Monthly Archives: January 2013

“I’ll Need a Volunteer”

You know me as a blogger who doesn’t get paid a cent for writing cheeky stories about cheery news. But in my real life, where I have a mortgage, eat groceries and use light switches, I work as a freelance writer. Often these worlds collide. While researching an upcoming magazine article about Thunder Bay, I discovered a 60-second film about volunteering. You’ll want to watch this. I found it uplifting – but bittersweetly, once I learned that the starring actor, Thunder Bay resident Jari Sarkka, lost his life three weeks ago. Not only did Jari portray an active community volunteer on film, he actually lived it. So here’s to you, Jari. Thanks for the inspiration.

“Kids, just go out and do your best”: A kind soul doing what kind souls do best.

“Kids, just go out and do your best”: A kind soul doing what kind souls do best.

If the Shoe Fits…

Here’s proof that nice guys don’t finish last. They may, however, finish in second place.

Ivan Fernández Anaya, a long-distance runner, was in the last leg of a cross-country race last month in Spain. There was just one guy in front of him: Abel Mutai, an Olympic bronze medalist from Kenya. But the gap between the two athletes looked impossible to close. That is, until Abel made a boo-boo. The frontrunner thought he’d crossed the finish line – and he suddenly stopped racing.

The thing was, the finish line was still 10 metres ahead of him. Although spectators screamed at Abel to keep running, he doesn’t understand Spanish – not at any decibel level.

That’s when our pal Ivan raced onto the scene. Did he dart past his rival to claim a win? Or did he instead stop and urge Abel across the finish line, content with second place?

I know you know the answer to this, dear reader, because why else would this story be on this blog? Indeed, Ivan kept pace behind the Kenyan athlete until the race was over.

Ivan’s good turn earned him criticism from his coach (who says he would never have made the same choice himself), but the runner doesn’t regret what he did. “I didn’t deserve to win it,” he told a local newspaper. “I did what I had to do. He was the rightful winner… As soon as I saw he was stopping, I knew I wasn’t going to pass him.” Watch the video here. Best race ever.

“Hey buddy, I don’t mean to be a bother, but …”

“Hey buddy, I don’t mean to be a bother, but …”

Got Girls? Good for You

Do you happen to have a daughter? If so, you’ve got a lot of goodness in your life, according to a Buzzfeed contributor who writes “7 Scientific Reasons To Have Daughters.” (We’ll assume, for generosity’s sake, that the word “scientific” is used loosely here.) She makes the case that “daughters can make their parents healthier, happier and nicer.”

This writer argues that daughters do a world of good for their folks, and she points to various studies to support her claims. For example, she says, daughters are more likely than sons to give financial assistance to their senior parents. And families with two girls are the happiest, compared to all possible combinations of sons and daughters. And having daughters contributes to a dad’s longevity.

Unfortunately, the writer’s logic is, well, a tad flawed. Yes, female baby boomers are a little more likely than males to give money to their moms and dads. But the same study found that males are a lot more likely to help with home maintenance – which sounds like a pretty useful trade-off to me.

How about those happy families with two girls? The researchers here found that while a pair of daughters did spell perfect bliss, a set of four daughters actually puts parents at the wholeheartedly miserable end of the spectrum. (Less is more?)

And that whole live-longer-with-daughters study? That may work out for dad, but it turns out daughters – and sons, for that matter – actually serve to shorten the life of poor, frazzled mom.

It’s fun to play with science, isn’t it? At the end of her article, the writer cites a study showing that daughters often give medical advice to mom. And while that sounds lovely and caring and kind, on the other hand it begs the question: Just what kind of messed-up, half-assed health advice are these girls dishing out, if it’s sending mom into an early grave?

No matter. I have a daughter, and I do believe with all my heart that she contributes health and happiness to my life. Will my life span be a little shorter because I have a girl? Will my lawn get overgrown, because I have no son to tend it? I don’t care. Minutes ago, I got a sweet smackeroo planted on my cheek. So… totally… worth it.

I kissed a girl, and I liked it…

I kissed a girl, and I liked it…

Now We’re Cooking

A friend of mine teaches at a college-level chef school. A couple of weeks ago, she posted an appeal on Facebook. It seems a pupil of hers, passionate about all things fried and fricasseed, was in dire need of a part-time job. He’s a promising culinary student, but had gotten his first degree at the School of Hard Knox and currently called a shelter his home. “I really want to help him get started,” my friend wrote. “If there is anyone that knows of someone that is hiring part time cooks somewhere in Toronto, please let me know.”

A string of supportive replies followed, including one from a guy I’ll call Z, which read: “I can make this happen. Message me with a phone number I can call you with.” Another friend, M, was apparently so touched by the entire exchange that she wrote a blanket thank-you to everyone’s awesomeness.

