterloo Region that I seem to gravitate towards and am particularly passionate about is the way in which our community can assist our children in feeling included and supported. There’s the old saying “children are our future” and I firmly believe this to be true. For the strength of Waterloo Region’s future, we need to ensure our children are healthy, happy and confident and that has led me to be involved with our Region’s children in three different ways:

I have been a longtime supporter of Nutrition for Learning, as a donor, fundraiser, and workplace campaign coordinator, and what lead me to support this organization is that I know there are children coming to school hungry and as a result, they have an incredibly difficult time focusing and learning. It’s very difficult to try to learn new things when all you can think of is how hungry you are. Nutrition for Learning is inclusive in its approach – children aren’t singled out to take part in the program. It is open for anyone who may need or want a healthy snack and there is no discrimination as a result. I also try to promote the Food Bank of Waterloo Region whenever possible, through social media, through speaking at events or volunteering.

I have also supported Send ‘Em Off Smiling in previous years as a workplace campaign coordinator and as a donor. Send ‘Em Off Smiling allows children in need to go back to school in September with new clothes, shoes, school supplies and a backpack. For some students, these are the only new clothes or school supplies they will receive all year, and it helps them start the school year feeling good about themselves and prepared for the year ahead. 

Previously, I have been a volunteer with the Reading Buddy program at the Kitchener Public Library’s Central branch. We work with children whose parents or teachers have indicated they are behind their peers in reading ability or comprehension. We read together as a group and then head off with our Buddies to do some one-on-one reading before returning to the group to play a literary-focused game together. It’s wonderfully rewarding to see the improvement in reading skills and confidence as the program progresses. I’m always very proud of my little readers!

Helping to spread awareness of the organizations and programs available in our community, and the needs those organizations have is something in which I take great pride.

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Today is the 3rd day of #12Days4Good and Caitlin Quarry is our Featured Do Gooder. You can learn more about Caitlin and today’s theme at www.12Days4Good.com

I truly believe that we can make a difference in our community – @VictoriaLocke1 | #12Days4Good

December 9, 2016

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I truly believe that we can make a difference in our community. I have been volunteering and helping raise funds for groups in our community for years with my main focus for 2015 and 2016 with Women’s Crisis Services and the Rebuild Haven House Campaign.

It shocks me that there continues to be an incredible need for WCS’s shelters and services. I want to share a few points that I’ve learned through volunteering with WCS about their shelters and services that really impacted me.

I’m calling them shelters but interestingly enough I heard Chief Bryan Larkin says we should be calling them transformational homes. He said that the women and children they drop off to WCS in the middle of the night aren’t the same people who leave the shelters weeks later ready to start a new life. So much more goes on than emergency sheltering. These individuals receive tremendous support in the form of counselling and training in order for them to go on, moving past a life with violence and abuse.  

The women who go into the shelters are incredibly courageous.  It takes a tremendous amount of courage to step forward and say you need shelter and support.  Really consider what it means for a woman to leave….first of all there is the issue of her own personal safety and the safety of her children as her abuser often says what terrible things can happen if she leaves. These threats made are very real. I learned that women who have a pet stay longer with an abuser because of the threats made about what they’ll do to the pet if they leave. And then there is the financial piece. Abuse often extends to financial control and the women leave without anything. That is a terrifying thought especially when you have children to care for. Then there is the privacy issue – women go to great lengths to hide the abuse from family, friends and employers. You can see how leaving and taking a bold leap into the “unknown” is frightening.   It takes an incredible act of courage to get yourself to the shelter, start over, and begin your new life.  

When people hear “Women’s Crisis Services” they often only think about the women who come through the shelters but, we can’t forget about the children.  WCS sees over 200 children coming through their shelters each year.  That’s 200 plus kids, IN OUR OWN BACKYARD, who are living in a home with violence and abuse. And that’s only the 200 kids that they see.  There are more, and we can do something about this and help them.   

Children desperately need the counselling and support offered at the shelters.   We know that children mirror behaviour. It is essentially how they learn.  When they live in a home with violence and abuse they know no other “norm”. That is what family life looks like. That’s what a relationship looks like. That is how people behave with each other.  Even beyond the physical safety for these children we know the incredibly harmful exposure to this behaviour.  These children learn this behaviour and take it to school, to their friendships and relationships and to their jobs when they are older. Through counselling they can break the patterns of abuse that runs through generations of families.  By working with a child today in one of the shelters, they’re helping generations of families to come. I believe that it is that powerful and it is that transformational.

by Victoria Locke

Victoria is today’s featured Do Gooder. You can learn more about Victoria and follow her good deeds www.12Days4Good.com

 

Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success. #Inclusion #12Days4Good << TWEET THIS

Crossing the Bridge and Seeing the Reality of True Compassion | #12Days4Good

December 8, 2016

Crossing The Bridge

I like to think of myself as a compassionate person. I’ve volunteered my entire life, cared about and supported a variety causes, and been known as a sort of ‘Save the (fill in the blank)’ type. But over the decades I’ve noticed that my view and expression of compassion is not only ever changing, it is also never entirely perfect, complete, or ‘full’.

In a compelling TEDtalk ‘The Power of Connection’ (that further shifted my ideas around what being compassionate truly means) Hedy Schleifer recounts how she would visit her ailing mother who was in a wheelchair and hadn’t recognized her daughter for months. After time, Schleifer realized that during her visits she was not truly visiting her mother. She was visiting with grief. She was visiting with guilt. So she decided she would cross the bridge from the world of her own emotion, leaving the place where she was struggling, so she could go to visit with her mother. When she did this, her mother recognized her.

Hearing Schleifer’s story challenged me to think of the ways I do not always stop to cross that bridge and how often our compassion is expressed without learning about the rich landscape of others. It’s an idea that is crystallized for me in the 12 Days 4 Good campaign, when we are called not only to give and do good but to pause and reflect more fully on the ways in which we do that.

How can I make my compassion more full?

How, as Schleifer describes, can I listen to others as though I am learning a new language, the language of another?

There’s an intimacy to compassion that calls on us to learn, to understand and to know more fully the journeys, challenges and humanness of the people around us:

  • knowing as much as we can about the organizations we support and the people within them
  • spending time with the people our actions impact through service, volunteering, and mentorship
  • having conversations about the needs in our community with people who are doing the work
  • setting aside our assumptions, stereotypes, and judgments to learn about issues from another’s perspective and experience
  • being willing to do things that are needed, rather than just convenient

-By Jane Barkley

 

Seeing the Reality

Compassion can be expressed in so many ways. For people like myself, I find that my compassion for others is not easily expressed in ways that others relate to. It does not mean I don’t have or don’t feel compassion – it is a daily, and hourly (if not more) emotion that affects my actions all the time.

I learned from my parents what compassion is. I did not always understand the reason why they did all the extra they did for just about everyone, but as I became an adult, I got it. We are here to make this world better. When we see someone that is in need of something you have, well… you share it. Every little bit helps, just by caring and investing in those around you.

Compassion is about seeing the realities of those around you. Not as how you would see them, but as how they would see them. Understanding and feeling the vulnerabilities, the fears, the challenges that these people have to face. When I take a moment to do this, the next thing I do is ask myself what can I do to help?

-By Darrick Hahn

 

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“Sympathy sees and says ‘I’m sorry’. Compassion sees and says ‘I’ll help’” TWEET THIS

Jane Barkley and Darrick Hahn are today’s featured Do Gooder (pair). To learn more about them and the 12 Days 4 Good campaign visit 12days4good.com