Be, Have and Do Something Out of the Ordinary

“Between you and every goal that you wish to achieve, there is a series of obstacles, and the bigger the goal, the bigger the obstacles. Your decision to be, have and do something out of the ordinary entails facing difficulties and challenges that are out of the ordinary as well. Sometimes your greatest asset is simply your ability to stay with it…” ~ Brian Tracy

Around this time of year most of us find ourselves reflecting on the previous twelve months, the ups and downs, the successes and “failures”, the things we have gained and those we have let go. And it was in this reflective spirit that about a week ago a very wise person asked me this key question: What was your proudest achievement in 2011? I didn’t have to think about it very long. Of course, it was completing nine months of kindness. And it didn’t only provide my proudest achievement, it also gave me my most joyous moments (like high fives at central station), my biggest life lessons (like loving the rain), and the most incredible friendships (like the lovely Faye, and a lonely neighbour, and some brand new kindness army recruits including many of you reading right now).

All of a sudden I could not remember why on earth I had ever thought I should let any of the Year of Kindness go, not even a little bit. I was overwhelmed with excitement for what the next four months of kindness could bring. And I wanted to get started right away. I called one of my most beautiful and talented kindness recruits Agent K and we set out with a special Christmas Kindness mission. Part one was as many positive post-it notes as possible amongst the rainy blur of Sydney CBD at night.

And Part two was a little more difficult. Agent K had spent about a week creating a whole bunch of absolutely adorable hand-made soft penguins. The plan was to leave them around the city with little labels saying ‘Take me I’m yours!’ for little people to find – its part of an incredible project called the Toy Society (http://thetoysociety.blogspot.com/). The lucky one to find the toy can log on and describe where the toy was found and by whom. Very cute! The only problem was that the penguins were so adorable and the weather so gloomy that Agent K was feeling decidedly unenthusiastic about abandoning them in the dark rainy night! What if no one found them? What if they were thrown in the rubbish? Or soaked in the downpour? I really felt that given the situation we should try to find some children to give them to in person, but where would we find children at ten o’clock on a weeknight?

As we wandered around brightening up the city streets with colourful, love-filled post-its, my instincts told me we should head for the huge Christmas tree in Martin Place. And sure enough as we turned the corner and spotted the tree, I also spotted two young children posing infront of it while their mother took their photo. I couldn’t help but exclaim, “There! Those are the kids! Let’s give them the penguins.” I really felt without an ounce of doubt these kids were meant to get the toys, but since they were Agent K’s it was her decision. After a few minutes of deliberating the family began to walk away and she hurriedly called after them and explained what she wanted to do. The children broke into wide smiles and emphatic thankyous and carefully took one penguin each. The mother thanked Agent K and said, “Wow, they’re really beautiful! That is so nice of you. That’s the true spirit of Christmas.”

A few days later I decided that Christmas spirit must start at home, and I had not yet done any kind deeds for the neighbours. Infact, my two housemates and I hadn’t ever spoken to anyone in our street. We all decided that needed to change. So I baked some home made ginger bread and we went around to each of the houses in our street, offering the cookies and having a chat. Most were very confused at first, thinking we were selling something or preaching, and then pleasantly surprised to discover we didn’t want anything from them – quite the opposite. The most memorable neighbour was an elderly French man who was in great pain from a ciatic nerve and had few friends or family in Australia. He seemed genuinely touched by our offer of humble gingerbread – even though he himself was a pastry chef! – but as always it was clearly more about a human connection, sharing smiles and conversation. I know my housemate and I will make the effort to drop in and say hello from now on.

I hope that your Christmas has been truly kindful. And that your new years resolution is to continue to be, have and do something out of the ordinary next year. I know mine is! Thankyou for all your love and support during my inspiration downturn. I feel so very lucky to have found so many kindred kindness crusaders. I’m back on the bandwagon with bells on, and I already have some brilliant plans for 2012, so stay tuned for many more kindness adventures!

When Life Gives You Lemonade…

Life is full of lemonade. Joyful smiles. Music that makes your heart sing. The laughter and comfort of good friends, of knowing there is a soft place to fall. Everything in life that is hard, overwhelming, beautiful, meaningful, pushing you to expand out beyond your current self into something bigger and better.

Right now my cup of lemonade is overflowing. I am so grateful for it, but I have also come to realise that when anything overflows it means something else is lost. The Year of Kindness has indirectly lead me to take on many new adventures that constantly provide moments of real challenge and real joy.  But these new adventures have left very little time for blogging, and so I haven’t written a Year of Kindness post in a while. I’m still doing kindnesses but rather than being conscious decisions they are more often then not things that just seem to happen while I’m busy making other plans. Things that have somehow become second nature without me even realising it – paying for someone’s bus fare when they don’t have change, stopping to talk to the homeless man down the street, positive post it notes anywhere and everywhere, volunteering for causes I really believe in, money in expired parking metres, buying organic, chatting to the bus driver, trying to actively listen and really be present for friends and family, just saying yes.

When I started this project I was restless and frustrated and a little lost. I wanted to prove that every individual has the power to create something positive amidst the chaos and cruelty of the world. That there is so much good all around us if only we look close enough. That you can be the change you want to see in the world. Now I know all these things to be true. But in these lessons I’m faced with a decision – do I try to get re-inspired, keep challenging myself with new and different kindness missions and continue to write about these experiences? Or do I accept that it is time to let this blog go, to enjoy the lemonade of small spontaneous kindnesses and stop trying to catch the overflow? Jury is definitely out…