And things did happen. Less than 10 days later, my friend wrote this exuberant-sounding update, with a shout-out to the chef who made a dream come true: “I am happy to say that thanks to Z, he is now gainfully employed! …My fingers are crossed that he has found his calling.”

I’m with M. This was an incredible show. A college instructor who cared enough to put her neck out, a guy who pulled a few strings, and a life potentially steered in a positive direction. When folks pull together, awesomeness ensures.

Meet Two People Who Really Give a Shirt

No one likes to lose. Especially when the particular thing you’ve lost is a wad of bills adding up to nearly $4,000 in legal tender. That’s what almost happened to Michael Allen, who somehow mistook a folded shirt for a piggy bank. Yep, he decided his laundry was an appropriate place for safekeeping his cash.

He would have lost it for good, except that Saroj, the seamstress he found online, just happened to be honest. You can’t say that about every stranger with a Kijiji account.

Here’s what happened: Last month, Michael inadvertently dropped off his stuffed shirt, along a few others, to be tailored. When Saroj discovered the dough, she never even considered keeping it. “I don’t like that kind of money, stolen money. The hard-earned kind, that’s the kind I like,” she told a reporter (who, incidentally, misspelled her name… we at 50 Good Deeds do hope that doesn’t say anything about the authenticity of this feel-good story).

And here’s the best part. That hoard of money? Michael had earmarked it for an upcoming trip to Brazil. Not for a luxury hotel upgrade… but, rather, to buy toys for poor kids.

Can we say karma?

Stuffing money in shirts… is this a thing that guys do? Should I be going through my hubby’s wardrobe?

Stuffing money in shirts… is this a thing that guys do? Should I be going through my hubby’s wardrobe?

Crowd Pleasers

Kind kids are happy kids. And as it turns out, they’re also more popular. You may be thinking, “Thank you, Captain Obvious,” but that’s actually a recent conclusion of researchers at the University of British Columbia and the University of California.

In their experiment, 400 classroom students between the ages of 9 and 11 were divided into two groups. Group One was asked to do simple good deeds, like sharing a lunch treat or hugging a parent to lift her spirits. Group Two was told to take note of any places they’d been that they enjoyed, like the park or Grandma’s kitchen. The kids did this for four weeks straight. (And can I just pause here to give kudos for their commitment? Four weeks is a lifetime when you’re nine.)

At both the beginning and end of the four weeks, the children rated their level of happiness. They also pointed out which kids in their class they’d want to work with on a school activity.

By the end of the experiment, both groups felt happier. But when it came to being chosen as a classroom collaborator, the students who had been doing good deeds were more likely to be picked than the kids who’d kept track of dreamy visits.

When I was a kid, my dad bought me an animal poster for my room that read: “The best way to have a friend is to be one.” I was more enthralled by the cutesy-furry kitten photo than the actual maxim (truth be told, I was a little insulted… my dad had never given me wall decorations before. What was he trying to tell me?)

But being nice is good advice. And I don’t think you don’t have to be nine to follow it.

Gift Tag, You’re It

If you’re into social networking, and if you happen to be someone who celebrates the new year, you may have recently spied a Facebook message called “2013 Pay It Forward.” It goes like this: “The first 5 people who respond to my post on Facebook will receive something from me in 2013 – a gift, a book, something crafty, some baked goods. It will hit when the mood strikes and will be a surprise. These 5 people must also post this on their Facebook page, and do the same for 5 people.”

Talk about a blast. Who wouldn’t want a mystery gift? Why do you think those magazine subscription campaigns are so enticing? We don’t actually need the ginsu knives or the tote bags, we just enjoy getting presents.

According to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook now has over a billion active users. Just imagine if everyone jumped on this particular benevolence bandwagon. I can’t even do the math, but I know there’d be a heck of lot of homemade brownies and embroidered bookmarks flying back and forth through the postal service.

Speaking as someone who, out of the blue in November, received two gorgeous, original miniature oil paintings in the mail (Anna, you’re a star!), I can vouch for the fact that it’s big-time fun. But all the same, I’m not signing up for this new pyramid present scheme. Call me old-fashioned, but I’m with Miss Manners on this. A gift should never be something one expects or is obligated to give.

Impulse giving, on the other hand? Good, good times.

Remember when Ramona Quimby was told to sit here for the present?

Remember when Ramona Quimby was told to sit here for the present?

Lace Up

Happy 2013! If you live in northeast Calgary and enjoy sports of the snow-and-ice variety, here’s an easy good deed to get your year started. Give a guy a break and go skating on the spanking-new, three-acre public rink in his yard near McKnight and 84th Street. Norm Price spent hours designing and building this labour of love, only to have no one show up. We’re not asking much on your part. You’ll pay no admission fees, maybe score a free and steaming hot chocolate if you’re lucky, then do a few figure-eights on the ice – and let Norm know his goodwill hasn’t been wasted.