The Fine Print

It’s not National Literacy Day or Reading Week or even Tree Awareness Tuesday (at least not as far as I know). But I’m in a bookish state of mind. So today, for your reading pleasure, I share a few shining quotations on the theme of good deeds… all found in literary classics. Some are thought-provoking, some are witty, and all are sure to resonate with you.

“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”
The Merchant of Venice (William Shakespeare)

“Be happy, noble heart, be blessed for all the good thou hast done and wilt do hereafter, and let my gratitude remain in obscurity like your good deeds.”
The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)

“Goodness is the only value that seems in this world of appearances to have any claim to be an end in itself. Virtue is its own reward.”
The Summing Up (W. Somerset Maugham)

“To be good is noble, but to show others how to be good is nobler and no trouble.”
Following the Equator (Mark Twain)

“We cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefits we receive must be rendered again line for line deed for deed to somebody.”
Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one.”
The Horse and His Boy (C.S. Lewis)

“If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life.”
Walden (Henry David Thoreau)

How about you? What’s your favourite quotation, story or book about kindness? Inspire us!

That cheeky Mark Twain also wrote, “Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”

That cheeky Mark Twain also wrote, “Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”


When Stacey Butler and Cory Bembridge adopted their Newfoundland puppy, Rosco, the couple in Moncton, New Brunswick, had no idea their furry new friend would need two hip replacements before he was a year old. Because of a genetic disorder, Rosco has abnormally low muscle mass in his hips. It’s treatable with surgery – in fact the puppy, now nine months old, has already had one side done. But Rosco needs weeks of rehabilitation before he can have his other hip operated on.

The problem? Rosco is hesitant to put weight on his good side. The veterinarian recommended regular sessions in a swimming pool, but that isn’t an easy prescription to fill, especially at this time of year. (Hello, Canadian winter, have we met?)

So Stacey posted an ad on Kijiji. “I knew it was a long shot,” she told a reporter. “I thought, I have nothing to lose, and it can’t hurt.” It certainly didn’t. By the time Stacey woke up the next day, dozens of emails were already pouring in. A few days later, her ad had received over 400 responses (and over 30,000 hits).

The best part happened next. After word spread through media, Stacey and Cory heard from Eagles Pool Services, a Moncton business. Owner Cory Eagles was willing to custom-build one of his pools in their basement, just so Rosco could have easy access to the therapy he needed.

When he realized this solution wasn’t going to work – Rosco can’t climb a flight of stairs on his own and, um, he is a Newfoundland dog – Cory E. suggested setting the pool up in his own shop instead, where he would keep the heat turned on.

Without hesitation, he offered to throw in a spare key so that operation Rosco Rehab could take place whenever it suited Stacey and Cory B.

“I will be forever indebted to Eagles Pool Services,” Stacey told me. “Without them, my puppy may not have stood a chance. Because of them, he now has that chance to get stronger and have his second surgery.”

In the meantime, Stacey is endeavouring to answer all the responses to her Kijiji ad. “I can’t put into words how I’ve felt over the past week, because it still hasn’t sunk in,” she says. “I have been contacted by people across Canada, and the U.S., and even the United Kingdom.”

Lots of the messages were simple emails of support, and a few of them even offered advice. (Sample tip: Fill the bathtub and let Rosco swim in it. Yeah, super idea – if Rosco were a Chihuahua.)

Representatives from another pool and spa company have already offered a backup – in their showroom, of all places – if the first arrangement falls through.

Canadians have warm hearts, no question. It’s a survival tactic. You see, we rely on that extra heat when our outdoor thermostats start dropping.

Seriously? Look at him. I don’t even own a pool company, and yet I want to rush out right now and build Rosco a therapeutic spa with my bare hands. (Photo courtesy of Stacey Butler)

Seriously? Look at him. I don’t even own a pool company, and yet I want to rush out right now and build Rosco a therapeutic spa with my bare hands. (Photo courtesy of Stacey Butler)

Buying Poppies for a Song

According to the Royal Canadian Legion, 19 million plastic poppies were sold for this year’s Remembrance Day. That means 19 million of us were moved to honour and support Canadian veterans by buying a poppy. (Or, just as likely, 8 million of us bought two poppies, as these items come with slippery pins and are notorious for their high replacement factor.)

