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Column: Phenomenon of Estevan's kindness

An opinion piece on genuine kindness.

Kindness is one of the first qualities we learn about in childhood.

The Oxford Languages dictionary defines it as the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. It's good to be kind – we take it in with mother's milk. And as we grow older, we often learn more about different acts of kindness and sometimes understand it deeper.

I've always thought that it would be hard to surprise me with doing something kind, just because it's so natural for our society and the quality itself is well comprehended and widespread. We all know what kindness means, and most of us try to be kind throughout our lives (even Grumpy was kind sometimes). So I tended to take kindness as something routine. Apparently, even though it's something we fortunately witness rather often, it still can be mind-blowing.

Over my years in Estevan, I got used to thinking that almost every community-wide valuable fundraiser that sets a cash goal usually reaches it. Rarely do they come just a notch short, but still they’re pretty close. And most of the time local individuals and/or businesses step forward to push charities and non-profits across that set line to make sure there is enough support for initiatives that make the community better for everybody (like it happened last year with the United Way Estevan Telethon).

Over my years here, I got used to the fact that Estevan is a kind and generous community. But the Energy City had an ace in the hole to amaze me once again.

Ahead of the holiday season, our Salvation Army set a $90,000 goal for their annual kettle and mail-out fundraising campaigns. The money and groceries they attract in December help them support and provide for hundreds of people in the area for months to come. This money helps to ensure that we live in a community where people don't have to go to bed hungry no matter what situation they are in, which allows for a safer and more successful society.

But outside the Salvation Army's campaigns, several other valuable organizations were reaching out for support with their initiatives at the end of the year. And with inflation and swollen costs of everything, I was a bit worried that we may see some of them not making it there. Of course, the oil industry had a good year and some of the farmers did as well. Maybe some particular businesses also did better than they'd expected. But I felt it might not be enough to cover the demand among other groups.

Well, I shouldn't have underestimated the community. The Salvation Army's total came in at almost $133,000 – almost 1 1/2 times higher than what they asked and hoped for.

I thought it would be a pretty straightforward outcome if it was a boom year and people were sharing extras in case not everyone was as fortunate. But times from 2020 through the end of 2022 drained a lot of people's stashes. Gas and grocery prices not only affected people's immediate holiday plans but also made some put their long-term hopes on pause. It's been tough for quite a few people lately.

And despite all of that the fundraiser generated one of its highest, if not the highest total, in over a decade, which included Estevan's booming times. So to me, it felt like a phenomenon.

These holidays, Estevan demonstrated not the easy but the genuine kindness. Looking at the bigger picture I'm assuming that this Christmas most people didn't donate their extras but shared what they had and could use themselves. However, they chose to give it up to ensure no one is left out, no one feels totally lost, no one is hungry, and everyone has enough resources to keep going. That's real kindness.

It's kindness that happens not because it's nice to be kind, but despite all challenges.

I believe things like that happen in other places too and there are some truly generous people who regularly give thousands and millions of dollars for important causes with no expectations of recognition all over the world. But there is a difference between sharing during prosperous times and during a drought. And if one can equally do both, it tells a lot about them.

In our case, it was an act of true kindness that happened on the community level, which once again reminded me how big of a difference people can make.