Rainy Day Smiles

Lots of very simple things become far more complicated when it’s raining. Like getting to work via public transport without being completely saturated (epic fail). Or getting a decent nights sleep without having a leaky ceiling drip on your face (epic, epic fail). But there’s one thing that is surprisingly, much easier in bad weather: being kind. The last few days in Sydney have been ridiculously rainy, windy and cold. Everyone is reluctantly trudging along through it and there is a certain atmosphere of grumpiness and ready-for-summerness, which in a weird way actually brings everyone together.

Yesterday I offered to share my umbrella with someone who was caught in the rain without one. I discovered this is one of those very rare kindnesses that people generally accept with minimum wariness and maximum gratitude. And today, I decided to try my luck with a kindness that usually has very little success in Sydney – smiling at people as they walked past. But the funny thing is, today as we struggled with umbrellas turning inside out and buses sending waves of water splashing onto us, I found that strangers in the rain also laugh and smile together far more than those in the sunshine. Read into that what you will!

This week I also babysat for my lovely friends K and J and bought a coffee for a guy who looked like his eyes might actually pop out of his head at the very idea of it. Once he had recovered, he remarked that he would make sure he was at the coffee shop at the exact same time tomorrow. Nice try! I also did the following things I usually don’t make time for: went to a dance class, said yes to every dessert I was offered (and worked very hard not to feel any guilt about it!), did a yoga/meditation class and spent several hours reading a good book with no interruptions. I didn’t realise how long it had been since I had done many of these things – they seem so little but the happiness they create is pretty big!

And in one of those wonderful twists the universe likes to organise sometimes, this weekend I am invited to a Kindness Conference (who knew there was such a thing?) and the topic is A Time For Renewal: The World Can Only Change From Within. Yes, that’s right, a whole two-days of talks and techniques from professional (and international) kindness crusaders on how and why to be kinder to yourself. So I will definitely report back to you on that one.

I hope you’re all doing well with the kindness to self challenge. And if you’re caught in the rain this week too, remember you can always create your own sunshine just by smiling!

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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.