Like the Way Melissa Etheridge Does

I’m at that age where some of the adults I know – we’re talking full grown and fully established individuals – are folks I first knew as small little kids. These people are 20 years younger than me, yet they’re well over the age of majority. It’s freaky.

When I first met Danny, I was a university graduate living in the basement apartment of his parents’ house. He was four years old. Sometimes I babysat him, and often I walked him to school. He was energetic and spirited. Once, he rehearsed and then performed a rousing one-man-band rendition of “I Have a Little Dreidel,” just for me. The things you never forget.

The grown-up version of Danny works as a flight attendant. If I had to place a bet, I’d gamble that he’s the upbeat, friendly sort who rolls with the punches. I’ll bet his passengers like him. The respect, apparently, goes both ways… along with occasional starstruckness. Here’s what Danny wrote on Facebook last week: “Melissa Etheridge and her lovely wife were on my flight yesterday. Can I just say that they are the nicest, coolest and most amazingly CHILL people that I have ever had the pleasure of interacting with?”

Danny embraced this opportunity to let Melissa E. know how much her music has meant to him. One amazing performance in particular, he told her, “…influenced me as a kid to feel music with as much passion as possible.”

The singer’s reaction? She patted his arm, thanked him and called him kind. Her wife called him a sweetheart. (“I’m part of their family now, right? That’s how that works?” Danny added hopefully in his online report.)

Their flight out of Quebec City was considerably delayed while ramp crew took frequent warm-up breaks to prevent frostbite. (If you’re from this part of Canada, you know it was so cold last week that even the snowmen were shivering.) “Melissa and her wife were the ONLY two people to ask me how I was holding up and feeling while dealing with the delay,” Danny wrote. “Her wife was joking that Melissa should get on the interphone and do a couple numbers.”

He was struck by their graciousness, and their compassion. Especially while he laboured his way through day nine of a long 11-day work stint. “This was very much welcomed and appreciated,” he noted. “Both of them were complete class acts.”

Of course celebrities can be do-gooders like anyone else. They step in to staunch blood when it’s called for. They donate to ALS research while drinking scotch and looking classy. And they ask a weary flight attendant how he’s feeling, right when he most needs to hear it.

“It was definitely a moment,” Danny told me. Thanks to this and a couple of other musical encounters over the past week, he’s rediscovering his love for guitar playing. (Dreidel songs, too? We are left to wonder.) Melissa Etheridge not only cheered my young friend Danny, she inspired him. Rock on.

Puppies and Babies and Happiness

If by resolution you mean “firmness of resolve” (Merriam-Webster), then yes, I suppose I have some for 2015. I am resolved to work hard but play well. And I’m pretty firm about it.

January is a time for looking back as well as forward. So I thought I’d investigate which stories on 50 Good Deeds captivated you most in 2014. Interestingly, the two most popular posts cover the topics of dogs and babies (which, as you probably know, tend also to be well represented on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Coincidence?).

The most widely read post of 2014 was “Newfoundkindness.” This story described a therapy pool that was generously provided to an oversized, overadorable Newfoundland puppy in Moncton, New Brunswick.

Lows and Highs” scored the next-most hits. This post detailed the outpouring of support for an Alberta set of triplet baby boys, the Lows, all of whom are in treatment for eye cancer. Check out the photo. Even more overadorable, if you ask me.

What is it about kids and pets that enchants us so? I suspect all those cutie-pie pictures and videos must have a whole lot to do with it. Which is why 50 Good Deeds is moving forward, in 2015, with a charming story about a dog-and-owner reunion: When Sue Perry moved to New Brunswick from Ottawa, she thought she’d never again see her service dog (Sue is deaf). She’d lost Milo six months ago. Recently, an animal welfare group managed to track Milo down – in Gatineau, Quebec, where he was now living with his new adoptive family, which included two kids.

So the family held a pow-wow. Should they give him up? “It wasn’t an easy decision,” dad Nicolas Adam told CBC, “but we felt it was the right thing to do.” (They eventually took in another dog.) With the help of volunteer drivers, and donations to cover gas money, Milo travelled to Fredericton, New Brunswick, to be with Sue again.

And what was going through Milo’s doggy mind when he saw his dear friend Sue after half a year apart? Have a look at the video. His high-octane tail-wagging and kissing frenzy say it all. Who needs words?

Happy 2015. Really happy.

I have no reason to add this photo of two cute puppies, other than the fact that you love it. You know you do. (Photo by SOMMAI /

I have no reason to add this photo of two cute puppies, other than the fact that you love it. You know you do. (Photo by SOMMAI /

Many Happy Returns

“I wondered if you could help please?” This is the message that a young English woman posted on 50 Good Deeds last week.

Vikki George recently turned 30 years old. Just two days ago, in fact. But although 30 is a milestone birthday, I’m guessing she’s not all that hung over. Her birthday celebration will have been pretty tame. That’s because instead of chugging beers in a bar somewhere, Vikki was opening greeting cards… in bed.

Vikki has had a severe form of chronic fatigue syndrome for 13 years. Most of the time, she feels unwell and stays in her bedroom. But Vikki, who lives an hour outside of London, is an innovator. This young woman who rarely leaves home has found a unique way to make a difference to others.

