Category Archives: kindness

Advent Random Acts of Kindness

As well as the Reverse Advent Calendar, we are also doing a random act of kindness a day throughout December.

I hadn’t really thought much about what we will do each day so yesterday the RAKs just happened themselves (which is really how it should be, if kindness is the path you choose to take in life – and it is a choice you can make, and a choice many don’t).

Yesterday we had a disagregated training day and so it allowed me to help out at my son’s school Christmas fayre in the afternoon, whilst my husband took him and his best friend around the stalls. When my son came running along to me on the cake and sweet stall with all his winnings from the tombola, teddy bear raffle and his homemade Christmas decorations, he chose a cupcake for himself and also chose a little Freddo chocolate for his sister who was still at her nursery. He also offered his marshmallow Santa’s Rolo hat to me as well as saying that a massive bar of Galaxy he won on the tombola was for mummy, daddy and his sister to share. Okay, so he has a milk allergy and can’t eat them himself, but as a five year old he could have kicked off and got upset that he couldn’t have what he won. Instead, he didn’t bat an eyelid at winning something so awesome for his family to enjoy (and it’s Galaxy chocolate so I totally will – post detox completion of course!).

Later, I went to pick up our daughter from nursery. On the way home she likes to tell me about her day (which is novel because her brother never has). She told me how her friend at nursery had said to another girl “I don’t like you”. She told me how, in response to this, she had said to the other girl,

“Don’t worry, xxxxxx, because I LOVE you”

and later, to the girl who wasn’t being kind,

“That wasn’t a very kind thing to say to xxxxxx”.

I’m really pleased that, at three, my daughter is not only trying to make sad people better but she’s also standing up for kindness and isn’t afraid to stand up and say if something isn’t right.

I am aware that she’s only 3 and this story may or may not be entirely as it seems, and there are, of course, many times where she is most definitely a typical ego-centric preschooler (in fact, she told me I wasn’t her best friend any more the other day because I wanted her to settle down for bed!). But, I can see her mind working and her empathy growing, showing us little hints into her growing-up personality, which is more selfless.

So those were the children’s 1st of December Random Acts of Kindness. Let’s see what the rest of December will bring!

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More than another year goes by

Time is flying! It is already over a year since we finished our RAK project for mum’s 60th (I drafted this post around her birthday two months ago). Whilst we haven’t kept count of subsequent RAKs in these last months, we have most definitely made it a bigger part of our lives. They’ve been happening; we’ve seen the evidence on Facebook!

It seems surreal that it is over two years since this blog started: over two years since the cakes for the Holistic Centre, since “Balls for Dogs” on the beach. The project is also still waiting on the outcome of one of our RAKs. We hope to hear within the next six months.

Mum would’ve been 61 now. It’s hard to imagine how different our lives would’ve been had she been here. Most of the time it is becoming easier to accept that she isn’t here now (not that that makes it fair by any stretch!). Everything I’ve said about grief still stands but, if anything, losing her makes me want to live life to its fullest as you never know what’s around the corner. One thing I will say is that it is important for the grieving person to have their feelings acknowledged, even years later (so maybe ask them? Especially on birthdays, mother’s or father’s days and anniversaries – show them that you remember too!). It’s natural that she’s not at the forefront of people’s minds, but what’s a moment of reflection or a quick message to someone on a harder than normal day? I always endeavour to do this with friends and family who’ve lost loved ones. If you don’t, why don’t you? I promise it will not upset the person to have their loss acknowledged, even years later.

My mindset has changed over the last few years. I try to accept things and not wallow in self-pity as much as I used to. I figure that you can never try too hard to be a ‘better’ person. Everyone has times when they could do better but it’s important to recognise that and to work on self-improvement. And it is an effort! I’m always telling my students that you can’t sit back and expect good things to happen or for things to be easy, you have to make the effort. It’s the same for life in general. You get one shot at it. You may have had a crap time, rubbish GCSE results or whatever but what are you doing to change that? It is all in your control, even if it doesn’t feel like it. When things are going well but others are not supportive I often think of something mum taught me: not to let others bring you down. She often said “Rise above it”. Now, in my more well-read years, it reminds me of Maya Angelou. And I LOVE Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise

If you have wondered recently if it’s you, if you’ve observed people acting unkind towards you or just acted differently from how they used to be (as I have), keep reminding yourself that whatever issues people face, it is their issue. They own it, not me, not you. Strive to continue being YOU, to being the best version of you that you can. If that sits out of favour with some then you cannot help that. People drift in and out of our lives all the time for all sorts of reasons. We need not to pay attention to how this makes us feel but to focus on what matters. The less we care about the stuff we can’t change, the happier we will be.

