‘Little Things Mean a Lot’ — Unsung heroes of kindness in Ottawa

Kitty Kallen recorded a pop song in 1953, which reached number one on the U.S. Billboard charts in 1954, and was ranked as the number one tune of the year. Written by lyricist Edith Lindenan and composer Carl Stutz, it was recorded, translated and remade time and again by famous artists for decades after. That vocal standard was entitled ‘Little Things Mean a Lot’.

It is a song that we should all put on our playlist, memorize the lyrics and teach our children before they even start attending kindergarten. For the message it conveys is a recipe for maintaining loving relationships within families, developing harmonious workplaces and supporting caring warm communities everywhere.

A verse for spouses reads:

  “ Blow me a kiss across the room

    Say I look nice when I’m not

    Touch my hair as you pass my chair

    Little things mean a lot.”

A verse for adult children about their aging parents follows:

   “Give me your arm as we cross the street

    Call me at six on the dot

    A line a day, when you are far away

    Little things mean a lot.”

A verse for a partner, sibling or friend says:

  “ Give me your hand when I’ve lost my way

    Give me a shoulder to cry on

    Whether the day is bright or grey

    Give me your heart to rely on.”

And a final refrain that applies to everyone with neighbours, colleagues and strangers we meet, concludes:

  “ Send me the warmth of a secret smile

    To show me you haven’t forgot

    For always and ever, now and forever

    Little things mean a lot.”

Can you just imagine what the world would be like if people everywhere absorbed the meaning of this simple song and let it become part of who they are, applying its intention to every single soul they encounter in their life journey? Think of the impact of six billion human beings doing one little extra kind thing for each person they meet,  see or deal with, on just one solitary day? What a world we would live in! It would be a tsunami of love and kindness!

I know of people who may be unaware of this famous  pop song but who practiced its message in 2019, brought sunshine to this classic lady’s year and I want to list a few in no particular order. They are likely totally unaware of the impact of their behaviour but are models for others and unsung heroes of kindness. They represent the epitome of how “Little Things Mean a Lot.”

Sweet 9-year-old Samantha Boudreau, my granddaughter and her ‘Kindness Club’, raised money selling lemonade in front of the Barrhaven Walmart, for a children’s charity.

Allan Boassaly, a big time regular at the Barrhaven Seniors Council sent jokes to my inbox on a daily basis.

My considerate next door neighbour, Ron, knocked on my front door one day with a collapsible aluminum ladder and trusty tool kit in hand, because he had heard through the grapevine that my track lighting was not working. His wife Ann, a retired health care professional, drove me to the airport for a trip and as I exited her car, handed me a small bottle of hand sanitizer and another one of baby aspirin.

Dr. John Chu 

Doctor John Chu, my wonderful dentist at Southpointe Dental, listened compassionately during a frantically busy office workday, to the plight of a long-term care home resident I had befriended. This woman uses a wheelchair. I told him she had given up trying to get dental care for reasons related to her disability. He responded to her desperate situation by telling me that if I could get her to his office, he would find a way to take care of her.

Brian Hassall and Susan Amog, my solicitous neighbours, rang my bell on several evenings to share delicious pizza with me which was remaining from their meetings at work.

Shonee Cotter, my hard working Filipino neighbour, arrived at a formative ‘Caregivers’ meeting at my home with two hot homemade apple strudels to share with the participants.

Nancy Molnar, my multi-talented neighbour, my friend and the most amazing woman I have ever personally met, left a bouquet of fresh flowers on my dining table, and a bag of de ice crystals on the porch, on the day I was returning from a major trip in November.

Ann Wrage, my ever helpful British friend visited my loved one in the hospital when I was travelling, and reported by Video Chat regularly to me about that person’s progress.

Beryl Ben Reuven, my longtime effervescent friend, connected faithfully for a hot minute virtually every week in 2019 to ask about me, and share her sunny smile and constant positivity.

Debbie Tompkins, my humble helpful neighbour, singularly trekked around our ‘bungalows’ streets delivering all 50 invitations, which she herself created for our neighbourhood Christmas party.

Hanna Imad, my phenomenal pharmacist at Fallowfield Pharmasave gave freely of her time, researching available resources in Ottawa to help me assist a vulnerable person.

James Henneberry and his wife Lois, my active 80-something-year-old neighbours, annually head up the voluntary spring cleanup in our neighbourhood park.

Marilyn Winchester, a vibrant  member of the Barrhaven Seniors Council encouraged me to write, read my early creations with incredible patience, and then unexpectedly invited me to the Barrhaven Writers Circle to which she belonged.

