Conscious Kindness Day is back, Winnipeg! Kindness can literally change lives. Let’s celebrate how kindness and compassion can be transformative—and a part of our lives every day.
Remember how fun it was last year when everyone was extra kind? This year it’s even easier: there’s no website to sign up, no pledges to make: just you and your kind ideas, wherever you are in Winnipeg!
It’s really simple: just plan something sweet for your friends, family, co-workers, neighbours (or a total stranger!) and share it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #KindWPG.
A series of simple kindnesses has had life-changing consequences for Dilly and her son Dion, beginning 27 years ago when a United Way-supported community development worker suggested Dilly—a waitress between jobs—begin volunteering at Dion’s nursery school and get more involved in the community.
It was the same kind kindred spirit who ultimately inspired the former high school dropout to go back to school and pursue a degree in social work.
“She just kept encouraging me and showed me I had skills and abilities I didn’t believe I had,” says Dilly.
Dilly and her son, Dion. Kindness from a stranger saved Dion from a life of crime and addiction.
For more than 20 years now, Dilly has served as Executive Director at the Andrews Street Family Centre, a United Way agency partner she helped found to assist people in her North End neighbourhood struggling with a multitude of issues like poverty, violence and addictions.
But while Dilly’s confidence was growing, prejudice and intolerance for his North End roots had robbed Dion of his own self-esteem.
By age 17 he had turned full time to the streets where he was running with gangs, dealing drugs, stealing cars, and battling his own addictions.
One night, after a run-in with drug dealers left him hopeless and suicidal, Dion wandered the streets until 5 a.m. when he found himself on the steps of Rossbrook House, a United Way agency partner that provides vulnerable kids with a safe and nurturing space. There he encountered an older man walking his dog who stopped, concerned. “He sat there for about an hour and just listened to my whole story,” says Dion.
Then the stranger did something amazing. “He said, ‘My name is Bud and I want you to move into my home with me and my wife Molly tonight and we want to help you clean yourself up.’”
“I struggled for three weeks with sickness and withdrawal and they stood by me the whole time. I’m proud to be 25 years clean now because of what they did for me.”
Now 41, Dion is returning the kindness in his role as co-ordinator at the Pritchard Place children’s drop-in centre at Andrews Street. “Now I have the opportunity to show kids they also have opportunities, and chances, and goals,” says Dion.
Dilly is equally grateful for small kindnesses. “I don’t believe for a minute I’d have ever gone back to school. I really believe I’d have continued in minimum wage jobs. To be a social worker, get a degree, and become Executive Director at Andrews Street—it’s just amazing.”
“Kindness and compassion expressed through United Way make a huge difference. We’re proof. “
“You should watch it, it’s only 18 minutes long on YouTube, and it’s about polar bears. Surprise surprise!”
It’s about much more than polar bears.
It’s also about how Kal was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease in 2012. Rheumatoid arthritis caused “indescribable pain” in her hands, knees, feet and back.
She couldn’t lift her daughter out of her crib, never mind hold a paintbrush. She was told to stop painting.
“If I can’t paint, I can’t breathe. I’m not a better painter the more I paint, I’m a better person.”
She persevered, adapting her equipment and painting techniques to the pain.
And it was her painting – one of Debby, specifically – that caused documentary-makers at Animal Planet to offer her a trip to Churchill. They wanted to film her watching polar bears, with the idea that it would somehow change her life.
Kal was dubious. She went, thinking she’d have to pretend for the camera that bears were changing her life.
“And then they did.”
She saw kindness in the wild bears – a playful spirit and gentleness between them when they gathered to wait for Hudson Bay ice.
“Big bears are gentle with small bears, and they never draw blood. A group of polar bears is called a celebration, and they are very kind to each other.”
Kal saw how, in spite of the most adverse conditions on earth, the bears gather in peace and play. She saw that it was essential to their lives, and how it mirrored her own life.
“I don’t know how many paintings I have left, but I know that if I’m not playing, and if I’m not listening, and if I’m not being true to myself, then I’m already dead. It took me a celebration to understand that.”
“Kindness and love make the world go around, and if we don’t have those we will not have hope.”
Winnipeg artist Kal Barteski – one of CBC Manitoba’s Future 40 and a TEDx speaker – kindly created and donated some of her brush script lettering to United Way of Winnipeg.
Why did you donate some brush script lettering to United Way?
I believe in what United Way does and I believe in Winnipeg and I think both of those forces working together can only do good.
What United Way of Winnipeg Conscious Kindness is your favourite?
My favourite is be present (Dis-Connect). We’re always racing around thinking about the next thing we have to do instead of being right where we’re supposed to be, right? I definitely believe in getting off your phone when you’re with your people, or friends.
Our Winnipeg Wednesday kindness crew descended on Old Market Square to spread a little love—and popcorn—around ahead of the big day next week.
People loved it. They were genuinely surprised, happy, and interested in the idea of choosing to share positivity with other Winnipeggers. We knew they would be, because after all, this is a city that’s chock full of compassionate neighbours.
Our Conscious Kindness website has 50 kind ideas to choose from, in celebration of 50 years in our community. All you have to do is sign up, pick your favourite kind idea, and pledge to do it on June 3!
We’d love to hear your stories of kindness, too—add the hashtag #KindWPG on Twitter and Instagram to add them to our Kindness Shoutouts.