For as long as I can remember, I spent half the year mourning over the loss of summer, and the other half mourning the start of winter.
I didn’t realize that I spent my entire year being ungrateful until I met my best friend. While I spent the first snowfall prying myself out of bed, she beamed at the thought of our city become a winter wonderland. While I complained about the death of Iced Cappuccinos, she’d sing about how delightful that first cup of steaming hot chocolate was going to taste.
Her persistent positivity initially bothered me to madness, but having spent endless hours together, I soon took to her appreciation of the little things like a duck to water.
That year, I started jotting down thank-you notes as my own winter tradition:
Dear morning coffee,
I don’t think I’ve ever waited in 20-minute lines — complaint free — like I do for you. But you are worth it every time. Thank you for energizing my winter mornings and keeping me cranky-free.
Dear oversized sweaters and fleece-lined leggings,
Thank you for keeping me so warm and comfortable. Surprisingly, you’re not only just practical attire for winter, but you’re also trendy.
Dear friendly bus drivers,
I seriously appreciate you. Not only have I gotten from Point A to Point B in one piece because of your skilled driving, but your smiles and gestures of kindness — like waiting for me to sit down in my hundred-layer winter clothing before starting the bus — makes me all kinds of grateful.
Writing down my thank-you notes challenged me to become more self-aware. I was no longer just writing things down as they happened, but I was looking for them. “Thank you to the teenager who just paid for a man’s bus fare. Thank you to the lady for holding the door for the elderly amidst a snowstorm.”
I quickly noticed how many acts of kindness I witnessed every day, and how acknowledging them motivated me to become an active participant. Instead of avoiding eye contact with people on the bus, I shared a smile; when I thought something was interesting or extraordinary, I made sure to voice it in the form of a compliment; when a friend needed to be heard, I made sure I was listening.
It was through these experiences that I learned that kindness can come in the form of the tiniest gestures, and often, that’s all it took to make my day brighter.
Taking these new-found learnings, I wondered if I could apply it to helping out my community, and to those who are often hit the hardest in the winters. Being on a tight student budget, making monetary donations weren’t the most realistic option; however, it was during this time that my Community Service-Learning professor was asking what “contribution” meant to us, and how we could practice building a stronger city for our citizens.
Kindness can come in the form of the tiniest gestures, and often, that’s all it took to make my day brighter.
Contribution came in the form of many faces — and very tangible ones, too. Have some free time? Contact Operation Friendship Seniors Society (OFSS) or Skills Society for some mingling with Edmonton’s seniors or individuals with disabilities. Extra non-perishable foods? Visit your local food bank and ask the staff which items are urgently needed. Have a vehicle? Consider becoming a volunteer driver. Have extra clothing? Donate them to a local shelter.
Similar to acknowledging gratitude for the little things in my life, I also realized that even the smallest donations to our local non-profits and homeless shelters can go a long way, making our long and difficult winters a little warmer for those who need it.
Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and viewpoints of current Arts students. Through their posts, you’ll experience the creativity and passion of our students as they present glimpses into student life. The views and opinions expressed within these posts are solely those of the authors.