Of all those who did purchase poppies, the luckiest have got to be the men, women and children who stopped by a train-station tunnel in Burlington, Ontario. Those folks were fortunate enough to meet 80-year-old Bill Reid, a veteran with a voice that resonates.

Baritone Bill can sing, and he’s not shy about it. The retired high school principal used to perform with the Hamilton Opera Company, so he knows how to belt the tunes. And he likes the acoustics of the train tunnel. He chooses World War II-era soldier’s hits like “Gee, Mom, I Want to Go Home” and “Kiss Me Goodnight, Sergeant Major.”

He constantly interrupts his own singing to greet passersby and thank them for their support, then chuckles – he has a jolly chuckle – about losing his place in a song or forgetting the lyrics altogether. He smiles at everyone, even provides an added-value pinning service.

Regulars remember Bill from year to year, make a point of buying from him, and admit they’re touched when they see him. If my math is right, this is Bill’s 16th year crooning old army songs as he makes a sale.

It may be a long way to Tipperary, but Bill Reid assuredly makes the morning commute feel a little shorter.

True Blue Transit

Can colour make us kinder? Here in Canada, we’re often accused of excessive civility. But although giving up your bus seat to a pregnant or old person is a paragon of politeness, it seems public transit riders in Toronto don’t do enough of it.

Toronto’s buses, subway trains and streetcars have designated “priority seating zones” that are meant to be yielded to people with disabilities and others who need them. There are signs pointing them out and explaining who they’re for. And if, as an able-bodied person, you happen to settle your backside onto one of these benches, then refuse to move (or become overly absorbed in your newspaper) when someone boards the bus who actually needs that seat, you can even be fined $235.

But apparently the threat of a fine (and disapproving looks from other passengers) is not enough to compel all people to give up these seats. So the Toronto Transit Commission recently announced that it’s bringing a bright shade of blue to its priority seating areas.

The blue is startlingly eye-catching, especially in contrast to the regular burgundy colour throughout the rest of the vehicles. “That’s to make sure that everyone knows which are the priority seats,” says CEO Andy Byford in a publicity video. He expresses his hope that the blue will lead to a lot more benevolence.

He adds, “We always say the TTC is the better way” (it’s true, they do always say that), “but we want it to be the kinder way as well.” Andy is appealing to the public to give up the seats willingly, before someone in need actually needs to ask.

I remain intrigued by the colour choice. Why blue? Has extensive psychological testing revealed blue to be the hue that opens our hearts? Following that train of thought, does it matter what blue shade is used – cornflower, azure, cobalt, cerulean? (And has anyone even addressed the whole colour-blindness thing?)

We hope it works. Vehicle drivers, of course, can’t force people out of the priority seats. If someone won’t budge, the driver can only summon a transit officer who can levy a fine. “We’re hoping that’s not necessary,” Andy says. “Let’s all be kind and considerate to our fellow customers.”

What a blue-tiful idea.

Yes, it’s priority seating for Smurfs who have difficulty smurfing when  they go out to smurf. (Photo courtesy of Toronto Transit Commission)

Yes, it’s priority seating for Smurfs who have difficulty smurfing when
they go out to smurf. (Photo courtesy of Toronto Transit Commission)

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes… No, Wait, It’s Happy Tears

If you’d met Hector Montoy a few months ago, he’d have seemed to you like a typical nine-year-old kid. Hector had been saving up his allowance for the past year, with his sights set on a PlayStation 4. That’s commendable, of course. It’s nice to see a kid with the patience to save up for something special, instead of blowing his weekly allowance on candy or comic books. But it’s not remarkable.

