Days 9 – 12: There are moments in life where you are able to take a step back and see yourself as others might see you. Sometimes this is a wonderfully self-affirming experience as you realise you haven’t been giving yourself enough credit. Sometimes it is a painfully confronting experience as you begin to wonder whether you have been giving yourself too much. And on rare occassions, its both.
This week has been a strange chapter in my kindness journey. After giving blood on Tuesday I was still feeling very light-headed and hazy the next few days. I decided to be kind to myself and make my tasks relatively easy: on Wednesday I decided to say only positive things for the whole day. On Thursday at lunch my friend K and I sat next to a lady who chimed in to our conversation to offer us some motherly advice. I decided to annonymously pay for her coffee - which the waiter was incredibly confused by. He promptly told me she had already paid for it herself and jokingly said, “You can’t be nice around here, sorry.” I bought her a cookie instead. I’ve no idea what the lady would have thought upon recieving it, but at least I proved you can be nice anywhere if you really put your mind to it!
Friday I attended my uncle’s birthday party and my small kindness was to keep an eye out for people sitting on their own and go over and talk to them. It felt a little strange at first but it’s never nice to feel out of place and I certainly would appreciate someone making the effort if I were in that situation.
Saturday I decided it was time I challenged myself to do a slightly bigger kindness. I was nervous as I went a bought a bunch of flowers and stood outside the supermarket to wait for the right recipient to walk by. I deliberated for a long time – It would have to be a lady. That one? No, some one older. That one? No, someone who wasn’t carrying too much shopping. I needed to stop procrastinating. A middle-aged lady approached, looking like she wasn’t having the best morning and I stepped forward. “I know this is a little bit strange, but I’d like to give you these flowers …” She was taken aback, confused, then apologetic: she was going on a long drive today and so couldn’t take them for practical reasons. I was disappointed. Did I really have to start again? Of course I did, and I had to hurry up or I’d miss my bus. I would just give them to the next lady I saw and that would be that. I only managed to get out a polite “Excuse me?” before she began to speed up, avoiding eye-contact. Of all the reactions, I honestly never expected that. Did I look scary? Or like someone begging for money? Did she think I was trying to sell her something? How did she know I wasn’t just going to ask for directions? Trying to shake it off, walked straight up to the next lady without analysing and offered her the flowers. She was very sorry but she couldn’t take them because she had two cats who would try to eat them. I felt an overwhelming sense of defeat. The first lady walked back past and said, “Still trying?” My bus came and went. As people hurried past me I had a kind of out-of-body experience, looking down on myself in dismay, a lone girl standing in the street trying to give away a stupid bunch of flowers that nobody wanted. And for what? What on earth was I thinking? Had I actually gone mad? What the hell was I trying to achieve anyway?
Then the lady with the cats walked back over. She asked why I was giving away the flowers, what motivated me to do a whole year of kindness? She said it was such a lovely idea; if only more people thought the same way; that really, when you thought about it, we could solve all the world’s problems with kindness. I felt the little positive Pollyanna within me slowly awakening again. She said that she would sit with me and help me find someone to give the flowers to. We spoke about her cats, her children and grandchildren, the beauty of flowers, and many other things. I was ready to try again. This lady was perfectly receptive as I approached and instantly overjoyed: “Oh, really? That’s so sweet. Let me give you a kiss and a hug!” She was in town visiting her daughter who wasn’t well, and had been having a very stressful time. I was so relieved. I had (eventually) managed to brighten up someone’s day! After feeling like a complete lunatic, I now felt like I was doing something that was perhaps even more worthwhile than I realised. It reminded me that one of the hardest things in life is putting yourself out there to be judged and possibly rejected – whether it be actively living the change you want to see in the world, going for a job interview or giving your heart to someone. Sometimes it’s hard to follow your instincts when it would seemingly be so much easier (and more logical) to give up completely. But whether you’re holding a bunch of flowers, your resume, or your heart, you have to have faith that whatever you are offering to the world, eventually someone will walk by who accepts and appreciates it completely and joyfully, and there really is no better feeling.