Category Archives: kindness

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. 

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Seeking Refuge

 

In recent years, I have become familiar with the effects that Domestic Violence and Abuse can have on women and children.  It is an often surprising statistic that one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Let me just repeat that: ONE IN FOUR! That means that you probably know someone who has suffered it, whether you know of it or not.  Since the start of this project I always knew that I wanted to help this cause in some way given that it has severely affected family members but, until now, I have been unsure of how I could make a difference specifically for this project .

Someone offered me kindness yesterday: they offered their hand in friendship to me and my biggest little one at a time when he and I feel very much on the outside and not sure what to expect with him starting school next month. It saddened me, though did not surprise me given the statistics, that she had experienced Domestic Violence and abuse.  Her words were familiar to me in that another person who is very close to me has experienced similar. Whilst in many ways the violence is over, the abuse in different ways does not always end. Whilst the violence has ended, the after effects of it on the affected person and their children are immeasurable and have a permanent and changing effect on them as people.

So, this morning, I began to think of how I could help in some way. Neither of these incredibly strong and brave women needed to use directly the services of the charity Refuge but, thankfully, they have accessed support elsewhere. Having said that, many women and children do have to go to refuges.  I cannot imagine how difficult that must be for them.  Today I purchased an Emergency Pack on Refuge’s Website. The pack contains toiletries, clothing, food and children’s clothing & nappies (if needed) as well as providing emotional support and assessments with the specially trained staff.

This is a quote from the website as to how such things have helped someone:

“I have been welcomed with open arms. The refuge has been my home and it has changed my world. I have changed my outlook on life and being here has made me look at things positively. I can’t explain how grateful I am.” Lucy*, refuge resident (name changed).

I hope that, in some small way, our parcel will help someone who is fleeing from abuse. Having seen the effects first hand, it is so important that people have support and help and are offered, above all else, kindness and the ability to see that they have a future that is much better than the life that they are leaving behind.

Woman unpacking an Emergency parcel

Kindness Rocks! 

Kindness Rocks! It does indeed! 

LJM2 visited me last weekend and together we collected a few beach rocks and decorated them with the children’s paints and some varnish. 



On Thursday I took the rocks on holiday with me to the highlands of Scotland where we are staying on holiday. This morning we went for a walk around the small loch in the village and my little LJMs helped leave them in places by the water-side footpath. We also left a couple of posters at the entrance points to the Loch to explain what they were.


Our hope is that the rocks end up spread far and wide and that people will take them home or take them and leave them somewhere new for someone else to find. The rocks are designed to bring happiness to the finder and as such they may pass on that happiness in the form of kindness to others. 

If you have found one of our rocks please let us know. Leave a comment on our blog or tweet us! We’d love to know where our rocks end up. 

This Random Act of Kindness is our 50th! How exciting is that! 

An honourable person 

It would be an honour to tell you all about this RAK, but I’m afraid I can’t. You see, it has to be a secret, that’s the rule. It will also remain a secret for at least 12 months, more likely 18.  This act of kindness from us could amount to nothing but, equally, it could be massive. HUGE. We so hope it is. We hope that others will come to know about an amazing person’s way of life, through this RAK.  If this does not pan out the way we hope it will, we will still celebrate in our own way, and we will share what this post is all about in more detail. 

For now,  I will tell you some things about the person for whom this RAK is dedicated. This person is the most selfless of people and even she, for whom this project is dedicated, would have conceded that this person trumps all others in this way. She held this person in such high regard, as do we, and she would be ecstatic that we are attempting to do this for them (apologies for the gender-neutral pronouns, I’m trying to keep it as secret as possible!)

Given that this project will reach its end before we know of the status of this RAK, I need to remain vague as I would not want the person to recognise themselves or work out what this is all about nor for others to either. Suffice to say that this RAK is the one that has taken me the most time in preparing, even longer than the hours I spent running in the May My Marathon! The idea first came to me well over a year ago. I have spent hours, if not days, working on it, researching, and asking others for help. People were only too willing to contribute to this and I value their contributions greatly. Furthermore, having spoken to people about our RAK recipient, it has only made me prouder and more determined to make this work out for them.  For they have no idea, no idea whatsoever, just how extraordinary they are, how they are held in the highest of high regards by so many. They do not seek thanks or praise and are humble. There are not enough superlatives in the English language to do this person justice. 

