Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Final Act.............

Since completing the tree and then writing about it a few days ago, the emails have been coming in and everyone wants to know....what were the acts inside the boxes??

You could say that the acts were thoroughly "researched" before they made the final list of 24.  I solicited help from my father, always the far reaching idea guy.  He sent me references to websites listing "random acts of kindness" and gave me his own inspiring ideas for paying it forward.  Ray, my amazing partner in The Tree of Change, kept me laughing with unbelievable ideas and inspiring acts.  When I was close to finishing my list but still needed a bit more inspiration, my friend Becky threw another 25 acts to choose from.  And my husband, Wayne, helped me come up with five of my favorite acts!  {read some of them below!}

In every box there was something for the purchaser of the tree, an act for them to do, and all the necessary tools to complete the act.  The acts were broken into three categories...something for the purchaser {an act of kindness that would benefit them}.....acts to benefit their family and friends {their own close community}....and acts for their broader community {reaching out to the people around them that needed to be touched in a special way}.

Ray educated me further in understanding the true meaning of advent and I set up each box with a scroll, explaining the act very clearly.  Each act had a title, an explanation of why it might be important, then the challenge and act itself written clearly for the purchaser to execute.  

Putting together the 24 write ups, purchasing and packaging all the contents, rolling up each scroll with a sweet little felt so good.  The creative process of designing the boxes was amazing, using my passion in a way I absolutely love.  But putting together the insides, the heart of the boxes, was a rewarding experience beyond words.  I had everything laid out in my craft room {more like a factory at times} and with the completion of each special write up I could just imagine the purchaser doing the act...I loved just wondering what they would do, how they might feel, etc.....

A glimpse at some of my top favorites....

"Reach Out" - The item in the box was a silver mini photo frame key chain with a quarter inside.  On the back was the engraving "reach out".  There is always someone in our lives that we keep meaning to get in touch with, or connect with, and somehow we don't make the time.  Even though we don't use pay phones anymore, the quarter is meant as a reminder to reach out to someone.  The act - Contact that person in your life you haven't made the time never know how you will touch them.

"Hershey's Hug Chain" - Inside the box was a cellophane bag of Hershey's hugs.  The act - start a Hershey's hug chain today!  Give someone you care about a hug, give them a chocolate from the bag, then give them the bag and tell them to pass it on.  The challenge - keep the hug chain going until no more chocolates were left in the bag.

"Let It Go" - Inside the box was a bag of 18 multi-colored polka dot balloons and a gift certificate to Party's R Us so they could be filled with helium.  Balloons always seem to represent the fun, the joy, the carefree part of life.  And yet, we never seem to see them in the middle of winter.  The act - Have the balloons filled and take them to Halifax's Public Gardens Park....pass them out to random passers by....young and old.....and watch the smiles grow.

......other favorites....

*supporting Feed Nova Scotia by filling a reusable grocery bag*
*putting together care kits for the homeless*
*remembering the child in all of us - taking 3 friends to McDonald's and everyone ordering a happy meal!*

When all the items were ready and organized in their own little baggies Ray and I numbered each box and placed the 24 acts in the boxes.  

The tree was transported from Statement Design {thank you again to Roger for taking such good care of the tree} to the Compass Group Canada Festival of Trees a few days before the big event and thank goodness for the very patient and very tolerant guys from Premier Van Lines....I was ever so slightly neurotic about the touching, much less moving of the tree!  

Ray was once again on hand to help me set the tree up for the big Festival.  We had a few challenges securing the tree in the stand, and we had some fixes with the hot glue gun but after that the tree was standing tall...and beautiful....and ready for auction.

Thank you so much, Ray, for being an incredible support.

All that was left to do was get dressed up and attend a beautiful evening to support mental health.  I was excited to be able to take a breath and just enjoy the night.  It was extra special getting to wear the dress of a friend and London designer, SUZANNAH.  

