Sarnia’s kindness elves

Trista Lowe has started a Facebook group to inspire more kindness in Sarnia. She is seen here with children Colton, 4 and Alina, 2. Glenn Ogilvie

Cathy Dobson

“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can quietly become a power no government can suppress, a power that can transform the world.” – Peace activist Howard Zinn

Trista Lowe was tired of all the negativity.

So she decided to do something about it.

“It’s such a downer when you read the news and everything is about ISIS and other negativity, especially on Facebook,” says the 30-year-old mother of two.

Lowe began thinking about how to promote more positive stories on social media. She wondered how she could inspire Sarnia residents to focus more on the positive things in their community.

At the same time, she experienced the kindness of strangers toward her two children, Colton, 4, and Alina, 2.

The first was directed at Alina after Lowe advertised for a dollhouse for the little girl.

“I was going to buy it but this person said no, and they gave us this huge, wooden dollhouse in mint condition,” said Lowe. “When they wouldn’t accept any money for it, I promised I’d pay it forward.”

Later she was out shopping with her kids and a woman overheard them ask for cookies.

“I told them no and this lady bought cookies for them and chased us down in the parking lot with them.

“I thought, this is a small thing but it made our day. I could do something like that too that could make a difference.

“That’s when I saw that acts of kindness can inspire other acts of kindness.”

Lowe decided to create a Facebook group and call it “Sarnia Kindness Elves.”

The page went live on Nov. 1 and has already attracted more than 630 people who want to share acts of kindness.

Perhaps the grandest gesture so far is from Sarnia’s Cindy VanHoogenhuize, who explains how she collaborated with a local denturist, dental surgeon and anesthesiologist to give a local woman new teeth.

“My husband and I would see this woman in her mid-30s serving us at a Tim Horton’s and she had no front teeth,” VanHoogenhuize said.  “I felt really bad for her because I had dental problems when I was younger.

“When I took her aside and offered to help, she started crying. It meant so much to her.”  Unfortunately, it turned out the woman needed more than new front teeth. She needed all her teeth removed and replaced, so VanHoogenhuize assembled a team of professionals who donated their skills.

“That was a really big act of kindness, but not all acts of kindness require a lot of money,” said Lowe.  “It can be anything.

“I like the one about the woman who saw a family waiting for a cab in the rain with their groceries and she offered them a ride.

“It can be as simple as buying someone a cup of coffee or donating blood.”

Some people have posted critical comments suggesting acts of kindness should not be publicized.

“I knew there would be some negativity toward it but they are missing the point,” said Lowe. “This is about inspiring other people. It’s all about how you look at the world.”

VanHoogenhuize said she is glad to see the local Facebook movement promoting the positive, especially during the holiday season.

“I really like reading what other people are doing. If you see positive things, your life will be more positive,” she said.

“We need more givers in this world. You’re always going to get the negative, but you can’t let it win.”

Lowe hopes Sarnia Kindness Elves has 1,000 members by Christmas.