Jill Donovan is clearly an inspired woman on a mission. Throughout her life she has overcome challenges and seized opportunities with equal measures of patience and persistence and she recounts the highlights in her new book, “The Kindness Effect”.
Jill has an impressive resume – including being a loving mom and wife, law school professor, and creator of Rustic Cuffs, a wildly successful line of bracelets (or “cuffs”). The book highlights her journey with all the lessons she’s realized along the way, from young gymnastics competitor to university student and successful entrepreneur and philanthropist. Her early years of dedication to gymnastics ended with heartbreak at age ten when her coach told her not to spend more time and money on something in which she had no future. Depressed and dejected only for a short time, she turned her goal-oriented nature and tenacity to learning new skills. She spent a year each to develop skills in tap dancing, painting, figure skating, and even playing the harmonica… each with a recital or exhibition to cap off the year of achievement.
In the years that followed, she finished law school and was obsessed with attending a taping of “The Oprah Winfrey Show”. When she learned that Oprah was looking to explore the world of regifting, Jill jumped at the chance to share her own adventure stories in what she considered the fine art of regifting. Unfortunately, when the etiquette experts weighed in, Jill felt blindsided by their declaration that regifting was tacky and tasteless. Jill was devastated and felt publicly shamed for an act she believed was thoughtful and loving… and was even more embarrassed when the episode was so popular it ran multiple times that season!
As Jill says, “The authenticity of your life depends on whether you choose to continue to breathe during the hurt and pain”. When she returned home, she emptied out her regifting closet and felt called to create something new to offer as gifts from the heart. A life-long lover of cuffs, she mastered the skills required to create them for herself and her circle, and her business organically grew from there.
Kindness is part of her business, as she regularly gives away her cuffs for free. Following her intuition (or as she calls it her “knower”), she’s given free cuffs to everyone from her seatmates at church, to cashiers at the grocery story and cancer survivors. She even gave a husband who publicly denigrated her brand a free cuff and two $200 gift certificates to pay it forward so that he could get a taste of the magic of Rustic Cuffs for himself. Jill notes, “We will always encounter people who are angry or who might push our buttons. Usually they are the ones who need our kindness the most”.
“The Kindness Effect” is a really lovely collection of thoughts from a truly inspiring woman. Unfortunately, while a really easy read, it doesn’t feel nearly as inspired and polished as Jill’s cuffs. The content is all there; it just felt like it needed a heavier hand at the editing phase to truly shine. I did more research about the author and her mission after finishing the book and was left much more inspired after watching a few interviews with her than I did after I turned the last page of “The Kindness Effect”.
Her messages are important and deserve repeating. Even though the regifting habit was a miss, it came from a place of love. Jill embodies the idea that whatever you have and wherever you are at, you should give from the heart and expect nothing in return, and know and trust the magic will unfold. She leaves us with this ideal: “The effect of kindness is simply a ripple, a ripple to be seen and felt so strongly it continues far beyond the first initial act.”
Amy Kellestine is an educator, engineer, Arati life coach and entrepreneur living in Edmonton, Alberta. She spends her free time camping, gardening, and volunteering for causes such as Cystic Fibrosis and nature conservation. She is a devoted mother and is passionate about helping others and writing.