I strongly believe that if people believed from within, if they trusted the person that they are is good enough (like she did), then they would be happier. They would subsequently treat others with kindness, they’d be respectful, they’d treat others the way they wish to be treated.

I saw this quote the other day and it made me think. Who was she when no one was watching? I often watched her when she didn’t think I was. I can honestly say that I only ever her saw her being kind and respectful to others. She did not ignore anyone. She helped. She saw the positive in any situation. She cared. She did not make anyone feel excluded, left out or left behind. A lot of people could learn lessons from that.

When no one is watching, we continue to do Random Acts of Kindness, big and small.

Manchester

Today I had a conversation with a group of teenagers about the atrocities that unfolded in Manchester on Monday evening. I don’t have memories of such events from when I was their age. The IRA bombings that occurred in my childhood seemed too distant from me and I don’t remember feeling at risk. Even in my late teens when the World Trade Centre was hit, I still felt safe in my little town and would think to myself what would they want in Guisborough? Everything bad in the world seemed so remote and in some ways, you could shield yourself, or be shielded from it.  The young people I spoke to today are so much closer to what’s happened: they know people who were there and they know people who were injured.  They knew of the attack before they even rose from their beds on Tuesday morning, some before they fell asleep on Monday night.  They know details, they’ve seen pictures on their phones, they’ve speculated and debated. Some of them have probably cried. I look at my own children and am pleased they are too young to know what’s happened and, naively, I hope that by the time they are of an age to understand, that acts of terrorism are events in history books.

Perhaps since starting our Love Join Me project I’m more drawn towards the good things that go on in the wake of such attacks but I’ve noticed something. The more terror I see, the more kindness I see. Take away the one man (I won’t speculate on whether he acted alone) and you have hundreds, if not thousands of kind people who are willing to help others.

People held strangers, comforted children, pulled nails out of faces, searched for people they’d never met, offered free rides, food and drink, places to stay, warmth and a listening ear. They gave blood, they gave time and ultimately they gave hope. The ripple happened too.  A homeless man who selflessly ran to help the injured and the dying now has a home, some money and has been offered a job.

When the hubbub goes, the stadium opens again and the Manchester attack takes its place in history, we won’t forget the horror but we mustn’t forget the kindness either.

Second heroes

Back in January I did some training at work and in one of the sessions of the day we were asked to think of someone who we considered to be our hero. We were then asked to put that person aside for a moment and think about the next person who came to mind. I believe the thinking behind it was that the first person is often your mum (correct!) and the second is a person who you truly aspire to be. I’d love to read more into the thinking behind it but my Google research techniques have failed on that account (although I did stumble upon this nice video about a ripple of kindness, which reminded me of this post I wrote!).

I found this concept interesting. It may be obvious to you that my number 1 was my mum. She is my daily inspiration, there’s no doubt about it. Does this mean that my number 2 is actually my number 1? That she’s been ‘bumped down’ my hero list? I had a think about it and for a very short while I panicked “she’s not my number one?!” which I then laughed about (internally of course, I was still in a quite room of colleagues who might have thought a sudden outburst of laughter a bit strange) because it doesn’t actually change anything. It was her after all that inspired us both to do this project and to keep it going. It does however, make me hold hero 2 in even higher regard, if that’s even possible, and I was eager to explore my second choice and spend some time thinking about him. 

It was easy. The person was already there in my mind and I found that I really wanted to talk about him to my colleagues and I gushed about how great he is. I can’t remember exactly what I told them but here are some reasons why he is my hero. 

  • He helps people every day: his wife, neighbours, friends. Shopping, errands, repairs – an endless list and countless hours
  • His helpfulness is unremitting. I mean, he probably doesn’t even give it a second thought; to him being helpful is just how he lives his life and always has done.  He doesn’t seem to tire of it or if he does you would never know. 
  • He is humble 
  • He gives great hugs
  • He always says he loves me

So, Grandad Tom, this one is dedicated to you! Laura and I have always talked to each other about how great you are. We love you so much! 

Louise 

P.S. you still owe me a dance! 

National Random Acts of Kindness day

Today is National Random Acts of Kindness Day. I’d never heard of it before beginning this project and think it definitely needs more publicity. 

