Opinion Editorial

Random acts of kindness in Orillia heart-warming

By Dave Dawson, Orillia Packet & Times

PATRICK BALES/THE PACKET & TIMES
During the past week, scarves have been popping up throughout the downtown core, tied to trees and lampposts. The scarves are there for anyone who needs some extra warmth, but who has been placing the scarves remains a mystery.

PATRICK BALES/THE PACKET & TIMES During the past week, scarves have been popping up throughout the downtown core, tied to trees and lampposts. The scarves are there for anyone who needs some extra warmth, but who has been placing the scarves remains a mystery.

Many local churches, groups and agencies have organized campaigns encouraging their followers and supporters to engage in random acts of kindness. While altruistic and well-meaning, the formality of those crusades -- and the public relations exercise that often occurred before, during or after -- somehow seemed to detract from the spirit of the efforts.

That's why what's happening in downtown Orillia right now is so genuine and heart-warming.

Late last week, Linda Tiffin, owner of Tiffin's Creative Services, noticed some colourful scarves had been tied to trees and lampposts on Peter Street. Upon first glance, she thought some spirited soul was trying to keep the trees warm.

Upon closer inspection, she noticed this was something much different; a small placard was affixed beside the scarves that provided some insight into the strange sight. It read: "I'm not lost. If you are cold, I'm yours. I was put here for you to take!"

Inspired and awed, Tiffin snapped some photographs and posted a collage that also featured the sign on her Facebook page - and was awed again by the response. More than 300 people shared the page among their friends - a new record for the store's official portal.

Earlier this week, just as those scarves on Peter Street had been depleted by people seeking a little warmth during the bone-chilling weather, more scarves popped up; fabric ribbons of colour were discovered tied to a tree outside Boudicca Books on Mississaga Street. This time, the sign reads, simply: "Need a scarf ... take a scarf! We have not been left behind. Feel free to 'tie one on.'"

A little Internet searching discovered that this has happened before in Wilmington, NC, Edmonton, Ottawa and in Norway. No one really knows who started it and nobody knows who is behind the Orillia initiative.

"I hope they remain anonymous," Chris Bronson, a youth worker at the Orillia Youth Centre told The Packet & Times this week. "That way, it encourages people to do acts of kindness out of the goodness of their own heart."

Bronson is on the mark. Art Hochberg, an innovative teacher of psychology, once said: "To help a friend is really good. To help yourself is also really good. To help a stranger is the very best."

Let's hope the simplicity, practicality and authenticity behind this inspiring idea catch on. It proves you don't have to be rich, part of some grand scheme or create a complicated campaign to make a difference in a person's life - and in a community.

It can be as simple as shovelling a neighbour's driveway, paying for the person behind you in the drive-thru line or tying a scarf to a pole.

What will you do?

- Dave Dawson

david.dawson@sunmedia.ca 


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