Turning to Kindness in Challenging Times

Cynthia Yip and her mother Tai Hing Yip.
Cynthia Yip grew up witnessing her mom always taking time to help others. When her mom passed away last year, she turned to acts of kindness as a way of honoring her memory and coping with grief.

Cynthia Yip’s mother Tai Hing Yip was the kind of best friend who accepts all of your quirks, even if they don’t share them. “I collect dolls,” Cynthia told us, “and I do all these weird things. I also like to cosplay. Growing up my mom really embraced who I am, and she never tried to change me.”

Cynthia’s Instagram features photographs of her collection of Blythe dolls, an iconic doll with a large head and huge eyes some say was influenced by the paintings of Margaret Keane. The color of the doll’s eyes can be changed, which proved to be scary to kids. After a failed launch in the United States in the 1970’s, they were resurrected in Japan in 2000, and drew a cult following.

A Blythe doll carefully styled, posed, and photographed by Cynthia Yip.

Photographing Blythe dolls gives Cynthia an opportunity to try out different identities. “Say there’s a style or a personality that you always wanted to do for yourself but you’re too afraid,” Cynthia said. “You can put that design on your dolls.”

Cosplay also allows people to take on a role by dressing up as characters from favorite books, films or video games. Tai Hing wasn’t interested in putting on a cape, but she often went with her daughter to DC and Marvel movies. Like the superheroes they both loved, Cynthia’s mother was ready to move into action at a moment’s notice when someone was in distress. “As a kid I always saw her helping others,” Cynthia told us. “Sometimes I’d be walking down the street with her and if she saw a stranger in need, my mom would just tell me ‘oh wait right here, let me go help this person’.”

Tai Hing taught Cynthia and her brother at an early age that everyone is equal, and to reject bias like discrimination on the basis of skin color or religion. At first, Cynthia didn’t quite understand her mother’s kindness. “There were times when she’d come back home and she’d tell me about how she was helping some people and they were giving her attitude, but she still did it anyway.” Why would her mother help people who didn’t treat her well? She told Cynthia, “If I’m capable of doing it, and I see someone that needs help, I want to go ahead and help them.”

When her mother passed away last year, Cynthia turned to kindness for a way to help cope with her tremendous loss. After finding a kindness initiative on our website called “Leave Art for Someone to Find”, she decided to give it a try. She filled post-it notes and cards with words of wisdom her mother taught her, and began leaving them in unexpected places for strangers to discover. “I hoped I could reach out to people that I might not know or I might never get a chance to meet. But if the quotes resonate with what they’re going through right now, and could help them, I feel that I’ve done something for them at least.”

My mom gave up work just to raise me. I didn’t want to just sit there and just keep on crying day after day, night after night. I wanted to turn something tragic into something positive for others.

Cynthia told us that leaving notes for strangers changed her relationship to kindness and made her a more positive person. “It made me want to do more. Instead of coming home from work and just sitting there watching TV, it made me put more time into helping other people.” Reactions to the notes made her smile and feel gratitude for her ability to help, even while dealing with her own challenges.

“At the end of the day if you look at what’s going on in the news and all those wars and politics, I feel what is lacking is kindness.” By carrying on the legacy of her mother’s wisdom and impulse to help others, taking action with kindness has now become a central purpose in Cynthia’s life, and an inspiration to those around her.

We are all born without hate but as we grow older, our environment and the people we come across in life shapes who we are today. But if we could spend an hour each day to do something kind for others, I believe we could start seeing the world in a more positive way. It will break down our barriers and eventually build friendships all around the world. That is why I #choosekindness. — Cynthia Yip

For more of Cynthia Yip’s photography, visit her on Instagram.