Feed This

Ever hear of Neknominate, or the Chug Challenge? It’s an online drinking game. You’re supposed to down a pint of beer and post the video on social media, then nominate a couple of buddies to do the same within 24 hours.

Sometimes this is done in combination with an outlandish stunt. People have imbibed from toilets, or mixed their drinks with insects or engine oil. In a Canadian spin, they’ve filmed themselves walking the dog or pumping gas semi-naked, outdoors, in winter, and then drinking the beer. (I wonder how many people opt for the alcoholic fortification first, and then perform the outdoor stunt?)

Neknominate has led to at least five known fatalities. That’s not cool. So a separate batch of young people have turned the viral video challenge into a different trend, called Feed the Deed. You perform an act of kindness and post it as a video. Then you nominate two or three friends to keep it going.

I heard about the Chug Challenge from a particularly sociable nephew. Enough said there. I heard about Feed the Deed from my teenage daughter, who was excited to be nominated and put considerable thought into her good deed. Eventually, she decided to make a card for Colin, the little Michigan boy I wrote about last week. His mom is collecting birthday wishes to prove to him he has friends. My daughter circulated her card at school and asked a whole bunch of other students to sign it.

Listen, if you’re ever losing faith in humanity, just read the sorts of things teenagers write when they want to lift someone’s spirits.

Other friends involved in the Feed the Deed challenge have bought coffees for bus drivers and garbage collectors, donated to charity, and given out pet treats at an animal shelter.

It’s thirsty work, but I doubt these kids are chugging beers at the end of it. Instead, they’re drinking in the gratification of helping those in need.

And not a frosted stein in sight.

And not a frosted stein in sight.

They Say It’s His Birthday

Colin sounds like a terrific, quirky little kid. He lives in Michigan. He has a sister named Ella, a magnificent smile, and a fondness for wearing shirts and ties to school – even when no one else does. Oh, and he’s about to turn 11 years old. On a scale of one to ten, Colin rates his mounting birthday excitement at “about 50.”

But because Colin’s disabilities affect his social skills, he’s convinced there’s no point in having a party. No one would come. He has no friends.

Or so he believes.

Once Colin’s mom got over nursing her shattered heart upon hearing this, she set out to prove him wrong. She started a Facebook campaign called “Happy Birthday Colin,” and began encouraging folks worldwide to send him “positive thoughts and encouraging words.” This, she felt, would create for her son an unforgettable birthday celebration, far better than any party magician, pinata or pin-the-tail game could ever provide.

I think not even Colin’s parents could have predicted just how amazing this upcoming event is proving to be. The Facebook page has over two million likes (put that into perspective: that’s almost the same number as Conan O’Brien’s page). Incredibly, hundreds of thousands of birthday cards have already been mailed to Colin’s post office box, along with myriad parcels.

The best part? It’s all being kept a secret from Colin, who will be surprised – thunderstruck may be a better word – on his actual birthday, March 9.

It’s not too late to add your greetings to this particular pile of wishes. Visit the Facebook page to post a message, or send a card to Colin at P.O. Box 756, Richland, MI, 49083-0757, U.S.A.

We’re gonna have a good time…

We’re gonna have a good time…

Going for Gold

By now you may be infected through and through with Olympic fever. And why not? If you’re Canadian, like me, it’s a high time to hail from the north. You have to admit we (or, rather, our countryfellow representatives) have put on a fine show of kindness on the international stage. Take, for example, the Canadian coach who rushed to lend a cross-country ski to a Russian athlete as he struggled to reach the finish line on broken equipment. Then there’s the Canadian speed skater who qualified for a medal event, but gave his spot to a teammate whom he felt had a better chance to win the race (reliable instincts, as it turned out; the teammate took a silver medal).

Then there’s this incredibly awesome commercial released by the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion in response to anti-gay sentiment in Russia. Over a slow-mo video of two luge players manoeuvering their respective pelvises on a sled (you sort of have to see it), the ad declares: “The games have always been a little gay… Let’s fight to keep them that way.”

We help the downtrodden, we support our team, we speak up for human rights. Like our curling team will tell you: Canada rocks.

It’s Not Rocket Science

Wouldn’t you love to donate your time to a good cause, while at the same time getting the opportunity to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations?

