As we approach Christmas, and for those of us who Celebrate Jesus Christ, acknowledge the Greatest Gift ever given to mankind in the Gift God gave of His Only Son to be the Saviour of the world, perhaps we can see this as a perfect opportunity to care for others.
There is so much need in the world, and there are so many people suffering this year. It can be overwhelming, especially if we ourselves are struggling. Mother Teresa once said that ‘if you can’t help one hundred, help one’. You and I are not, and are not called to be the saviours of the world, but we can reach out to help our fellow human beings.
I wonder if you are going through a tough time right now. I send you a hug of friendship and encouragement, and hope that my words can reach you too. Has anyone done or said something that has helped lift you or shown kindness to you? Can you in any way pass this on, pay this kindness forwards?
I think it is good for us, not in a selfish way, but in living out more of our true humanity, in being able to care for others. Even when we are weak, we have something to give. We can give a prayer, even in our most broken times, for the benefit of others. We can give a smile, a kind word, a gift, some money, some food, or even share our talents with the world in some small way. We can give a hug, or make a phone call, we can care for others, and in doing so simultaneously care for ourselves in allowing us to express the kindness that we all so deeply need to share. x
Do you ever get excited at the chance to help someone in need? Do you feel encouraged when you see your community get together to help others? I certainly do. It’s one thing when we individually try to do what we can to help others, but there is something just so wonderful when people combine efforts for the greater good.
I was talking to my friend earlier on in the month about helping homeless people. There is such a need all around us, and you’ll be particularly aware of it if you are an urban dweller because you are probably more likely to see homeless people on the streets more frequently than those who live in suburban areas and in the countryside. Yet, even in cities the issues of homelessness can be ‘hidden in plain sight’, and even when they are within our view we know we cannot possibly help everyone and so at times we become ‘numb’ to the plight of others because we feel it is in our best interests to keep an emotional distance when we know we are not always in the position to help.
A few days ago it was reported in the local news that someone had died in a car park overnight due to the freezing temperatures. One night the temperature was minus ten degrees and homeless charities warned that it was imperative to contact them and notify them if any member of the public noticed a homeless person sleeping on the street because there was no way they would otherwise make it through the night because their bodies wouldn’t survive the cold and the sudden fall in temperature. It is always a sad thing for people to be out on the streets with nowhere to call home, but at certain times of the year due to inclement weather it can be deadly.
We individually try to do the little we can do bit by bit and that can often make us wonder whether people in the greatest need will actually be helped.
It is therefore a breath of fresh air when people come together and unify their efforts to help other people. I am quite excited about this as the main Central Station in my city has teamed up with the main homelessness charity and is having a collection today within the Station concourse. Apparently the footfall per day through the station is 100,000 people. The charity has provided a list of things they need to provide to homeless people and many of the items on the list are very very affordable for most of us. So just imagine if everyone passing through today contributes a bit how much that will all add up to and in the right hands of the people who have spent decades helping homeless people professionally then we know that things will definitely make a difference in some way. That makes me feel encouraged.
Isn’t it wonderful when we can team up our efforts to make a greater change? Can you think of anything happening in your area or can you think of something that you can organise and get others on board with? With everyone doing their little bit, great things can happen. Think about ‘passing it on’ if you hear of good initiatives and of ‘paying it forward’ to those in need who aren’t in the position to give anything back in return.
Even if we can’t help for some particular reason like not being able to be in a certain place at a certain time, we can still ‘pass it on’ and tell our friends, colleagues, families and they can also do the same.
So be encouraged this season, friends, to ‘Pass It On, and Pay It Forward’. Peace.
The slowing of the seasons brings with them a natural point of reflection and contemplation in our days. I personally find that as they days and nights grow colder, when darkness arrives early and the temperature suddenly drops, as shops begin to fill with decorations, and as we see those lovely cosy advertisements of warm, happy, fun filled, bountiful festivities reminding us to shop for good food at low prices, and to buy the latest gifts for our friends, families and loved ones, and ourselves, that the contrast between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ becomes starker.
I feel blessed to live where I live – a city with green spaces such as parks. It means that I can get away from the hustle and bustle of life and enjoy nature, but also that I’m not hiding myself away from or secluded from the harsher realities of other people’s lives.
In one day, walking through my city, I could have spent some peaceful times of solitude reflecting upon beautiful autumn and winter scenes in the park, watching squirrels and ducks, and maybe stopping for a coffee or going for lunch or to the shops with friends, in any one of numerous locations. But I also will inevitably walk past a number of homeless people, those who are cold, vulnerable, forgotten, lonely, with nowhere to go and nothing to eat. Sometimes I will stop and talk to one of them or offer some food or give out a pre-prepared ‘care package’ that I’ve made, and give what I can as I am able and when it is safe to do so. (Obviously it’s important to keep ourselves safe, and to be aware that not everyone is genuine, therefore I am careful to either help via homeless charities, and / or to help directly when in well lit places, near shops and where other people are coming and going, because I feel that is safer for a young woman to do so, and to do so in daylight, or if in the evening, only when I am in company with friends for example).