We shared a wonderful evening with friends and we were surrounded by gorgeous trees, all designed and auctioned in support of the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia.  This was the 20th anniversary of the Festival of Trees, since 1991 the event has raised money to support education and patient care for the one in five Nova Scotians living with mental illness.  

  "Through the power of participation, our guests help us make a difference in the life of someone living with mental illness." 

It was an incredibly successful night, raising over $350,000 specifically from the Festival and over $7000,000 in donations to the new Pathways to Hope Legacy Fund.  And even though the Tree of Change was only a tiny portion of that I was proud that it went for $3000 in the auction.

Recently I learned from one of the co-chairs of the Festival, Karen, that the tree had been purchased by her brother and sister-in-law {Brian and Audrey}.  And I was ecstatic to hear that they were enthusiastically carrying out the acts in each and every box.   In the preparations for writing this posting I got in touch with Audrey in the hopes of getting a picture to include....not only did I get some wonderful photos, I received a heartfelt message.....of her own experience of change {she was kind enough to let me share it here}.....

"I must tell you Jennifer, there were a few boxes that I opened that actually made me cry...stopped me in my tracks during a very hectic, busy, crazy, time and sat and thought about what they were saying to me.  We have 4 grown children and the girls were calling me most days to say 'did you open today's box and what does it say, if you can't do it mum, we will!' There was more excitement over the tree than anything else this Xmas and what a great feeling to stop what I was doing and go to the toy drive or the food bank, or drop off some cookies unexpectedly, or give the toonies to a guy on spring garden and see him smile or take my girls to the movies for a break in the middle of the chaos.  There are a couple that we haven't yet done, but they will get done, I promise.....the helium balloons (we'll take them over to the park when it's not so cold...helium doesn't last long in the cold) and we didn't get to shovel our neighbor's drive but we did snow blow it!  All the hugs and hearts and flowers were distributed as we are a cuddly bunch anyway and so those were easy!  Never for a minute did we think of it as a chore, but as fun and meaningful and it just made me think what a truly special person must have put this together.  The festival of trees is very lucky to know you.  This was our first time at the gala and I do believe there was a reason for us to be
there this year."        -Audrey 

{Audrey with the Tree of Change}

{Brian and Audrey's daughter and granddaughter}

For once....I am speechless.  All of my hopes for this dream of inspiring others to give back and see opportunity in the smallest acts....I think it may have come true.
Audrey and Brian, thank you for opening your hearts and embracing this in a way I could only have imagined in my dreams.   
Another full circle moment complete.....

I thought this would be my last official post for Forty 4 Change....but I just can't do it.....not yet.  
Stay tuned for my birthday post!


  1. wow, now i am the one who is speechless. what an amazing, creative and thought-provoking project. i LOVE all of it! makes me want a christmas tree designed by you, and we don't do trees ;) love you, my amazing sis!

  2. you are amazing!!!!!!!

  3. My Darling Daughter, I felt so breathless reading this one. The tree turned out so beautiful and what a way to finish your year. The letter written by Audrey was so heartfelt and special and made me choke up, just picturing this family fulfilling your last acts. Stacey said it, "You are an amazing young woman", never forget how you influenced others to perform their own heartfelt acts of kindness. You are truly an inspiration to all you have touched. I love you.

  4. Amazing - as always! In the years I have had the honor of knowing you, Jennifer, you have been an inspiration to so many in your ways of "paying it forward". In the moment before I went to your blog on the "Tree of Change", I watched a YouTube video, called "Change or CHANGE?" ( where so many small acts of kindness initiate big CHANGE in peoples' lives - as you are constantly inspiring.
    Happy "Almost Birthday"! Cheryl :)

  5. You are an inspiration to all, my friend!! Out of all the 40 acts I think my favorite was the tree. A clever idea letting the benefactor of this tree to be involved with your mission. Love the whole idea and your creativity seems endless. xo

  6. You are brilliant! So blessed with your friendship and wisdom! Happy birthday... Here is to 2012! Cheers xoxoxo