Despite the lack of blog posts, Love Join Me continues to operate in the background and we have a different year-long project on the go.  

We also continue to do RAKs whenever the opportunity arises but we’re struggling evem more with the true-altruism concept now our identities are known! Our most recent RAK was a goody bag for a homeless man. What surprised me about doing it was how much I cared about the nutrient content. I took the same amount of care that I would when choosing food for my children and I took a long time to decide what would be best to buy! I’m certain he wouldn’t have minded whatever I had given him but I wondered how long it had been since someone had cared for him in that way. 

I blinded him with my car lights when leaving. He sat there almost as if under a spotlight, holding the bag. I didn’t see him look inside. He held onto it tightly shut.  Out of respect? Pride? I don’t know. 

On my drive home I thought of his life and wondered how he ended up living on the streets. I imagined him being held as a baby, unaware of where life would take him, and wondered if there had been a single moment that had led him to where he is now. It made me incredibly sad and I had to force myself to stop thinking about it for a while. I haven’t seen him since. 

Piggy in the middle 

I was reminded of our innate kindness post just now in playing a game of piggy in the middle with my 4 and 2 year olds. Given that I’ve been struggling with illness the last few days this was no mean feat and it lasted all of five minutes! However, during the game (which was never going to be a huge success given the throwing and catching abilities of my two), I feigned falling over in a run for the ball so that my two year stood a chance of getting to it first. But, instead of going for the ball, she came over to me and said “you OK, mummy?”. I laughed and told her to go and get the ball to win. So she did. Only she came  straight back to me with it (I was still on the grass enjoying my feigned injury  rest!) and said “there you go mummy!”. 

I’m sure she just doesn’t understand the rules of piggy in the middle. But I’m enjoying her frequent attentiveness and “you ok now, mummy?” questions while it lasts. 

The reason

Today marks one year since this project was started, since the first Random Act of Kindness, since Love Join Me was born.

The 21st August was not just a random date to us, it was an important and significant date. It was her birthday. Not only that but today, 21st August 2016, she would have been 60 years old.  One whole year ago we started this project with one thing in mind – doing 60 acts of kindness for her 60th birthday – our twitter handle @lovejoinme60 represented this. We did it. 60 Random Acts of Kindness in her memory (the full list of them all is here).

This project started as something very personal to us; it has been about ways we could spread her kindness as a personal tribute to the wonderfully kind person that she was (see excerpt from our introduction below).

… when you lose someone you love you spend time thinking about who they were as a person: thoughtful, kind, selfless perhaps.  That’s what she was. Love Join Me continues with that modus operandi: to pass on kindness and love to others. Like the light of a star shines bright for millennia after its death, kindness can persist through the selfless acts that we undertake in memory of her.  Love Join Me is born.

There are very few people who know our identities. In this blog we talked a lot over the year about our Little Love Join Mes – our children.  Only one is really old enough to know something about what we’re doing, he knows we are doing kind things for people. Our husbands, although knowing of the project and being there for our second RAK Balls for Dogs, have been kept pretty much in the dark throughout the last year. It was something that was important to us – the attention is unwanted, we don’t want praise, we don’t want people to be proud of us. We, as with many others out there, have been struggling with the concept of true altruism but we’ve tried; because it’s about her not us, about what she did in her all too short a life and what she meant. Here is an excerpt from our post entitled Is there such a thing as a truly selfless good deed?, in which we’ve attempted to explain the reasons behind our anonymity and our conflicted feelings when carrying out our RAKs.

We are not doing this for us, for us to feel good. We are doing it because we want to help people and make others feel good. It’s not about saying “wow! Look what we did!”, it’s about saying “wow! Look what she did, look what she inspired”.

Look how her kindness is carrying on in selfless deeds in her honour and in her name: Love Join Me.  She did all this, not us.

LJM1 8th June 2016

We did it  in her name.  Her. The overused personal pronoun in this blog. Her, the original Love Join Me. LJM. Lesley Jean Maddison. Our mum.

If you’ve been following us for a while you may have deduced information about who she was and what she meant to us.  Just 20 days before her death, she appeared on BBC Radio Tees talking about her illness and encouraging others to get themselves checked. This speaks volumes about what her concerns were about being terminally ill with cancer. Her words speak for themselves.  The full recording can be found here.

