Family

How this mother and son are spreading glad tidings to 100,000 people this Christmas

The duo have a timely reminder that it doesn't take money to show kindness for others.

By Fleur Guthrie
It started off as an innocent question between a mother and son – and it ended up sparking a nationwide movement to send more than 30,000 Christmas cards to lonely rest-home residents.
A year ago, Hannah Rodgers turned to her little boy Jayden and asked, "What are you going to do to be kind today?" The then five-year-old replied, "I don't have any money to be kind."
His response "gutted" her as a parent and in that moment Hannah committed to doing the 100 Days of Kindness challenge together with Jayden, as a way to show him that caring for others doesn't have to cost anything.
The challenge saw the duo clean a neighbour's windows, donate Jayden's old toys and even shave off Hannah's long brunette locks to raise funds for charity.
It was on day 65 that Jayden suggested they send a card to somebody who otherwise wouldn't get one at Christmas.
"He started writing his card while I rang the local rest home to find out how many elderly people they had who didn't normally get cards or visitors," recalls Hannah (31), from her home in Auckland.
"And it was half the residents there. That shocked me. I didn't realise how much of a need there was, or how many people are alone. While we can't take their loneliness away, I thought we could try to make them feel a little bit better."
So the single mum posted a suggestion on her local community Facebook page inviting others to write some cards − which she was happy to deliver − and by the end of the week, hundreds of people were keen to join the cause.
"The best way to do something is to start with one small action. From there, I set up a website called Sending Love and within five weeks it had gone from Jayden's one card to 32,000!" she says. "A thousand and two trillion!" Jayden enthusiastically tells the Weekly.
To deal with the influx, 188 special drop boxes were established, along with more than 100 volunteers putting their hands up to be area coordinators who would collect and distribute the cards from Invercargill right through to Northland.
"What I've personally found overwhelming is that so many Kiwis have so much to give. It's incredibly emotional seeing what people, including children, write and how much they care," adds Hannah, who works as an Agile coach for Spark NZ.
"This is exactly what I believe Christmas should be about − spreading love and kindness, rather than it being about money and shiny things.
"It's easy to put a dollar in a bucket for charity, but I think what often gets missed from that is the human connection and seeing how a simple gesture can impact another person and give them a sense of feeling remembered."
This Christmas, Hannah says Sending Love is going even wider − not only to rest homes but hospitals, homeless shelters and women's refuges.
Her target is to have 100,000 cards made or written by December 9, and all Hannah asks of people wanting to participate and send a card is that they write something from the heart.
"There are so many people living in isolation. I've been so taken aback hearing feedback from rest-home staff who have heard residents say, 'This card can't be for me because I don't have anyone.'
"I'd also like to think that we're raising awareness in communities of what may be [happening] behind closed doors," she explains.
"The sad reality is that loneliness exists around us all and each of us has the capacity to play a part in changing that.
"I've had many people tell me, 'Gosh, I haven't visited my grandfather in these many years' or 'That could be someone I know needing a card from a stranger' and it's made them aware of connecting with older members of their family, or neighbours too."
The best part for Hannah is that it's shown her son how empowering it can be to change people's lives through something so simple, not to mention what they gain from being kind to a person they might not usually have interaction with.
She herself learned this first-hand when, as a young girl growing up in Hamilton, she would take her baking to the local rest home and play cards with the elderly residents after school.
"From the 100 days challenge, Jayden now has a similar experience, as we started supporting a man in our neighbourhood who lives independently with motor neurone disease," says Hannah.
"We go around to his house once a month to spend time with him and he teaches Jayden the times tables. It's become a lovely two-way relationship."
While Hannah's love for serving others is inspiring, she downplays it as "just doing what's in my capacity."
So, best we ask her six-year-old livewire for his opinion then?
"Yeah, she's fantastic," Jayden grins.

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