Monthly Archives: August 2015

The Snake Whisperer

When psychology student Marissa Bowsfield heard rumours of a ball python on the loose near her university campus, she felt driven to rescue it. Burnaby Mountain, British Columbia, isn’t exactly a native habitat for the cold-blooded creature, so the snake’s odds of surviving on its own were bleak. Get this: Marissa tracked the animal, without a haz-mat suit, found it on a mountain trail, by choice, and then, using her actual hands, carried it back to her residence on campus. She fed it water and warmed it up, with plans to bring it to an exotic-animal rescue organization.

Believe it or not, it’s the second time Marissa has saved a snake recently. She caught another python earlier in the summer. A local paper reports that four snakes have been found here so far, raising suspicion that they’ve all been let loose and abandoned by one individual. So there may be several more of these reptiles slithering around. (Why am I smiling right now? Because I don’t live anywhere near Burnaby Mountain. Currently, that fact pleases me.)

Marissa shrugged off her bravery. “If it was something else, like maybe a giant spider, I wouldn’t have acted the way I did, but snakes are okay,” she told CBC news. For me, it would be a toss-up. I might choose the giant spider.

Then again, I might choose to stay home.

Here’s hoping someone rounds up the rest of the pythons… for the snakes’ sake. Yeah, that’s it. Only thinking of the snakes. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Joseph Valks / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Here’s hoping someone rounds up the rest of the pythons… for the snakes’ sake. Yeah, that’s it. Only thinking of the snakes. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Joseph Valks / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

With This Soup Pot, I Thee Wed

If you have any experience with weddings, you know about all those pesky little details that need attending to. Is the groom’s pocket square the exact right shade of chartreuse? Will the ice swan centrepiece arrive on time? How fresh is the duck pate? Does the distance between Uncle Stan’s table and the open bar comply with his court order?

Imagine if your most pressing question was this: Is there going to be enough food for 4,000 desperate refugees?

Fethullah Uzumcuoglu and Esra Polat, a betrothed couple living in Turkey, recently made the decision to skip a celebratory banquet for their wedding. Instead, they spent the money on food for thousands of Syrian refugees in Kilis, a Turkish border town. Still wearing their wedding clothes, the newly married couple served up meals to 4,000 of the millions of Syrians who have fled violence in their home country.

Suddenly, the question of whether the reception-room lighting is amber enough to complement the pink décor seems rather minor. I’m in awe of the huge hearts of these newlyweds. Talk about starting your couplehood with compassion.

Fethullah and Esra’s wedding photo album may turn out less traditional than most. But I predict this pair will always find it heartwarming to relive their special day.

What, they delivered the organza chair sashes instead of the taffeta? Could this day get any more stressful? Oh, wait, that’s right. We could be facing mortal peril in a war-torn country… (Photo courtesy of artur84 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

What, they delivered the organza chair sashes instead of the taffeta? Could this day get any more stressful? Oh, wait, we could be facing mortal peril in a war-torn country… (Photo courtesy of artur84 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

A Light in the Heart

Meet Amber. She’s a reader here at 50 Good Deeds. Amber started paying attention to this blog because, in her words, “I wanted to hear about the good in this world, not just the bad that we gather from every news broadcast.” As we all know, there’s oodles of good to talk about. And now this young woman, a psychiatric nurse in Kitchener, Ontario, has her own story of kindness to share.

Amber was bustling between haircut appointment and social appointment, when she stopped to fuel up at a fast-food restaurant. She chatted and joked with the middle-aged server, a woman named Amelia, who eventually remarked: “I like how you are comfortable with who you are.” And Amelia proceeded to put sugar where her mouth was: she augmented Amber’s lunch with a cookie, on the house. Was that because she liked the new haircut, Amber wanted to know – it had come up in conversation, after all. “No,” Amelia responded. “It’s because I like your personality.”

That comment resonated with Amber, who received it as high praise. “I have never had a stranger give me such a warm, genuine compliment,” she told me. “It has stuck with me all week. Not just the compliment itself, but how she placed such value on the things that really matter in this world.”

Amber truly believes that recognizing a woman’s inner character is much more meaningful than any comment about her looks. She said as much in the letter she dropped off to Amelia a few days later, along with a gift to thank her for the “personality cookie,” as she calls it. “In a world that is constantly trying to convince women that the most important thing, the only important thing, is our outer appearance, it is so refreshing and meaningful that you appreciated my personality – ultimately, my sense of self,” she wrote in her note to Amelia. “Thank you again for being so friendly, warm, generous, and open with a stranger. Thank you even more for encouraging me to be the best version of myself and for giving me a sincerely genuine compliment.”

I’ve been thinking about Amber’s reaction and how much this interaction meant to her. I confess there’s not a lot I remember from my university days, but I do remember which dates called me “interesting” instead of pretty. They stood out. Clearly, it’s because what they said meant more to me. So I see Amber’s point. As Khalil Gibran wrote: “Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.” A light in the heart is a very fine thing to strive for.

Want some help coming up with compliments that have nothing to do with the way someone looks? Check out this post by journalist Rachel Hills, author of the new book The Sex Myth, with 27 different ideas to get you started.

Amber, you have exceptionally readable handwriting. That’s a true compliment.

Amber, you have exceptionally readable handwriting. That’s a true compliment.

Road Test

All good deeds are important, and necessary, and celebrated. But saving a life is surely an act that ranks slightly above all the rest, sort of like the exquisite steam that rises above a really fine cup of coffee.

Lexi Shymanski saved two lives this summer. The tiny girl in Prince George, British Columbia, is only five years old, but here’s how it played out: Her mother got drowsy behind the wheel of the family’s SUV – that’s a road hazard associated with playing lullabies on the car stereo system – and their vehicle went suddenly off the road, down a long embankment and into a tree.

Lexi’s mom, Angela, was knocked out. Baby Peter was crying, and Lexi woke up from her nap wondering what the heck had just happened. She assessed the situation, figured out how to get out of her car seat (only the second time she’d ever performed that particular trick), and climbed 12 metres up to the main road to wave down a driver.

Angela is now recovering from multiple spinal fractures. Baby Peter had a small brain bleed, but luckily he’ll be fine. Lexi is struggling with nightmares. But the little girl is secure in the knowledge she was able to rescue her own family.

Her mom told CBC news that she asked Lexi how she’d known what to do. Lexi’s response: “I thought, what would Mommy say if she was awake… Mommy would say, go get help.”

Angela has always emphasized “teaching her independence and teaching her the difference between bad strangers and good people, good strangers.” I wonder if this mom ever had any inkling that her own life, and that of her children, might depend on these very lessons.

By the way, both parents have been off work as the family recovers. If you feel moved to support them, their fundraising page is here.

(Photo courtesy of seaskylab / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

(Photo courtesy of seaskylab / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)