The one where everyone is an ugly mess of a stomach virus. Oh, THAT’S diarrhoea. All those other times? Those were more of modern parenting, I don’t want to touch that, you clean it mess. This week? Good lord, I’ll just stop.
There there were the complete melt downs. I don’t like this banana. I want THAT banana. Why did you push the (crosswalk) button? I want to push the button! Whyyyyyy (melting on the ground) I want to push the button!!
Yet out of all this madness (and this is the light version), there is a glimmer of kindness. An elderly man shuffling along on the bus held Ankle biter 1’s hand as we alighted. And then he joked, “You can’t follow me home.” Shimmers of friendliness that makes this week bearable.
And with this, I’m happy to introduce this jewel of a book: Mr Tweed’s Good Deeds by Jim Stoten. Mr Tweeds ventures into his neighbourhood and encounters several neighbours who require some assistance finding cherished yet misplaced objects. Little Colin Rocodile has lost 1 kite in the park. Herman Chimps misplaced 6 pineapples at the market. It is a counting masterpiece as each character is introduced and a full two-page spread unfolds where Mr Tweeds, the neighbour and the reader are invited to seek the lost items. (a Where’s Waldo meets the Yellow Submarine if you will.) Mr Tweed’s daily walk concludes with a celebratory block party to honour Mr Tweed’s kindness hosted by his neighbours where 10 gifts are presented.
helping in the search for arrows
a thank you street party
Ankle biter 1 honestly needed a few readings to get into the book. He had more questions at first: why are the bushes shaped like animals? Why are there mice in the library? Why is he shooting arrows in the trees? Why did he lose his pineapples?But he settled into it and liked to search for each item. He liked the end the best: “he gets presents!” and “they closed down the street for a party.” Yes, how he narrates the scene now when we get to that page. I cherish this book for the underlying message of kindness and “they closed down the street for a party.” This world needs more block parties and of course kindness. Kindness is about celebrating. So I’m going to be nice to myself and go celebrate the end of this week.
Happy new years to you! There is a pomp and circumstance that comes with the start of a new year. The promise of a new beginning, a new you, a new me. But honestly, every morning should begin that way if we are to truly improve, achieve, evolve. And for me, it does as I revel in the mornings. But ask me as the day descends and generally I can’t wait until the new sun to try again. But that’s okay, “They can’t all be winners.” Every morning is an opportunity to make yesterday better, at least different. So go on, give yourself a hug and pomp and circumstance away.
With that I’d like to introduce a marvellous gem to start this year: Hug Machine by Scott Campbell. Introduced back in 2014, it is illustriously water-coloured in cool hues. A boy with an arm span longer than his height goes about his day hugging everything and everyone he sees. Everything is hugged: his unaffected older sister, the unassuming fire hydrant, the spiky porcupine, the construction man’s saw horse. The last hug lets us know that “the Hug Machine is always open for business.” Quite simple really. And not even in a Hallmark I was thinking of you cheese-o-rama way. I think it is easy to get saccharine when the subject matter is about hugs. Scott Campbell, however, renders a lovely story about kindness.
The Hug Machine is available to hug anyone, anytime, whether they are square or long, spiky or soft.
Ankle Biter 1 liked the two-page spread of the Hug Machine doing what he likes best. “He just hugged me.” But Ankle Biter also resonated with the situation where a baby was assuaged with a hug. After the book reading, Ankle Biter 2 was the source of Ankle Biter 1’s affections. Nice.
When I first spied the cover, I thought the post box was the Hug Machine. I mean think about it. Snail mail/stamped post received is certainly a hug from afar. But maybe that’s inspiration for another day. I adored the book for the other two-page spread of Hug Machine’s activities. Reminiscent of Keane’s Family Circus where Billy trapezes through the neighbourhood (have I dated myself???!), a dotted line showcases the Hug Machine’s adventures through his neighbourhood. As an independently mobile child, the Hug Machine fearlessly roams his neighbourhood and interacts freely with its people. As it should be. It’s not pollyanna but reflective of a close knit neighbourhood. An urban imagined I’m currently trying to activate for the ankle biters.