Brianna, (Miss Efficiency),Trevor, ( Mr. Sociability), Selina, (Miss Sunshine) and Brandon, (Mr. Intellectual), are some of outstanding young people who man the front desk at Movati in Barrhaven, greet me by name, and ensure I get a full dose of smiles and laughter each and every day I get my classic woman’s body to the gym or pool.

Doreen Corriveau, a friendly fellow classic Movati hot tuber, checked in on me by phone when she noticed I had been away from the aqua fitness class for a while.

Allan Drummond, a caring seasoned area renovator, stopped by a Barrhaven senior friend’s modest home where he completed a small job, unannounced at Easter, with some chocolate treats.

Edith Sparrow, my heaven-sent neighbour, supported my ailing loved one by phone while I was travelling.

Glenn and Lenora Bradley, my beloved brother and sister in law, Facetime me several times a week to share, laugh and just check in.

Steve Brown and his wife Tania, longtime neighbours and friends of my recently deceased cousin, found memorabilia about my paternal grandfather slated for trash in my cousin’s soon-to-be-sold home.They magnanimously made the effort to connect with me, invite me to visit, and pick up the irreplaceable items, one dated in 1904.

Louis Sousa, my busy financial advisor with Canada Retirement Information Centre Inc., provided several free lengthy consultations in my home when I was without wheels, and supported me compassionately in many personal ways in a family matter.

Doctor S. Aydin, my rheumatologist at the Riverside hospital was warm, respectful, efficient and competent at my annual June appointment as usual. But she also remembered to thank me for last year’s Christmas card.

Sophia Weaver, experienced Counsellor in The Counselling Group, thoughtfully took the time to send me a lovely personal email about an article she had enjoyed my recently published article, ‘Seductive South Africa’.

Larry Jones, my very best friend, often drove 15 minutes out of his way to collect my small white ‘Coton de Tulear’ for a walk, along with his own canine companions, at the Bruce Pit dog park. He regularly comes out of Ottawa walking trails with several plastic shopping bags teeming with abandoned dog waste he picks up for others, to keep our city environment clean.

Michelle Boudreau, my darling daughter, gave up her plans on a December Saturday to help me put up my Christmas tree and decorate my home. She generously volunteered her time and skill to feed lunch many times to a disabled neighbour when his caregiver could not.

Sue Sargent, a kind friend of a kind friend, free heartedly offered to dog sit for me for several weeks for absolutely nothing, though I hardly know her.

A perfect stranger recently offered to help me with my groceries at the Barrhaven Fresh Co., pushed the heavy cart to my car, unloaded every last item carefully into the trunk and responsibly returned the cart to the rack. We parted exchanging wide friendly smiles and a wish to each other for a Merry Christmas, though I suspect from his appearance that he and his family do not even celebrate this Canadian holiday.

A recent early December snowstorm found me checking the progress of the white stuff accumulating outside my front window, and on my walkway and driveway. Surprisingly, I saw an unknown middle aged man shovelling the snow off my laneway and walk.

Many additional such acts of kindness by others, equally impressive and sometimes totally unexpected, are not included here because OLM does not publish tomes. But I remember them and appreciate the time, effort and spirit of the gestures that so very many good people warmed my heart with, by giving of themselves with a kindly act. The kindness I saw this year has been reverberating across this city all year. and is bouncing off this page into readers’ minds like hailstones off a windshield on a stormy Ottawa night. Hopefully commenting on the value of their doing simple little things for others, will set up an all out contagious epidemic of kindness among us, with no antidote desired!

Mark Twain said that ‘kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.’ Desmond Tutu once wrote, ‘Do your little bits of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.’ And Henry James said it all with, ‘Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.’

The humble ordinary people identified in this article are exemplars of these life philosophies. They are shining examples of the kind of kindness providers who initiate a groundswell of loving behaviour from those who are on the receiving end, creating an endless ripple of it, into future time. These kindly everyday folk are the unsung heroes of kindness in our beautiful and blessed Ottawa community.

Such generous Ottawans walk the talk of caring for others, spread sunshine everywhere and  are the proof of the pudding that is encapsulated in that 1950’s pop classic, “Little Things Mean a Lot.”

Would it not be something if we could resurrect this classic song, teach the vocals to every man, woman and child, and hear it in several different languages, flooding the airways across the world, next year? Even better, would it not be absolutely stupendous if everyone cohabiting the globe could put its message into practice every single day, creating a tidal wave of brotherly love with simple kindly acts? Hopefully Ottawans agree that it would be phenomenal if every living soul, in every country, community and family came to overwhelm the world with kindness in 2020, by understanding that,

“Little Things Mean a Lot.”