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Health & Wellness

What’s Your Kindness?

At Garden & Health, we are dedicated to sharing stories of real people doing real things to make the world a better place. We share stories that unite rather than divide, stories that challenge us to see each other for who we truly are as Americans. Because of this, we celebrate World Kindness Day, and we ask a simple question: What’s your kindness?

A dictionary definition says kindness is a noun — “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” A quality of being. A way to function in the world. A second definition says kindness is “a kind act.” Kindness is literally part of its own definition. Like love, no single definition can fully express its meaning. It cannot be contained in words. It is action action action. 

These stories are yours, so today we ask you — what’s your kindness? How do you give kindness? Where do you see kindness? And we bring you thoughts from a few of our fellow Americans we’ve had the honor of featuring in Garden & Health. From a veteran farmer in Vermont to a songwriter in Nashville, to the National Guard in West Virginia, these voices explore not only what kindness looks like, but they remind us that a world could and very well does exist, where kindness is not relegated to one day or a hashtag, but rather is infused in every action we take, in each encounter we experience, together.


Melissa Stewart leading a virtual hydroponics workshop for Paradise Guardens. Photo: Ellie Stewart

Melissa Stewart

Director of Patriot Guardens; Director of Business Development West Virginia National Guard/Military Authority, Charleston, WV 

“Kindness, to me, is the giving of oneself or sharing without expectation of anything in return. Being kind is the ultimate unselfish act that is not broadcasted or acknowledged in any way other than that wonderful warm feeling you get inside knowing you helped make someone’s life just a little better. I have been blessed to witness some of the best reflections of kindness through my interactions with active and retired service members. It is humbling to experience their selfless nature and to watch them give so much of themselves on a daily basis– they epitomize the definition of kindness.

Read about Melissa Stewart Planting for the Future with Patriot Guardens.


Bonita Clemons making it happen at FarmaSIS. Photo: Michael Dantzler

Bonita Dianne Clemons

Change agent; executive director of the South Carolina Community Health Workers Association; founder of Dianne’s Call, Bonita’s Tea and FarmaSIS, Columbia, SC

“Kindness to me is smiling and saying hello to someone who looks different than me. I experience kindness when I open a door for someone, and they say ‘thank you.’ I give kindness every time I say YES to a stranger.

Kindness. What a beautiful word. I smile as I write this, thinking of how being kind to others has impacted my life in a major way. Kindness is something you have to do from your core, from your gut and truly mean it. It is as easy for me as helping someone in my family with something or helping a total stranger; they are synonymous. 

When I think of the word kindness, I think of love. We all know that love is the highest vibration, and kindness is a close second. Vibrating at my highest frequency requires kindness. Giving a healing hand to my fellow man, keeping the earth clean, loving on people who forget to love themselves, and showing honorable leadership.”

Read about Bonita Clemons Journey to Nourish South Carolina and how FarmaSis Plants a Better Future


Jon Turner feeling alive at Horsetail Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon. Photo: Cathy Turner

Jon Turner

Iraq War Veteran turned regenerative farmer; owner of Wild Roots Farm, Bristol, VT

“When I consider moments in life of less than ideal circumstances that had impacted inner balance, confidence, or the ability to remain happy, what has lifted me up were acts of kindness by those with whom I am close, but also by common folk with no prior relation. I believe that human beings are kind in nature, compassionate, and truly desire for others to be well. This notion allows me to re-center and re-align with values that help me to maintain integrity and, in return, provide the same generosity of human spirit that might allow another to find purpose and peace once more.  

Having served multiple deployments to areas of conflict in Iraq and also Haiti, I viewed the impact of poverty and degradations of war that had claimed too much territory. It is presumable that kindness could not exist in places such as these, but it was, in fact, the opposite. On several occasions, we were met with open arms, which led to conversations of family and perspective, humor, and humility among the ranks, or the sharing of watermelon by the farmer and his sons.  Kindness allowed for many to see humanness in another and dissolve the idea that those who do not believe as we believe are the enemy. 

Within conflict and civil unrest, there will always remain harmful intentions and believers who desire to carry out harm, but I firmly believe that upon the removal of labels and judgment and by respecting the life of others regardless their beliefs, by embodying integrity and creating space that allows the heart to speak true, a natural disposition for humanity is to be kind.  Maybe I am foolish to believe in this, but the possibility of it to be so is what inspires my path in life to work with community.”

Read how Farming and Community Help Heal a Local Vet, along with a brief interview with Jon Turner. 


“Volunteer and VEG (Vegetable Emergency Glean) Squad member Suzy Conaway is kindness personified. She picks up leftover produce every week at the farmers market and delivers it to agencies feeding hungry people in Greater Kansas City, but she also gleans with us. At this apple gleaning at Serendipity Farm & Orchard, she helped harvest 400 lbs. of apples going to multiple agencies. Michael and Lydia, the generous farmers, invite us out every year to pick their remaining gala apples from the trees so that nothing goes to waste.”- Lisa Ousley. Photo courtesy of After the Harvest.

Lisa Ousley

After the Harvest Executive Director, Kansas City, MO 

“We see kindness every day and especially during this pandemic. We see the kindness in our volunteers who get up early, trudging through mud and fending off bugs to rescue fresh from the field produce for our hungry neighbors in Kansas City. We see kindness in our farmers who grow extra or give leftovers to feed those in need. Everyone–every family, every child, every senior–has been affected by COVID, but we see the kindness of those who are maybe affected a little bit less, helping those who have taken such a hit during this challenging time.”

Read about After the Harvest Gleaning for the Good in Kansas City


Tur’e M. Johnson harvests the goods from a towering tomato plant. Photo: Mike Easter

Tur’e M. Johnson 

Assistant Manager, Paradise Farms, Dunbar WV

“Kindness, to me, is the unadulterated sharing of one’s time, resources, and abilities for the betterment of those whom you come in contact.” 

Read about how Paradise Farms Thrives in a West Virginia Food Desert.  


Alissa Moreno takes a day off with her two children. Photo: Jason Oschwald

Alissa Moreno 

Grammy-nominated songwriter and performing artist; owner of BAAM Collective, Nashville, TN

Kindness changes for me often. I have always felt that it’s an important thing to choose, and I constantly evaluate the intention behind it. A few years ago, I was asked to bring my songwriting into the prisons to help those incarcerated express themselves and heal. I have zero personal connection to this cause and said yes on a whim. I never looked back, and now I say yes every chance I get. What I learned about kindness is that there is incredible value in showing someone that they are worthy of love, of compassion, of concern, of being heard, of justice, of light, of joy, NO MATTER who they are or what they have done or been through in this life.”

Read how Alissa Moreno found a new purpose in Songwriter Pens New Curriculum for Back to School


Whitney Bembenick smiles, just thinking about kindness. Photo courtesy of Endangered Species Chocolate

Whitney Bembenick

Director of Innovation, Endangered Species Chocolate, protecting wildlife with chocolate.  

“Kindness, to me, is sharing the light within you for the world to enjoy!”

Read about how Endangered Species Chocolate Helps Protect Wildlife.

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