News

Spreading love and kindness

By John Tapley, Ingersoll Times

Lakeland Harris, 5, and her sister, Burkley, 3, hold some of the carnations with inspirational messages attached that they delivered to nursing home residents during Tillsonburg's fourth annual Choose Kindness Day on Saturday. About 50 people participated in the event, spreading out across the town to perform random acts of kindness. JOHN TAPLEY/FOR THE TILLSONBURG NEWS

Lakeland Harris, 5, and her sister, Burkley, 3, hold some of the carnations with inspirational messages attached that they delivered to nursing home residents during Tillsonburg's fourth annual Choose Kindness Day on Saturday. About 50 people participated in the event, spreading out across the town to perform random acts of kindness. JOHN TAPLEY/FOR THE TILLSONBURG NEWS

Some chose to hand out popcorn and bottled water. Some chose to give nursing home residents hugs and flowers with inspirational messages attached. Some chose to surprise people grocery shopping or washing their clothes at a laundromat with money. Others chose to give teddy bears to people in hospital.

 

All chose to be kind.

 

About 50 people participated in Tillsonburg's fourth annual Choose to be Kind event on Saturday, including five out-of-town groups – two from London, two from Norwich and one from Woodstock.

 

Gathering at the Indigo Lounge on Tillson Ave just before 10 a.m., participants headed out to into the community to “spread love and kindness” in their own ways.

 

My deepest vision is for a ripple effect of love and kindness that extends out to more and more people every day,” said Kelly Spencer, the event's founder.

 

She said she decided to start Choose Kindness Day after reading about a similar event that took place in a big city.

 

(It was) a really powerful event for those that participated as well as those that receive (acts of kindness).”

 

Spencer isn't only the organizer of Choose Kindness Day, she is also a participant.

 

Like she did last year, she was headed to Tillsonburg District Memorial Hospital to hand out teddy bears to people in the chronic care and palliative care units.

 

Initially, we thought they might like it, they love it,” said Spencer about patients' reactions to the gifts. “We've had some people cry.”

 

With any money leftover from purchasing teddy bears, Spencer and her team purchase a Walmart gift card and “find somebody with a giant cart full of food that might need help paying for it.”

 

While Choose Kindness Day is about helping others, Spencer said it always gives her a boost “just to see the one-on-one gratitude people get.”

 

Choose Kindness Day is growing from year-to-year, Spencer said, noting that 40 people were involved last year.

 

It's my hope that people will be inspired to follow suit and do (random acts of kindness) on an every day level without the matching T-shirts and whatnot,” she said.

 

Being mindful of being kind on a daily basis is something several of the participants in Choose Kindness Day said is a side effect of being involved in the effort.

 

You kind of get reminded of how nice it feels to be kind and I think it's a really good example for my kids,” said Stacey Harris of Tillsonburg, who handed out flowers to nursing home residents with her daughters, Lakeland, 5, and Burkley, 3.

 

A friend of Spencer's, Harris has been a participant in Choose Kindness Day from the start with friends Kathy Vanderven, Kim Harrop and Heather Haley.

 

When Kelly said she was having an event, we decided to form a team and we've been doing it ever since,” said Harris.

 

The first year, they provided free coffee and inspirational messages to people at a baseball tournament .

 

The second year they delivered flowers and inspirational messages to residents at a nursing home and provided coffee and treats for staff.

 

Last year they donated food and supplies to the Oxford County Animal Rescue.

 

This year, at Lakeland Harris' request, the group, was headed back to the nursing home to deliver flowers and messages of kindness to residents.

 

She really enjoyed going in there and visiting and handing out the flowers,” said Stacey Harris about why her daughter wanted to go back to the nursing home.

 

Mandy Kromplak was a new addition to the team this year after reading about Choose Kindness Day on Facebook and it piqued her interest.

 

I asked them, 'If you don't mind a newbie, I'd like to try it,” and it was open arms, 'come on in,'” said Kromplak about how she came to be involved.

 

A participant in Choose Kindness Day for three years, Shelley Heaslip said the event leaves her with a good feeling.

 

I like to feel like I'm making a difference in somebody's life, helping somebody out,” she said.

 

This year, she and Mary Ryder, were headed to a local grocery store to hand out cash to help people pay for their purchases and then to a laundromat to give away some more money to people there.

 

In the past, Heaslip has stood outside Walmart, handing out flowers to shoppers there, and she said she has seen a lot of different reactions to the gesture, including at least two elderly women who began crying.

 

It meant so much to them,” she said.

 

Last year, Heaslip was among those giving away hugs and flowers at a local nursing home and she remembers that it was obvious that some of the residents “hadn't been hugged in a while.”

 

Participant Kathy Vanderven summed up her thoughts on the message the event should convey to the community in one sentence: “Be kind to one another.”