I feel blessed to have these contrasting perspectives. It is lovely to spend time in beautiful places, enjoying ‘the good life’ even if that is in the simple things such as a walk in the park, lunch with a friend, taking photographs of wildlife, going to the cinema or wandering around the shops to do some window shopping. It’s also lovely as Christmas approaches to enjoy the variety of Christmas markets in my city and other neighbouring cities that are only an hour or so travel time away. However, some of my most poignant memories of going to these lovely, bright, beautiful, cosy and festive Christmas markets, stocked with handmade goodies, with delicious smells wafting invitingly by, are those of seeing the people at the edges, at the fringes, hoping for some compassion, and knowing that they will be forgotten about, overlooked, and maybe even that they may not make it through the night as the temperature falls. While my friends, family and I can enjoy the outdoor fun because we know we will have a warm place to go afterwards, many all around us do not.
Even if you aren’t face to face with those who are marginalised and suffering and unable to meet their daily and basic needs, for whatever reason they find themselves in that position, we are still all part of a world, a society in which those who have far less than us exist.
It can be easy to feel ‘guilty’ for enjoying what we can, or for feeling overwhelmed and helpless. Yes, I know that problems of homelessness and so forth exist all year around, however, I feel that it must be so much more painful during certain times of the year when those sitting on the pavements of our cities see everyone else frivolously throwing their money away on unnecessary frivolities, things they don’t care for or need, and enjoying themselves in a way that is more apparent than during other months.
I can’t imagine how hard that must be for someone watching on, hoping for a scrap of food, human contact or some small offering of compassion.
I know some people have their views and judgements and stereotypes, but I prefer not to judge why someone is in the position they are in. Rather, I think “There but for the Grace of God go I” and in such a situation what would I want my fellow human beings to do?
There is a lot that we just cannot do. However, don’t let that discourage you.
Think of all the many good things you can do, or be involved in, and even if you do ‘just’ one thing, that will mean something to someone, and that someone matters as much as you do. If each one of us adds one act of kindness for someone in need this season in addition to all the gifts we give to people we know and love, think of the difference that will make to those who otherwise would be forgotten, marginalised, lost, alone, hungry, cold and in need of some human kindness.
The novelist, Henry James, once said: “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
The importance of kindness cannot be understated. Nor can it’s power to impact another’s life be underestimated.
You may be familiar with the film ‘Pay It Forward’, in which when a class was asked by their social studies teacher to come up with an idea that will have a positive impact on the world, one little boy, Trevor comes up with the idea of ‘paying it forward’. To pay it forward would mean that if someone does something good for you, instead of ‘paying them back’, you would ‘pay it forward’ to three more people and they in turn would do the same. A central premise, however, is that the act of kindness would have to be something of significance that the recipient couldn’t do or achieve for themselves.
I think this is a wonderful idea. However, I think acts of kindness don’t have to be ‘big’ or of monumental significance to have a deep and lasting impact on others and ourselves.
In thinking of the idea of ‘RAKs’ or Random Acts of Kindness, I have come to the conclusion that ‘random’ doesn’t need to mean unplanned.
We can have it in our minds and hearts that we will do something for someone even if we don’t know for whom or at what time in the day or week that might be. For example, buying a sandwich or a bottle of water and keeping it ready to give to a homeless person that we might come across.
There are so many ways we can inspire each other to be kind, and to extend that kindness beyond ourselves and our own circle of friends and contacts.
Think about a kindness someone has shown to you. No matter how small. Think about how that made you feel, and don’t underestimate the power of the gift of kindness that you hold in your own hands to give to another.
I remember in school, I had been bullied and was very introverted, shy and had little self esteem. I felt in many ways, dehumanised. Years passed and in my final year of school someone showed me kindness. Not with any monumental act or deed, but in simply taking the time to show that they cared, that I was worth listening to, and getting to know.
It was a real shock to my system, for although I had by that time managed to make a few ‘friends’ I had never before felt that anyone in school actually *cared*. The kindness was quiet, yet palpable. I didn’t know how to accept that someone would want to be kind to me.
And yet, a small gesture ultimately set the wheels in motion for my heart to soften, learn to trust and for my life to change.
My heart is open to giving kindness to others. We may never realise the impact that even a small act of kindness may make not just in someone’s day, but on the trajectory of their whole life. Isn’t that in itself miraculous?
I’d like to encourage you to think about kindness today. How you can be kinder to yourself and to other people. What could you do to reach out or to reconnect?
Here are a few ideas to get you started. And don’t forget to ‘pay it forward’ 🙂 With love, x.
Reach out to a friend that you haven’t connected with for a while.
Write a letter to tell someone that you care.
Give a homeless person a drink or some food.
Write a random note or a postcard to encourage someone and leave it in a library book, in a coffee shop, or somewhere that someone you don’t know will find it.
Tell someone they are wonderful, today.
Be aware of the people around you and whether they need help – the old adage about helping ‘grannies’ across the street, isn’t such a bad one 🙂
Inspire yourself by making your own list of ‘random acts of kindness’ that you can plan to do in the coming month.