Kindness and gratitude are part of Tanya Friesen’s lifestyle. They are a part of who she is.
So when she started a Facebook page last year, Random Acts of Kamloops Kindness, it was a reflection of her ideal of helping others.
In a little more than a year, RAOKK has surged to 1,160 members and has inspired who knows how many people to do who knows how many random acts of kindness.
For a while, the site also became the go-to place for people who were seeking help after they were burned out of their homes. Last year, the group assisted about 200 families at Christmastime.
Fewer families in need have come forward this year — but there are other agencies to help them. Still, the group provides support as needed, for instance, to a family that recently lost their mother to cancer, she said.
“It’s a soft place to land. It’s not people seeking help, it’s about inspiring each other to keep up the nice acts and just be part of the community,” Friesen said.
Often, Friesen doesn’t post all the random acts she does. And she helps those who contact her privately — off screen from group members’ eyes.
She got a message recently from a woman who was previously struggling. Friesen had taken her some groceries when she needed them most.
In her Christmas note to Friesen, the woman told how she was in a better place, she’s now in school and far away from the circumstance she was in.
“She just wrote, ‘I owe you a lot of what I do and how I handle things because of the way you treated me. A little compassion went a long way.’
“So just knowing I touched that person. I didn’t mean to do that. It was a private thing between her and I. It was never posted in the group. That’s a random act. That’s what it’s all about.”
Friesen’s friends have started similar Facebook groups in three communities where she used to live.
Kindness is contagious.
“I’m expecting it to grow more. We get about 10 people per week.”
She’s not always glued to the computer screen, despite how fast the group has grown.
“It’s just entertainment in the morning with my coffee,” she said.
“It’s just everyday people extending a hand. It’s not about getting the praise or anything like that.”
Fran Perszon joined a year ago in November. Random acts were already a part of her life, but for her and her husband, having an outlet to promote and inspire others has ramped up their activity level.
“I’m very active. And I love it. You can’t rely on others to make the world a better place. And it doesn’t have to cost money. It’s all about sharing love, understanding,” she said. “My reason is to give back to the community, to make this a soft place to land, and to inspire others. . . . You can’t underestimate the impact a single act of kindness can do.”
In October, Perszon bought a bunch of socks and had her husband drive her around so she could pass them to the homeless.
One man sat down on the concrete, took off his shoes and put the socks on as fast as he could. Perszon burst into tears.
On the Facebook page, she suggested people get plastic bags and fill them with granola bars, gloves and other items to hand out during the winter.
“I don’t know if I’m having an impact on anybody else. But it has an impact on me. It makes my heart fuller,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Friesen said she sometimes gets recognized at the grocery store or other public places. One woman came to her workplace and gave her a calendar — a random acts of kindness calendar.
But it’s the members — the Kamloops community — who keep the group going.
“It isn’t about the dollars. It isn’t about what you can afford to do. Shovel the sidewalk for someone. Just remember your neighbour,” she said. “Pay it forward where you can and it makes everything that much easier, that much closer, community smaller.”