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Jan 26, 2024

6 min. read

Being a good neighbour—someone who is committed to helping others and making their community a better place without expecting anything in return—is deeply embedded in the DNA of CAA.

So, we put a call out to our CAA community asking people to share uplifting stories about acts of kindness they’ve seen or experienced, and nominate the good neighbours in their lives who are deserving of being honoured in some way. That’s how we came across CAA Member Doug Bower, a kindly 86-year-old Torontonian with a gentle voice and an infectious smile.

In 2022, Bower was feeling weighed down by the constant bad news that bombarded him every time he turned on the radio or watched TV. One day, while driving around the city, he came to a stop at a traffic light and the overwhelming negativity washed over him. Instead of letting those feelings fester, he decided to actually do something about it—not for himself, but for anyone who was feeling the same way.

“I thought we really just needed some positive reinforcement,” he says. Above the traffic light, Bower spotted a billboard. It struck Bower that this massive canvas could be an effective way to spread his message—“Do as many nice things for people every day without expecting anything in return”—as far as possible.

As soon as he could, Bower paid the fee and booked the billboard for a month. “When I came home and told my wife I had just spent $4,000 on a billboard, she thought I had lost it,” he recalls. Still, she knew there was no stopping him, and Bower reached out to friends and family members and asked for help.

Within a day, he had received enough support to pay off the sign. It wasn’t long before a sign featuring his heartwarming message—with his nickname, “Grover,” and a matching email address also on display—went up. Bower’s billboard quickly caught the attention of passersby and news outlets like CP24 and CBC. He received over 140 emails sharing feedback and simple messages of thanks for helping to spread positivity. He responded to every single one.

The billboard “made people say ‘I can do that’ or ‘I should do that more often,’” he says. “Or it even just made them smile.” This kind of good act is the norm for Bower, who has been following the advice on his billboard for decades without even thinking about it.

The first time he can remember noticing the impact of being a good neighbour was at a grocery store 25 years ago when he came across an elderly woman pushing her cart while trying to use a cane. So, Bower stopped to help her. “She looked at me and said, ‘That is the nicest thing anybody has ever done for me,’” he says. “I couldn’t believe how a simple gesture could make someone smile so much and make me feel so good.

From that day forward, I have tried to do something nice every day, even if it’s just a smile.” Bower is the epitome of a good neighbour—always showing up for others out of kindness and embodying the values of CAA. To others hoping to do the same, Bower has a simple message: “Keep inspiring people about the good they can do and continue to spread the word.”

DIY Kindness 

Making a difference in your community is actually pretty easy, according to Doug Bower.

  • Pay attention to what’s happening around you. “I try to look for people every day and offer a friendly gesture or something that makes their life easier,” he says.

  • Remember that you don’t have to be constantly performing grand acts to be a good neighbour. Something as seemingly small as holding a door open can go a long way.

  • Increasing a sense of community can be as easy as striking up a friendly conversation with your neighbour. “It makes my day,” Bower says.

Kindness dates back to the origins of CAA, which was founded by Dr. Perry Doolittle in 1903 to advocate for connecting people through safer roads. Since then, putting other people first has been passed on to everyone in the CAA family, from dedicated Associates to loyal Members. It’s just more proof that positivity attracts positivity.

Do you have a Doug Bower in your own community?

Send us a message at caamagazine@caasco.ca and tell us about the good neighbours who make a difference in your life.

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