Very few people know about this RAK, such is its nature. I can think of 8 if you include LJM1 and LJM2 and my husband. They have all been sworn to secrecy for the recipient is not to find out unless it is all a success. I hope that in two years’ time, if not before, I am updating you all with good news and that this person’s kindness and honourable nature can be celebrated in the way that we have planned. Kindness and altruism are at the fore of this RAK, and not from us. Ours is an act of kindness like no other in this project. It is not so much random and about us being kind but it is unique and rather special, rather like its recipient. 

p.s. There are a few clues in this post (picture included). But if you work it out, keep schtum! 

Living eulogies & obituaries 


There were perhaps 200 people at her funeral. The church was packed, even more than it had been 18 days previously when she walked down the same aisle arm in arm with the very same vicar before she watched her eldest daughter marry. 

We stood there at the pulpit LJM1 & I, and read her eulogy. We took it in turns, a paragraph each. I laughed at recalling a memory involving a donkey. I didn’t cry, not until everything was over and we were outside the crematorium. I felt remarkably strong, just as she had been when confronting what was facing her. 

She didn’t tell us she was dying. We knew there was no cure and that she was running out of options but she hid it well (she had planned to tell us but she didn’t have as long as she thought in the end). It’s not as though you can prepare yourself anyway; knowing outright wouldn’t have made it any easier. She made sure she left plans, made things straight forward. Shortly after her death I found a notebook in which she listed the steps to go through. She thought of everything: bank accounts, death registration, pension. I remember touching the page of the notebook where her hand probably rested. She also told me something one afternoon in LJM1’s old bedroom. I don’t know why we were in there but we were gazing out of the window looking down the street and she told me to help our dad find someone else. I kept it to myself for a long time, until it was needed. Even when faced with the most horrific outcome for herself, she made a decision that would have broken her heart to vocalise. She was truly selfless.
One of the RAKs that is in the pipeline got me thinking about her eulogy and about living obituaries. I wish she could have heard what we said and I wish she could have read everything we’ve written about her in this blog. Perhaps then, we should take the time to write a living obituary to our loved ones? Show those around us how much we value them now in the present day and not wait until they are no longer around to hear what we have to say? 

Perhaps we could use it as a self-evaluation tool? What would people say about me? What would I want them to say? We encounter self-evaluation in work all the time, but realistically how many of us evaluate ourselves & try to improve ourselves in our day-to-day lives? We don’t set ourselves ‘targets to improve’ bar an often light-hearted New Year’s Resolution that lasts a couple of weeks. Perhaps it’s time we did. I guess that’s what we’ve done these past 11 months. We’ve definitely thought about others in a different way, looked into their lives more and tried to understand them. But what about when our initial project is over? It certainly won’t be the end… It’ll soon be time to evaluate and improve once more!

Innate kindness 

Recently my 20 month old scared his baby brother. I saw him look at me for a reaction, his bottom lip pouting, tears in his eyes. He didn’t cry but I could see something in his face: he didn’t like his baby brother being sad.
“It’s ok” I said, “you just got too close”.
He looked back down at his brother who was still whimpering slightly, touched his chest then laid down next to him. He calmed and he leant across and planted a noisy kiss on his lips.

This observation got me thinking about the nature of kindness. Are people born kind or do they learn kindness? We talk a lot about growing up around her kindness but are we kind because we’re part of her or because we were brought up by her? Is kindness innate or learned? I decided to look into it and my research first took me to the work of psychologist Michael Tomasello.

I read a study called Altruistic Helping in Human Infants and Young Chimpanzees and one of the first paragraphs drew my attention:

img_9143a.jpg
This was exactly what I had observed with my son this morning.

The research in this paper shows that although human infants help and cooperate more than other animal species (even with strangers and when they receive no benefit in return) other primates also show similar tendencies, albeit on a smaller scale.  This research suggests therefore that altruism was present in some form in our common ancestor, thus demonstrating its innateness.

A later study, however, showed some flaws in Tomasello’s argument.  Two professors Rodolfo Cortes Barragan and Carol S. Dweck carried out similar experiments only this time there was a control group in which the people carrying out the experiment interacted differently with the infants during the ‘warm up’ getting-to-know-you part. The experiments concluded that toddlers learn social cues very quickly and the short amount of ‘warm up’ time before the experiment in the initial study primed the toddlers into an altruistic mindset. The full study is here.

After reading both studies it is my belief that we are born with the ability to be kind but to what extent is developed by how we are nurtured. I like to think therefore, that we, LJM1 & I, are kind not only because we are part of her, but because of how she nurtured us. I’m hopeful that all the little Love Join Mes will inherit her kindness; they will certainly be nurtured with it. 

