Love the Rain (and Other Wisdom from Strangers)

Over the last few days little pearls of wisdom have been spilling forth from strangers in the most random of places, and each one has inspired a different act of kindness.

1. Thoughts create words create reality. On Saturday at the beginning of a gym class my instructor told us she was having a terrible morning, she was a magnet for things going wrong and all she needed now was for the “stupid microphone” not to work. Having also attended the previous class (sometimes I’m a little crazy that way), I knew the microphone was working perfectly well. But sure enough, she spent ten minutes flipping switches before exclaiming “It’s not working, as usual.” She then spent the rest of the class in turn shouting instructions and complaining about having to shout. She was so frustrated that she kept messing up the choreography. All day I thought about how easy it is to be your own worst enemy and not even realise it. I decided to make a conscious effort to be kinder to myself over the weekend. I did things that make me feel calm and happy – catching up with friends, exercising, meditating, eating well, reading, cooking… I also bought all my fruit and vegetables from a local organic market – to my great amusement the Englishman who was running the market told me I was “doing a jolly good thing for the environment but more importantly a jolly good thing for your health”.

2. Your life should love you. On Monday while I was in a shop, a fairly successful-looking woman was asked what she did for work. She laughed and gave the most amazing response I’ve ever heard: “I do whatever work loves me.” When asked what she meant, she listed an assortment of different jobs which she claimed all had one common element – they made her feel appreciated, valued, talented and loved. The lady went on to say that this was also true of people she had in her life – “How could anyone ever expect to be happy if they choose to spend time with people or work that doesn’t love them?” Of course we all know it is true, but as friend recently told me quite matter-of-factly, “Sometimes I think if I let go of every person who let me down, there wouldn’t be many people left.” I can empathise with this so strongly. But I realise more and more each day that it’s better to be surrounded by a few people that truly love you than many who don’t. Following on from this lesson I decided to make someone else feel loved and I wrote a gratitude card to my amazing friend R. She is constantly inspiring me, making me consider things from a different perspective and encouraging me to have unwavering faith in myself and the universe.

3. Love the rain. Today while waiting for my daily caffeine fix, I noticed a little girl (around five) sitting at the window of the cafe watching the rain outside. All around her us adults were complaining to each other about the cold, wet weather. This little girl, however, had a different take on things, bouncing excitedly in her seat as the raindrops fell heavier and heavier, and saying quietly: “Hello, rain! I love you. Thankyou for making the flowers grow.” If only we could maintain children’s natural ability to find such joy in things. This little girl inspired my ‘piece de resistance’ for this week (if not month): I went around to every unit on my floor (25 in total) and left a flower and a note on the doorstep reading “A random act of kindness to brighten a gloomy day.” Strange how nervous this made me – I did it so hastily you would think I was robbing the places. Maybe my last flower incident has traumatised me. I didn’t want to get “caught”; didn’t want to be judged; didn’t want to answer suspicious and ungrateful questions. I just wanted to imagine that each person came home after a stressful, rainy day to find a lovely bright flower on their doorstep that made them smile and wonder.

Lessons from the White Queen

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” ~ William Arthur Ward

Day 4: It’s all too easy to take things for granted in our lives; to get wrapped up in what we don’t have or where we would rather be instead of focusing on being thankful for all that we have in the here and now. Personally, the thing I am most grateful for in my life is the amazing people I am lucky enough to share it with. My 4th act of kindness was to write a thankyou card to my beautiful friend L, who is like a little ray of sunshine: positive, joyful, considerate, honest and loyal. I’m sure that those closest to me know that I am grateful for them, but I have to say there is something really lovely about taking the time to put into words just how awesome I think they really are.

Day 5: Carrying on the giving to friends, my 5th act of kindness was to babysit for my fantastic friend A and his wife who definitely deserved a night off, especially considering it was also his birthday this week. It was the most stress-free babysitting experience I’ve ever had and I think it was much appreciated by both parents. At this point, being kind to friends certainly feels far more natural than being kind to strangers but I’m hoping eventually to be equally comfortable with both.

 

Day 6: My acts of kindness towards strangers do tend to make me feel slightly insane (saying hello to people, buying coffee for randoms …), and today was no different. Inspired by the website operationbeautiful.com, I snuck around putting post-it notes with positive affirmations where lots of people would see them. For example, in a public toilet: “You are beautiful. Never forget it” and in a pay phone: “Be yourself. No one else knows how.” I got a lot of funny looks from people wondering what I was doing and I must admit, at first I felt a little disappointed – it just isn’t the same when you can’t experience people’s responses. But then I began to imagine all the different ways the notes might brighten someone’s day. (Maybe someone was working up the courage to make an important phone call and that note was the little nudge they needed, maybe that conversation will change their life …) My happy imaginings were probably far more fanciful than anything that actually took place but I’m grateful that this project is allowing me to embrace my idealistic tendencies. I happily take a leaf out of the book of the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland (by C.S. Lewis) who makes it a habit to imagine “more than six impossible things before breakfast”.