Well, if by “exploring strange new worlds” you mean writing down the shapes of faraway galaxies, and if by “seeking out new life” you mean scrutinizing deep-sea video footage for evidence of marine animals, and if by “new civilizations” you mean counting the cluster of birds hanging out at your backyard feeder… then there are non-profit agencies that could certainly use your help.

It’s called citizen science, and there are lots of ways you can be a part of it. It’s especially easy for amateurs to get involved these days, thanks to online videos, apps and websites that provide everything you need to make a difference from home. No need for laboratories, telescopes or hip-waders. Or science degrees, for that matter.

You won’t be paid, but you may be singlehandedly responsible for discovering the next black hole or spotted jellyfish. And if that isn’t a shining example of the final frontier, I don’t know what is.

Distant galaxy, or deep-sea species? Yes, folks, and THAT’S why they call it “amateur.”  (PHOTO COURTESY OF SARAH STROTHAM/MARINE PHOTOBANK)

Distant galaxy, or deep-sea species? Yes, folks, THAT’S why they call it “amateur.” (PHOTO COURTESY OF SARAH STROTHAM / MARINE PHOTOBANK)

Wanted: Bosses with Big Hearts

A recent survey by an American staffing agency found that 42% of job seekers would prefer to work for a charitable company.

Recently the agency conducted a survey of over 400 office workers, and asked them: “To what extent does a company’s participation in charitable activities influence your decision to work there?” Seventeen percent of respondents said it matters “a great deal,” and a quarter of them said “somewhat.”

The takeaway message? If you run a business and want people to want to work for you, consider adding an element of kindness to your corporate strategy. Organize clothing drives, host charity runs, or even plan your next office retreat at a soup kitchen instead of inside a hotel boardroom. Co-workers can bond with each other while dishing up hot meals for the homeless.

I work in a company of one, so I don’t do a lot of recruiting. But if I ever expand my business, you can be sure I’ll entice potential job candidates with promises of park cleanups, or perhaps tree planting or barn raising. It certainly sounds rewarding. And I imagine this kind of healthy corporate perk would be a lot more cost-effective than, say, installing an on-site rock climbing wall.

Knit Picks

We’re long-time fans of yarnbombing, simply because this kind of street art gives us a lift. Now, thanks to a few mysterious gangs who know how to wield a pair of knitting needles in wintry weather, yarnbombing is literally giving people a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Last week, someone wrapped more than a dozen hand-knitted scarves around the necks of historical statues in downtown Ottawa, along with notes that offered the free scarves to anyone who needs them to keep warm.

The temperatures in the Ottawa region dropped to minus 28 degrees Celsius last week. For you people in the southern U.S., that’s the official freezing temperature of… well, just about everything.

It’s not the only place where yarnbombers are fighting the cold. A “Chase the Chill” campaign has been going on in Winnipeg for several years now. And knitters in Easton, Pennsylvania, introduced the idea back in 2010.

So don’t be alarmed if you see that a bronze World War hero in your community is suddenly sporting a multi-hued muffler. Hopefully, it will make someone smile. And maybe even toasty-warm.

Yes, okay, I admit this scarf is store-bought. I can’t knit worth a darn… (get it?)

Yes, okay, I admit this scarf is store-bought. I can’t knit worth a darn… (get it?)

Joy with Toys

As a little girl, I was devoted to the wooden dollhouse my grandfather had handcrafted for us. It had a red-painted roof, a staircase and railing, tiny doors that opened and closed, even a separate bathroom. I spent about a zillion hours playing with that house, pleasantly immersed in the dramatic (albeit imaginary) lives and times of the little rubber people who lived there.

So when I heard that an 81-year-old man from Montana has spent the last two years putting together dollhouses for children of needy families, I knew what a mega-gift that is.

Earl Hurshman, a retired steel fabricator, lost his wife in 2011. While visiting her grave, Earl was inspired to do help others – could practically hear his departed wife’s voice nagging him to “get off your ass and do something,” he says in this interview.

Each dollhouse costs him $200. Some of that money is donated from others. The rest he ponies up himself (he lives on social security cheques). The beautiful finished toys mean the world to the children who receive them.

Check out his words of wisdom in this video report: “It’s what we do between the cradle and the grave that makes a difference,” Earl points out.

Earl has always been good with his hands. Now there’s proof he’s good with his heart.