In late 2001, my friends and I hatched an audacious plan: we would travel across Canada committing random acts of kindness.
9/11 had inspired deeper reflections about life – and how we wanted to live it.
The western world changed those twenty years ago when the twin towers fell. You could sense that people felt vulnerable.
We had read a paper called the Better Together report that talked about building up “social capital” in communities to help fight civic apathy, loneliness, and fear.
My friends and I resolved to take a year out of our lives and build as much social capital as we could.
We raised almost $200,000 from corporate Canada, rented a motorhome, decaled it up, and plotted a course from Victoria, British Columbia, to St John’s, Newfoundland.
And in the summer of 2002, we embarked on our Extreme Kindness tour. We spent 110 days on the road and visited 29 hamlets, towns, and cities
We roofed homes in Manitoba. Cooked food on BBQs for homeless folks outside Sioux Saint Marie. Performed butchered Shakespearean skits at retirement homes. Spoke at schools. Staffed soup kitchens.
We also staged kindness protests in some of the busiest intersections in urban Canada. Our signs read, “free hugs” and were taped to hockey sticks. (We wanted the international media following the tour to know that we were Canadian).
The mission was simple: Commit a kind act for someone and encourage them to pay it forward.
Catherine Ryan Hyde, the author of Pay It Forward actually flew out to meet us in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and support us on the last leg of our pan-Canadian odyssey.
The tour shaped me in ways I didn’t expect.
It kicked off a 7-year journey in social enterprise for my friends and me. We wrote two books after the tour and ended up keynoting around North America, mobilizing large corporate groups to commit kind acts in their local communities.
I saw first-hand — again and again — the power of compassion at street level to transform people and communities. It was addictive.
The theme of kindness has stayed with me and I’ve taken it — or subconsciously followed it — through my various career evolutions. As an entrepreneur, in healthcare, and in not-for-profit public policy work for almost the last decade.
When I consider what BC needs now – what we will need if we want to play a successful long game – I come to the same conclusion. We need more compassion.
We have some thorny issues in front and ahead of us.
But together, friends, let’s hatch another audacious plan. Let’s build a renewed party that creates not just economic capital but social capital. Let’s lead with compassion.
P.S. I’ll be expanding on this concept in a future post. Stay tuned. In the meantime, reach out. I love hearing your feedback and ideas.