Little caring gestures can be a really big help. Just ask this busy mom of 3.
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Hallmark

Olivia’s son Otto was barely 2 years old when she realized he was different. His eventual diagnosis — severe autism — was a surprising relief.

Olivia Cytrynowicz. Image via Hallmark/YouTube.

Growing up with an autistic brother, Olivia was already familiar with the spectrum, as well as how it affects the lives of people on it and those who care about them.


Her young son would have challenges expressing himself verbally; he'd have learning difficulties and complicated emotions. She knew that in the same way her son saw the world a little bit differently, she and her family would need to do the same. On top of her job at Hallmark and her already busy life, she and her family had to create space for understanding Otto's special needs while ensuring that those of their other two children — and their own — would be met.

If that sounds like a pretty tough balancing act, it is. It's also not out of the ordinary for parents of kids with special needs.

Fortunately, Olivia and her family have a caring community to help them along. Three years after Otto’s diagnosis, they're all thriving.

Olivia and her family on vacation in Colorado. Image via Olivia Cytrynowicz, used with permission.

“You’ve probably heard the expression, 'It takes a village.' ... We live that every day with our family," says Olivia.

"Our neighbors know that if they see Otto running down the street, he shouldn’t be and where to return him," she adds. "They will come over with a meal when it’s been a really rough week. They’ll take my other kids out for pizza or for a sleepover, just to give them kind of a sense of normalcy or just to give us a break. It’s those really specific acts of kindness that resonate with us every time, really.”

When large gatherings happen, their friends make sure Otto's special needs are accommodated. For example, they’ll make sure the barbecue doesn’t have open flames, or they’ll create a special quiet place where Otto can find peace if he’s overstimulated. For parents like Olivia, who base their decisions on which events to attend on how their children could potentially react to them, these small kindnesses make a huge difference.

Having a community to lean on is a huge asset. But when support from others isn’t enough, Olivia has learned to take time for herself, too.

“Especially as women, we’re warrior moms or constantly advocating ... and that’s where we spend a lot of time getting our affirmation,” she says. “But that really can get exhaustive. I mean, I’ve been on this path for five years now, and it’s taken me close to that amount of time to realize that that’s not where I’m going to recharge. I’m going to be a better mom, I’m going to be a better wife, I’m going to be a better employee if I get out of the house for a little bit.”

Olivia and Otto share a special moment at home. Image via Olivia Cytrynowicz, used with permission.

At the moment, Olivia recharges with the help of exercise classes that she takes five times a week. She credits the experience with changing her life and helping her find control, especially when the rest of her day is chaotic and unpredictable.

“I make it count because I know that as soon as I leave that gym that I’m going home to a bunch of stuff that I can’t control. How many pushups I can do in an hour?  That’s something I can control.”

In her nine years as a parent, Olivia has learned a lot about care. She's seen how even tiny amounts of it can change lives, even her own.

"There are so many ways to show someone that you care," she says. "It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, it doesn’t have to be something that you purchase or just the right words at the right time. It’s just being there and being genuine and letting that person know that they matter to you."

Listen to Olivia speak about how caring gestures have changed her life in this short video:

Pexels
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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.