Hello there. We are a little more than half way through the 7 weeks of urban kindness. With gratefulness in your heart, I think it is time to pay it forward. It was only a matter of time. Given local and global events of late, I think we can all use a little kindness. How best to experience kindness than to apply it.
It can be as easy as clicking online and donating to your favourite cause. Here are some to get you started:
The Heliotrope Foundation: They help heal communities after natural disasters, economic devastation and social crisis using creative processes.
Indiegogo: Help fund local projects with the Kickstarter for local communities
Kiva: Help alleviate poverty and directly finance those who want to create better lives.
Or go hyper local and donate old coats to the local shelter. Share your time at local soup kitchens. Buy a bus fare for the person behind you. Support your local independent shop- be it the green grocer, the butcher, the cafe and when you do, buy two and pass the second one on.
I did this recently, at the local baker. The wafting cinnamon and freshly baked bread always tantalises the senses as I walk by their door. What a wonderful opportunity to sample their goods by purchasing one for me and one for someone else. Honestly, I thought it would be a simple straightforward experience. “What’s the most popular item here?” “What do you mean?” “This is my first time here, what do you suggest I try?” “For the little one we have ginger bread men” “Okay. Can I buy two? One for me and the second one for the next family.” The head baker then comes in on the conversation.”Why do you want to do that?” “Because it’s hard being a parent and it would be nice to be thought of.” “They may not want their kids to eat treats.” “Alright. Give it to the next person.” “I think we can do that.” Trying to pass a little on but deflected momentarily in the name of treat police. I get it, I don’t like how snacks at playgroups are sugar laden. It just reminds me that more kindness is needed in this world so when kindness is presented, it isn’t questioned.
Welcome back to urban kindness: 7 weeks 7 projects. Has the turkey, ham, fish, tofurkey, yesterday’s daylong pickings settled comfortably in your tum? A mighty reward I say if you embarked upon a meander in your hood! The beauty of observing your hood is that you incrementally become what Jane Jacobs referred to as “the eyes on the street” or the unobtrusive caretakers of the area.
“There must be eyes on the street, eyes belonging to those we might call the natural proprietors of the street.” -Jane Jacobs
It is not a light responsibility- being a proprietor of your neighbourhood. It requires investment and the development of a relationship with your place. From your observations and interactions, however, sprout hundreds of acts of urban kindness. From observing my neighbourhood, I knew there was a panoply of younger ones who would be slightly intrigued at the prospect of an alternative hopscotch. So for this week’s project, I’d like to build upon your observations as well as the spirit of giving thanks. From your observations, write down 50 things in your neighbourhood for which you are grateful. This meditative exercise can increase and sustain positive emotion! Maybe, maybe not but it does make you really think about what is happening in your hood. Ten should be easy. Thirty should begin to work your muscles. I’ll share some of mine, if you share some of yours…
No-one told us to get off the street when the Ankle biters were rolling their noisy walkers down the hill, each day, during the summer. The lady at the top of the hill who always waved at Ankle biter 2 during aforementioned outdoor play. Wild blueberries growing by the rubbish bins. The garbos waving hello every week. The backyard neighbour who hosted a stellar Bonfire Night. Being invited to a party by the neighbour who saw us lounging in the sun. The secret passageway rather pedestrian and not vehicular thoroughfare. The big white star in the window that I always ask Ankle Biter 1 to point at….
AND I’d like to leave you with: The post/delivery personnel who leave our packages with our neighbours. I thought it odd at first. But there is inherent trust in humans to do so and for that, I am sincerely grateful.
Happy day of thanks to you: vegetarian, omnivore, pescetarian, vegan, animal, mineral, vegetable. Despite the strife world over, man-made and not, I think it is important to take even just a micromoment of pause and thank the air for the beauty of our breath. If you have been following along the acts of urban kindness, you should have taken a walk around your hood. If you haven’t, go on- get outside. I’ll wait. Really.
I hope your observations have grounded and connected you. I hope what you saw delights you.