Then came the gamechanger. Hector, who lives in Grande Prairie, Texas, heard a news report about a mother and child who’d lost their lives to a fire. A smoke detector might have saved them. They didn’t have one.

Hector was astonished. He knew how important it was to have smoke alarms in the home, and hadn’t realized anyone went without them. “It really hurts my heart,” the boy is quoted as saying.

Suddenly, his need for a PlayStation 4 didn’t seem as dire. Precious Hector took his stash of cash – about $300 – and spent it instead on dozens of smoke detectors, which he and his local fire department proceeded to install for community members who needed them.

“Saving a life is more important,” he explained to a TV news channel.

Not that Hector no longer wanted a PlayStation 4. He simply revised his plan. He’d start saving again… from zero.

Never underestimate the ripple effect. Teenage brother-and-sister team Ashton and Peyton Harder heard Hector’s story, felt various heartstrings appropriately tugged, and put their own money together to buy, and personally deliver, a video game console for this little lad.

The Harders also donated another $150 for smoke detectors.

Happy Hector has said he, too, will keep the campaign going. That was a few months ago. I’ve tracked down his GoFundMe page (here). It hasn’t had a lot of activity, but things can change.

That’s a lesson Hector has already learned.


Confession time. I’m a zombie nerd. Yes, I do enjoy the endlessly entertaining exploits of the undead. I enjoy movies about them, and TV shows about them. And I even dropped in once at a zombie car wash because that was my idea of Saturday-afternoon thrills.

So, naturally, I’m a huge fan of the show The Walking Dead. (Not that you asked, but it’s Norman Reedus all the way. It’s a bad boy thing.) If you’re a viewer too, you know that a strongly recurring theme in this show is kindness. What? Some might say. How can blood, gore and splatty brains have anything to do with good deeds?

And yet it does. Over and over again in these episodes, the main characters go out of their way to help each other. They consider each other family, beloved individuals worth sacrificing their lives for. And yet they will even lend a hand to a stranger – yes, even at the risk of losing a hand (i.e. to a bitey person).

This may be one of the reasons why I’m drawn to this show. Besides the special effects, that is. I guess it’s comforting to know that, even in a zombie apocalypse, we humans will always look out for each other.

Getting blood-covered zombies to wash your car is, uh, kind of like vacuuming your entire house wearing muddy rainboots.

Getting blood-covered zombies to wash your car is, uh, kind of like vacuuming your entire house wearing muddy rainboots.

The Right Kind of Global Warming

When I heard about the Global Chorus project, I was impressed right off the bat. A guy from Prince Edward Island by the name of Todd MacLean – journalist, musician and champion of the environment – had come up with a winning idea. Step one: Collect a very large batch of inspirational, poetic, one-page perspectives on our planet’s future – 365, to be exact, or one for every day of the year. (Pick from famous authors, well-known politicians, celebrity environmentalists, musicians and TV personalities, world-renowned leaders and scientists. Cajole every one of them into writing an essay.)

Stop to mop brow.

Step two: Organize these hundreds of contributions into a thought-provoking, game-changing literary compilation.

Step three: Publish, and donate all proceeds of book sales to environmental and humanitarian charities.

Step four: Make a difference to the world.

Sound ambitious? Todd pulled it off. Global Chorus: 365 Voices on the Future of the Planet, published by Rocky Mountain Books, will be in stores across the country at the end of the month. You can pre-order your copies online.

The theme was hope. The responses were optimistic. Notable contributors – and I’m only naming a few here – include Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou, Mikhail Gorbachev, Justin Trudeau, Desmond Tutu, David Suzuki, Jane Goodall, Rick Hansen, Farley Mowat, Temple Grandin and the Dalai Lama.

Every single one of these individuals donated their work and time to this project. Including me. Yep, I’m jammed in there on October 28, rubbing elbows with none other than October 29’s Stephen Hawking.

I’m humbled to be included. Floored, in fact. But proud. It’s a worthy project. And it will matter.