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Oct. 20, 2019 | Sunday
Local News
Simple stories with powerful messages
Steve Bushnik, author of many children’s books promoting self-love and owner of Painting the Town, with wife Amy Beth. (Brittany Carter/Niagara Now)

There’s power in integrity, says hometown author Steve Bushnik, who wants to tackle bullying through children’s books.

Bushnik’s stories, elegant and delightful in their simplicity, are stepping-stones to opening the discussion about bullying, self-love and kindness, he says.

While written for children, he says adults in Niagara-on-the-Lake could benefit from each book’s powerful message.

After reading the lord mayor’s letter to the editor about bullying in the March 14 issue of The Lake Report, Bushnik says he was inspired and intrigued that Betty Disero approached the topic of bullying.

She wasn’t just tackling the issue, Disero advocated for combating chaos with calm, he says.

“When I see bullying happening in Niagara-on-the-Lake, I know for a fact that this is not the way we want to live in our beautiful community. This is not how we should treat each other. Bullies do not add to the outstanding quality of life we live here for,” Disero said in her March statement on bullying.

Her words resonated with Bushnik.

“That was huge for me. It made me realize that she’s not just some woman in a high-profile position who doesn’t care about the people. I think she’s a welcome addition to the town,” he says.

Bushnik says he has been bullied both as a child and in the business world in NOTL. He’s the owner of a house painting company called Painting the Town.

He says when he witnesses blatant rudeness and unethical behaviour in town he won’t just sit idly by – he says he’ll call people out on it. It’s something he says he’s seen at local establishments more often than he cares to admit.

While fairly new to town, Bushnik moved to his home on Upper Canada Drive with his wife Amy Beth and daughter in 2015, and had been visiting the town for years.

NOTL’s beautiful atmosphere and kind residents swayed his decision to make the move. After spending more time in town as a resident and business owner, though, he says he was stunned by the amount of bullying and judgment he encountered day to day.

“We just realized it’s different as a tourist than when you live here. Now, you’re in that same place, that same business all the time and you see their habits, and you see how depressed everybody is,” he says.

Whether that negativity has to do with some residents being scared of the new growth, stuck in old ways or just not practising enough self-love, Bushnik isn’t sure. Of course, he says, it isn’t everyone in town – but it’s enough that he wanted to take a stand; he is hopeful that people can change.

He has set out to combat the negativity he has experienced by using positivity, self-love and simple stories with compelling messages.

Growing up, Bushnik says he was often bullied. Separated from his siblings, scattered across the country, he tried to keep his family together through laughter, letters and storytelling.

“I was always trying to write sweet nothings to try to keep in touch, to try to get everyone back together.”

That’s what pushed him into the humour and entertainment world, he says. He’s done some voice work and acting, building on his desire to make people laugh and instil inspiration.

Before breaking into the writing world, he took to martial arts as an outlet for dealing with the stress of being bullied as a kid. Through the disciplined practice, Bushnik earned his black belt. He took that discipline and began mentoring kids.

“I started teaching kids going through the same things, being bullied at school. Teaching them to kind of rock your best self and roll with the punches, and don’t take it so seriously,” he says.

He’s all about promoting self-love – evident in his books, To Me and The Colour in You.

“It’s important to teach kids early on that they need to love and appreciate every little thing about themselves, from their clothes to their eyes to their teeth and personalities. Being different is what makes us who we are – if we can embrace that early on, maybe it’ll prevent the angry and judgmental adults many of us have become.”

Bushnik’s books can be found online at MushyBushyBooks.com, and The Colour in You is being sold at Bloom and Co. in St. Davids.

NOTL residents can purchase copies privately through Sales@mushybushybooks.com, which he says he will sign and deliver locally. He also is donating some of his books to the NOTL Public Library.

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