In the months leading up to her big birthday, Vikki has been working on a blog called My 30 Wishes. It’s a list of 30 wishes for her 30 years. Most of her so-called “wishes” are actually good deeds, like donating blood, giving away flowers or supporting disadvantaged children. And Vikki figures since she’s too ill to do these herself, perhaps other people will do them – sort of as her stand-ins. Hence the message posted to 50 Good Deeds, asking for help to spread the word.

Vikki’s been a busy birthday gal. She’s even started a charitable service, Post Pals, to collect mail for children with chronic illnesses. (She loved getting mail when she was feeling miserable, and wants to help put smiles on other kids’ faces.)

Happy birthday, Vikki! Thanks for passing on the love. And because we aim to be fair here, we’re giving a shout out to this Deck of Good Deeds Cards initiative, also posted recently on 50 Good Deeds (I’m such a sucker for “please spread the word” entreaties). This set of cards is preprinted with good deed ideas for kids to complete. As the creators declare on their Kickstarter page, “Will this deck solve every problem there is? No, but it’s a damn good start!” Folks, it’s all about keeping it in perspective – yet keeping it positive.

Be merry, be joyful, be with friends and family. It’s what these special times are all about. See you in 2015.

Be merry, be joyful, be with friends and family. It’s what these special times are all about. See you in 2015.

New Kid on the Block

He’s only five, but he makes a lasting impression.

Huxley Briggs (his name sounds tougher than he really is, I promise you) can build wooden blocks. He does this pretty much all by himself. His dad helps a bit, but Huxley can deftly handle a table saw and a sander, a chop saw and a thickness planer. I don’t even know what most of those are.

And since Huxley actually enjoys using all these fancy tools and working with wood, he devotes a lot of his time to it, and has set up a business. It’s called Huxley’s Block Company, based in Whitehorse, Yukon. It sells blocks.

Our little friend talked Betty Stoke Burns, proprietor of Angellina’s Toy Boutique, into stocking the items in her store. I don’t think he had to try very hard, given that Burns got weepy-emotional pretty much as soon as Huxley opened his mouth. (That’s what she admitted to a news reporter, here.)

Now, with every sale of blocks, Burns is donating the proceeds to the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization (she asked Huxley to pick the charity). As for Huxley, although he’s putting some of his own profits into personal savings, he’s also devoting some of it to a good cause as well. This particular charity is a little closer to home – Huxley’s buying knitting supplies for his big sister.

See what I mean? Lasting impression.

I’m still thinking about Huxley Briggs, resident blockmaker. Cute-cute-cute-cute-cute!

I’m still thinking about Huxley Briggs, resident blockmaker. Cute-cute-cute-cute-cute!

Misery Loves Company

Would you describe yourself as a glass-half-empty kind of person? We can’t all have sunny dispositions. If you’re a bit of a morose sort – less Happy the Dwarf, perhaps, and more Marvin the Depressed Robot – you may believe you don’t have what it takes to support a pal who’s feeling bummed out. After all, a peppier person would do a better job turning someone’s bad mood around and lifting their spirits – wouldn’t they?

Perhaps not, say researchers in Yale University’s Psychology Department. They gathered groups of positive people and sad sacks, and showed them videos of speakers telling very personal stories. The researchers found that the more upbeat listeners weren’t so good at identifying the speakers’ negative emotions, like sadness. Yet since the positive people felt so darn confident about themselves, they were actually convinced they were stellar at picking up these emotions.

So why did their empathy skills fall flat? The perky people (the researchers theorize) were probably so focused on their own soaring moods that they were a tad oblivious to the misery around them. Call it one of the drawbacks of being high on life.

The downcast folks, on the other hand, were more empathetic when it came to negative emotions, and better at noticing them.

That means that when you want a buddy to commiserate with you, you ought to call on Grumpy Gus. At least he’ll feel your pain.

It should be noted that, in the study, positive people were good at picking up on someone’s emotions if they were in a happy state. My theory: It’s fun to be around fun people if you’re feeling fun.

So if you happen to be somewhat of a sad sack, don’t despair. It turns out you may have a lot of empathy to offer a friend who’s feeling down.

You may not be the life of the party, but you could still be someone’s lifeline.

Please don’t hate me because I’m happy…

Please don’t hate me because I’m happy…

I Thought Every Day was Giving Day

First there was Black Friday. Then came Cyber Monday. If you’re not clean out of cash yet, today is Giving Tuesday.

Never heard of it? This charity-driven concept was only launched two years ago. It seems to be catching on. Ostensibly, it’s a day to kick off the so-called giving season. (And that’s giving as in a goat to a third-world village, not as in cashmere-lined gloves to your fitness instructor.)

Then there’s the kind of giving that’s priceless. I was moved by a recent news item about a heart donation. The family of a 21-year-old American man who had lost his life in a fire decided to give his heart to a sick Vietnam war veteran. (They also donated organs and tissues to 59 other patients. Staggering.)

The war vet in question, who’s no spring chicken, had already been turned down for a transplant by five hospitals. So I don’t imagine there are words for what this gift meant to him.

Who needs words? Eight months after the transplant, the recipient gave an unforgettable gift back to the donor family. He allowed them to listen to their loved one’s heart, fully alive and beating, inside his chest.

Furthermore, the transplant patient and donor family all said yes to the exchange being videotaped and broadcast, just so they could spread awareness about the critical importance of organ donation.

With all that giving, I can only guess how many more lives they have saved.

Grab the tissues and watch the video here.

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.”