Kindness is our currency

Kindness is our currency

Kindness is our currency. What does that even mean? Hang tight I’m about to tell you. 

Imagine a world where you can access any resource you need or get any item you need, without paying any money. The currency used is kindness. This concept was introduced centuries ago with bartering. Generally, people would barter with those they liked and trusted because they were using items to trade as well as kindness as their currency. This all ended with the industrial revolution. We all became solely focused on how quickly we could make something and how much we could sell it for, and because of this, we lost our ability to connect with one another.  I noticed this loss the most when I first became a mother. I was 22 years old and absolutely horrified to find out the mothers judged each other for absolutely everything. It started in the prenatal groups where people would judge one another and verbally attack each other about what they chose to eat during pregnancy or how and where they were planning on having their baby, it seemed like nothing anybody did was good enough. I really felt strongly that mothers needed to treat each other better, they needed to assume the best of one another, and they needed to lift each other up instead of stepping on each other just to feel like they had it all together. Newsflash, none of us have it all together! There is a sense of inherent competition that comes with parenting, comparing our children’s behaviours, comparing our childrens sleep patterns, comparing how fast we lost the baby weight…not only is it ridiculous, it’s counterproductive for the well-being of our children and ourselves!  

The strongest predictor of mental wellness is a sense of belonging. I recognized that a sense of community was really missing, not just for mothers, but for everybody. People were living in their own little silos and throwing stones from glass towers. Because of this, I decided to create a group called Mamas for Mamas, where everything was given away for free or traded with another mom who needed it. No money was ever to exchange hands, but we did insist on kindness as the currency. 

I don’t have to tell you that this idea was clearly needed and ready to be embraced by local, provincial and federal communities. Mamas for Mamas has gone from a group of 32 moms in April 2014 to around 14,000 moms in our main chapter, and we even have another 54 chapters spread coast to coast. Mamas excitedly joined this new platform, where they could access everything they needed for themselves, their homes and their children. Not only did they get the material items that that needed, they had a place where they got to practice kindness every day as part of those interactions. Yes, we came across many mamas who had never used kindness as currency or even just kindness, and they struggled with the idea that money wasn’t allowed or useful as a means of gaining material goods. This platform was so well received, that thousands of mothers stopped selling their items on Facebook buy and sell groups, and instead were choosing to trade and give away items and practice kindness. 

We created a platform not just for Mamas to exchange goods, or exchange kindness, but to exchange and develop a mindset that if we focus entirely on lifting each other up and building a longer table instead of a higher fence, we can’t help but succeed.  Do you ever wonder why some people just seem really lucky, like good things just keep happening to them? It’s kind of like a currency bank, that’s why we named our free clothing store the Karma Market. When you give to the universe from a place of kindness, you will receive kindness as currency in the future. The best things happen to those who don’t expect anything in return. That can be said of Mamas working togetherand even agencies working together. When you give because you care, because it’s the right thing to do, you are filling up the kindness bank for everyone around you and it’s contagious. 

Some people ask me, is it hard to be kind to people who aren’t kind to you? I say no, not usually, because those were lashing out are usually those who haven’t experienced kindness in a long time, if ever. My response to those who are angry, aggressive or upset is to hear them out, you can’t pay for the kind of relief you get from just being heard. When someone is angry because they were trying to get something off the trade group but somebody else received it, if you listen closely enough you will hear desperation in this moms anger; It’s her kids birthday this weekend and the toy that was just posted would’ve been perfect for her child, but someone else got it. Instead of getting angry with that Mama for expressing her emotions in a way that probably didn’t align with the kindness currency, I always try to dig deeper – to see how we can make sure that Mama has a toy for her child for their birthday. People that start out is this negative mindset, usually become our most loyal defenders, and our most active Kindness Ambassadors. By using kindness as currency within Mamas for Mamas, our community members also get to practice using respectful language, respectful behaviour, and develop their own idea of kindness as currency in their own personal world. The impact this has on their life is massive and long term. Like they say, money doesn’t buy happiness. 

Kindness as currency isn’t just a phenomenon that works well among mothers, in fact, donations in kind have been the largest source of donations for our karma marketand financial donations for our programs. We use kindness as currency with our donors, partners, and sponsors, and there is a benefit to all parties. We work with at least 30 other agencies in our head office community. For example, if the food bank is low on something, we do our best to contribute. We know they are low on fresh food quite often, so when we started our farm project, we made a commitment to donate half of the eggs our chickens produce to the food bank, in exchange for free use of the land. By using kindness as our currency, we are able to trade what we could spare, to improve the quality of lives for the people using other agency services, as well as improve the services that agency could provide. We also work very closely with other womenbased organizations to make sure that if we have room on our counselling roster, we open it up to them, so they don’t have such a long waitlist, that is again kindness as currency in action. 

The kindness as currency has impacted all of the Mamas in our community so profoundly, that almost all of the women who help run our organization, do it for free. We have 54 chapters across Canada, and every chapter is run by volunteers. Giving and receiving kindness every day, and feeling as if they have a village, is the most rewarding payment they could ask for. 

It truly dose take a village, and a village requires a lot of kindness as currency. Just today I found out there was a mama living in a neighbouring Community with absolutely nothing to eat for herself and her two kids under fiveI packed up the mama mobile, donated by Kelowna Toyota, so I could make sure her and her kids had something to eat that day, and more importantly, so she knew she wasn’t alone in this journey. It’s easy to assume someone else is looking after those in need, but far too often, that isn’t the case. We all need to be looking to our neighbours to ensure that they have enough. Join the kindness movement, pay with kindness whenever you can and encourage others to do the same. As Margaret Mead said, never doubt a group of thoughtful committed citizens who could change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.

Support our movement to spread kindness currency across Canada, and get your sweatshirt here!

-Shannon Christensen

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