I think to a degree your family suffers more than you because they just feel so useless […] I’ve got a lovely husband […] and it’s harder for him because he wants to take it away and he can’t […] I’ve got twin daughters, they’re 26, one gets married this Saturday, so things like that keep you going but then you’re sort of ‘I’m their mum, I’ve got to be around’. Even though they’re grown women you still feel that it’s your duty to be there for them and it’s things like that that I find difficult to cope with.

Lesley Maddison – 3rd December 2009 BBC Tees

Today is the day we want to make this bigger. Today is the day we want Love Join Me to spread further than it has already. We have followers in Canada, America and Australia as well as the United Kingdom and today is the day we ask something of you. All of you. Whether it’s the first time you’ve read our blog or you’ve followed from the start, we would like you to do one simple act. An act of kindness to someone else. In her name.

Love Join Me
Lesley Jean Maddison

21/08/1956-23/12/2009

Her last dance, just after her eldest daughter’s first dance. Man I feel like a woman! 

 

A ripple of coffee rak

Today I experienced a true ripple of kindness. All along we wanted this project to ripple out and spread kindness and today I witnessed that first hand. I’ve often passed Motore Cafe on my way into town and until now haven’t bought a coffee there despite wanting to every time I pass (I’m always pushing a double buggy so it makes it difficult!). The coffee always smells delicious and the cakes and biscuits always look so tasty too! What I love about this place is that it’s a small local business that prides itself on quality. We’ve done quite a few coffee-based RAKs but these have  involved big chain coffee shops. This time I wanted to support a local business. 


Today it was really early when I set off into town with my little Love Join Mes – too early even for the shops to be open – and I approached Motore Cafe intending to purchase 3 of his most popular coffees for the next three orders. As I was getting my purse out a man ordered his coffee. He was clearly a regular customer and I liked that so I told him I would like to pay for his coffee along with my order. I briefly explained the project to them; it was the most detail I’ve gone into when talking about it in person. A wonderful thing happened: the ripple! The man whose coffee I paid for also Paid it Forward. What’s more, I was also on the receiving end too – I was given a delicious cookie with my order. 

There was another man, Shaun, who had joined in the conversation. He was heading for breakfast in town so he didn’t want a coffee but I talked to him for a good 5 minutes as our journeys followed the same path. He mentioned how expensive it must be doing this so I explained how yes, some of our RAKs have cost us but many more have not and how because I rarely buy things for myself I choose to spend small amounts doing kind things instead. 

I hope the ripple continues! It was such a lovely experience. 

I won’t walk past in future – pushing the buggy with my coffee in hand wasn’t too bad after all. The coffee was great and I would highly recommend it – Motore cafe, Howard Street, Sheffield. 

Flowers for Strangers


Friends are not the only recipients of flowers today! Strangers have received flowers too. 

Each stranger was left a flower and an envelope explaining the RAK on their car. Well, one recipient had a soft-top car with the roof down so his was left on his driver’s seat. I watched him and another return to their cars, rather puzzled as to where the flowers had come from! 

I found this RAK quite difficult. I hated the thought of fiddling with people’s wipers in a public place and I definitely didn’t want to be spotted by the car’s owner. As I approached one car I noticed someone sitting in it so quickly made a sharp exit! In the end, I found a quieter car park and slotted the flower stem under the wipers without lifting them, hoping that the envelopes taped to the stem will weigh them down a bit! 

If you were the recipient of a flower today I hope it brightened your day! Pay it forward when an opportunity arises. We’d like that. 

Flowers for Friends

 
Freesias were her favourite flowers. She loved how scented they were. 

This Random Act of Kindness was for her two oldest friends who knew her the longest. We spent many holidays together growing up, had meals and played games at each other’s houses. There are many very happy memories that were created as a result of these friendships, friendships which will always be there somewhere even though she is no longer here. 


This was a nerve-wracking RAK because, although it’s anonymous, I am pretty sure that they will work it out easily. Plus, one friend was most definitely in when I left the flowers on the doorstep and ran away. At the other house, it looked like no-one was home but, because of all the windows facing the paths to the house, I left the flowers by the back gate. 


A boy of about 7 watched as I ran around with flowers and ran back to my car without them. I did have the thought of asking him to deliver them for me but thought that I should probably do it myself. 

It’s quite a windy day. I hope the flowers are found soon before they blow away! I know she would have liked this RAK. Time passes but her memory lives on and her old friends will know that their friendship is never forgotten.