In this spirit of delight, I’d like to share with you one of my favourite Australian picture books: Peggy by Anna Walker. A heart-warming story about a chook named Peggy who bounces around happily on her trampoline and watches the world transpire in the burbs. One day, she takes an unexpected wander on the wings of the wind, loses and surrenders herself in the city and finds her way back through her sheer power of observation. Ah yes, her observation of fellow feathered friends and a beacon of sunflowers. The book awakens the eyes with water-coloured beauty and two-paged spreads. Little did she know but Anna Walker took urban kindness 101 to heart (whimsy of exploration, powers of observations, opportunities to connect). Look at her inspiration board:
Ankle Biter 1 was read this book each evening straight for one month in the early months. He doesn’t remember. It did help him reach the pinnacle of sleeping through the night. Whether it was timing, I don’t know but I’d like to credit the book because before you say “the end” you just feel just a wee bit better about the world. It has a special place in my urban imagined primer because it takes place in Melbourne- ah lovely Collins Street and the dearth of brollies (how I miss you); Peggy takes public transport; it contrasts the cbd and the burbs; and, chooks, in the burbs! A gorgeous book for the bookshelf.
Welcome back to urban kindness: 7 weeks 7 projects. I hope you have dusted the chalk off your fingers. After much thought, I think I might have lead you a bit astray. (Blame my giddiness for the impulsiveness!) I think honestly before you can share some urban kindness, you probably should know a thing or two about your own sliver of urban. So consider this week’s project a new beginning.
In 1959, Kevin Lynch (an urban design theorist) invited twenty-seven people to take a walk with him in Boston, Massachusetts. (Oh, Kevin, if only I were alive!) Underlying this seemingly innocuous walk was the belief that aspects of the neighbourhood influence people’s memory and subsequent use of the space.
“We are about to take a short walk. Don’t look for anything in particular, but tell me about the things you see, hear, or smell; everything and anything you notice.” -Kevin Lynch
beauty of reuse
comical urban kindness
When is the last time you took a walk in your neighbourhood? A true lingering walk, noticing the colour of your neighbours jumper? The cracks on the footpath? The whizz of the bicycles? For this week’s project, I challenge you to walk in your neighbourhood. Pretend you’re with Kevin (at least I do) and capture either in your mind’s eye or on your phone’s camera the details that create the intricacies of your neighbourhood. If you’d like, please share along on instagram tagging it with #urbankindness. Knowing your neighbourhood is the first and enduring urban kindness that you can do. Enjoy your saunter!
Welcome back to urban kindness: 7 weeks 7 projects and happy World Kindness Day to you. Did you wake up with a smile today? I certainly didn’t. It was raining. But then I remembered that I was off to post the inaugural urban kindness act. That’s the beauty of urban kindness, simple and swift, it changes the mood instantaneously. I endeavour all of these acts to occur outside, if even only outside your doorstep. They require a little gumption on your part because after all you will be interacting with the world thar yonder. They will be simple because I am not a complicated kind of person and require minimal materials. Anonymous kindness is the best kind but if you feel like sharing (and I hope you do because I want to be equally inspired) pop it up on instagram tagging it with #urbankindness. So onwards and upwards!
I’d like to think I breathe out colour. Vivid indigo and brilliant cerise and quiet eggshell. So for this inaugural act it is befitting it involves colour. That’s right, a little covert chalk art. I’m inspired by all those out there. A big shout out to Matty Angel as I was moved to do this:
#urbankindness bunny hop
An outdoor hopscotch for the young and young at heart in the hood. I just used actions that Ankle biter 1 seems keen on these days. Actions are as limited as your imagination…
Stand and kiss the sky.
Do a little dance,
I couldn’t tell you who followed along if they did at all but my neighbour let me know at the end of the evening as I knocked on her door to drop off some post “Is that your drawing? We just got done playing with it.” Yippee.
I didn’t stop there. With chalk in hand I walked over to the park and left my mark. You see, I walk through this park every week and usually I see some solitaire individual sitting at the bench eating lunch. I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be nice if they were out in this weather to see something nice. A tingle of warmth if you will? I think the thing about the park is that it is quite PUBLIC. The shy part of me clouded my thinking: I was not suppose to be ‘defacing’ footpaths. What if someone stops me? But come on, it’s chalk. It’s temporary. It’s an act of kindness. It’s drizzling. So the shyness wilted and I tried to make someone’s day a little less dreary. Will you come and chalk art some kindness with me?