When I first sat down to write this month’s piece for the paper on the subject of kindness, I thought about things I had done for others. There have been a few memorable ones. There was the time I gave $20 to a young man on Jasper Avenue who asked me for 30 cents. There was a time I took a plate of fresh fruit to the men’s hostel and passed it around. However, after thinking about it, I decided I should write about kindness shown to me.
When I was a young Air Cadet, I had a friend who used to go against the grain in life. He did everything to its fullest. He was a graduate of the toughest leadership course Cadets had to offer, he was a bodybuilder, and he had accomplished much as a cadet. What he did that mattered to me the most was that for some reason he took me under his wing. I was two years younger than him but still he would go out of his way to give me rides home from all of our events and he inspired me in a lot of ways. I will never forget some of the talks we would have about life, about girls, about moral character, and many other things. One of the uniquely “Air Cadet” things we used to do a lot was wear a shirt and tie to school. I can’t imagine what we looked like, teenage kids with brush cuts, dressed up to the nines. It is funny to think about, but to this day I still love dressing up for some of the many events I attend.
Time changed us a lot, I still keep in touch with my old Air Cadet friend, but we are no longer young, gung-ho military types. We have mellowed with age and I am left with a lot of great memories of him being a positive role model. He has done well for himself too. For a time he was mayor of a decent sized town, and now has his own construction company.
I sometimes wondered if I would ever have such good friends again as an adult that I had when I was a teenager. Some of the friendships have survived, but getting together has been difficult. I was so lucky a few years back to meet my present best friend, an incredible author and film producer, and a wonderful, warm human being. The person is the well known Indigenous writer Richard Van Camp.
Richard has shown me so much kindness in so many ways. He has worked with me on all of my 10 books. He has tirelessly edited and coached me through those and many other works, and he has been literally the kindest and most genuine person I know, taking me in as almost another family member. Not to mention that Richard is the kind of person who likes to give gifts, and he has given me so many cool things. One of them is a hoodie embroidered with Star Wars iconography. Another is a glow-in-the-dark coin for my collection of coin oddities.
What really gets me though is when Richard is off with his family on vacation or more likely on business, managing his growing list of titles and promoting his work and projects. During these difficult and hectic times, he will take the time to stop and call me. Just a simple phone call somehow knowing it means the world to me just to hear a friendly voice while I am struggling to cobble together a writing career.
So to me, that is kindness. Simple, basic little acts that cement friendships and give people a reason to keep the struggle going for one more day. Sometimes these acts of kindness can be an enduring commitment to friendship or more formal relationships, but basically they are all about keeping the needs of others in mind and meeting them when you know the person could use it. With more kindness like that the world would be a better place.
Leif lives in McCauley.