A post inspired by Kozo and B4Peace.
Peace, or being at peace, has not always come easily for me. As a shy child I lived in a world where only those closest to me felt ‘safe’ to be with thus much of my time was spent (happily) alone in books, with nature or drawing and painting. As a teenager the harsh realities of life threatened to overwhelm me as my conscience expanded beyond my own back yard. I saw the brilliance and brutality of our world; seeing other’s pain, being unable to make it stop, has always pained me a great deal.
Whilst some might consider it a curse, now in what I hope is the middle of my life I consider this empathic nature a blessing. It’s a gift that makes kindness of paramount importance in my thoughts and deeds and by choice, because all conscious behaviour is a choice, I practice the everyday art of small kindnesses.
Small kindnesses are just that; tiny inauspicious acts that pass by largely unnoticed. The beauty is they don’t have to be noticed; their magic is subtle, quietly slipping into the recipients heart or soul when the work of the day is done. I choose to extend small kindnesses to animals and nature too, after all we wouldn’t be able to survive here without them. Some might argue what’s the point, I believe it makes a difference and that’s what I care about. Making a positive difference.
To stimulate the taste buds here are a few recipes for small kindnesses, everyday things I like to do to brighten and lighten other’s days. They bring peace to my heart and help create harmony for those around me.
Give way: traffic in most of our cities is horrendous and driving can prove extremely stressful. It’s frustrating to be stuck in queues, unable to exit junctions or park. But we’re all stuck in the same queue and if we carry on pigheadedly it just gets bigger and bigger. When I’m crawling along at less than 2mph and see someone who wants to pull out, park or make a turn, I give way. It takes a few seconds, it doesn’t make my journey any slower and it sets the other person on their way. Small, simple, easy. I might receive a grateful smile or look of relief and that in itself makes giving way worthwhile. If you don’t drive try giving way on the side-walk or the subway, it has benefits there too.
Feed the birds: I live in a rural area where there are many small birds. Most only live for around one year. In bad weather years like 2012 bird populations can be significantly impacted. Some may think so what, how does that matter to me? It matters for many reasons including the integrity of the food chain – a food chain that ultimately leads all the way to us. Many plants rely on birds for pollination, dispersion of seeds or protection from pests. Feed the birds and we help feed ourselves. They’re also pretty and it’s great to see them bring awkward, hungry fledglings to the garden in Spring knowing that I’ve lent a hand to a new generation. Small, simple, no real effort at all.
Money fairy: a while ago I noticed certain of my friends always paid for everything – drinks, food, taxis etc if a group of us went out. Its generosity beyond measure but my friends aren’t made of money and I was brought up to pay my way. Some of these folks are very tenacious, refusing to let me or others contribute. So I become the money fairy. The money fair is slightly sneaky but wholly well-intentioned. She makes it possible to share the cost by slipping cash into her friends coat pockets, wallets or purses then exclaims surprise if they discover some extra notes and declare ‘Oh, I wonder how that got there?’ Another money fairy favourite is to book a venue and pay in advance so there’s no bill to pick up at the end. I love my friends very much and its important to me not to take advantage. The good money fairy aims to give, not just receive…. for want of a better term she could be called a reverse-pick-pocket!
Good manners cost nothing: Two little words, please and thank you. I say them for the tiniest things. I probably drive some of the people I know mad because I can say them ten times in two sentences and they’re not just words, I say them with meaning and sentiment. At home, in shops, the hospital or out on the street I’ll be there relentlessly saying please and thank you for anything and everything I request or am grateful for. You brought me a cup of tea – thank you. I’d like orange juice please. Thank you, keep the change. Will you help me understand please? Thank you for looking after me, loving me, being my friend…..
Give it away:
I regularly give things away to charity and I encourage my family to do likewise. Anything that hasn’t been worn for 12 months is unlikely to get worn again. We don’t need a clothing bank at home but other people need clothing, shoes, spectacles, toys. These can all be given away, found new homes instead of being hoarded in the garage or thrown away. We all end up with things we no longer need, like or fit into so why not give them away. There were times, years ago, when I went without in order to feed and clothe my own son. I don’t want others to have to live like that when I now have a simple means to help them. I can’t help the whole world but helping one other family in need is better than helping none at all.
So that’s it, a little of my recipe for peace and contentment. The art of small kindnesses costs nothing much at all, it can be practiced everyday and I hope it helps makes our world a slightly better place. I suspect it does, it certainly can’t do any harm!