Falling

“I fell. My chair wasn’t positioned correctly and one leg went off the patio into the grass. I’m stuck on the floor still in my chair, I don’t know how to move to get up. Many years ago I’d have jumped up quickly hoping no one had noticed. I might even have laughed about it with my friends and they’d have cracked jokes about how clumsy I was. Today isn’t like that. Today I’m stuck where I am and I can’t move. The girl I’m with isn’t strong enough to help me alone; she makes sure I’m not hurt while looking around and thinking about what to do. 

A woman sees me and heads over, her children strapped in a pushchair are content with ice cream and sleep. She is a similar build to my companion but together they can probably help me. They move the chair from under me and each place a hand under my arms to help me to my feet. I’m unsteady and nervous. What if I fall again? I daren’t hold on to the chair or table. Slowly they guide me to a chair and reassure me that I can sit. I imagine I feel heavy in their arms. Years ago I could have picked them both up at the same time. I wonder if they can see how I used to be strong. I’m trembling but I start to calm down as I feel the chair beneath me. Finally, I’m sitting again and my coffee arrives.  The lady asks if I’m ok then walks back to her children. I breathe a long sigh.”

Sometimes I like to pretend I’m someone else and wonder about how they think. Usually I do this because I’m a worrier and I hate to think I might have upset somebody or have done something they’ve not liked. Occasionally, I imagine I’m the person I’ve just passed in the street – sometimes I imagine their whole life. Today, after I helped an elderly gentleman up into a chair I imagined I was him & wondered what he would have thought of the situation he found himself in. 

I do that a lot when I think of her too. What would she make of this & that? How would she respond when I tell her X or Y? I guess that’s fairly common when we think of the dead but perhaps we should do it more with the living too.  It certainly helps to gain a new perspective. 

A little Treat for 47

Sometimes we need a little treat, 

For no reason, just ’cause it’s sweet. 

So here you go, enjoy from us, 

We hope it gives you a little buzz.

This was our message in a Treat Box ordered anonymously for someone. The box was ordered for no other reason than we thought it was a nice thing to do for that person. We hope it will give her a little moment of calm in her busy life. We left it anonymous as we’re not quite ready to reveal Love Join Me yet and she would definitely work out who we are! We know that she, the original LJM, always thought about our treatbox’s recipient. 


Inside we chose to put a bath bomb, a lip balm, a pencil, notebook and pocket mirror. We hope that she shares her surprise on social media (when the parcel arrives in a few days) so that we can update you as to its reception – hopefully with a photo! 

To order or build one of these fab boxes or to subscribe, click here*.

*please note we’re not in any way affiliated.

Kindness counts

Before starting this project we were, in my opinion, already kind people. That’s who she made us to be. I use ‘made’ figuratively of course – we are kind because we grew up around her kindness not because it was forced upon us. I remember her telling me that she once came across an old lady in the street who had died. She wrapped a blanket around her and sat with her while an ambulance came. When other people asked if the lady was ok, she pretended that she was fine just so as not to upset other people. Another time, one of LJM1’s colleagues abroad was planning to spend Christmas alone.  There was no question – she would spend Christmas with us. Even during that time, the time of her first diagnosis (Christmas eve of all days) she went out of her way for other people. She made her feel welcome in a time of family, of tradition, when many don’t let the outside in. I wonder what she would make of the political nightmare our country is going through now. She had no common language with our guest but that didn’t matter. She would never have bought into the anti-immigration rhetoric.

Whenever I get upset that my children won’t know what she was like or when I worry about being a good mum my husband always says something along the lines of “yes they will, they’ll know her through you” and “she taught you how to be a good mum by demonstration”.

This week I have done two things that you might call kind. I am not, however, counting them towards our Random Acts of Kindness. For one, they are borne out of guilt and two, they are based on things I should have done but didn’t.

I forgot my best friend’s birthday six months ago. Well, I say forgot when really I remembered too late and she came round and I realised I hadn’t even got her a card. I’ve felt guilty about that for six whole months, so guilty that I’ve never even brought it up with her! This week I sent her some flowers as a half-birthday present. It’s obviously a nice thing to do but it replaces a present I would have got her anyway (and alleviates my guilt massively). The second thing is I created and mailed a photobook of my children to a distant relative. I realised this week that  I don’t even know when her birthday is yet she always sends me a card and sends things to the children.  I feel guilty because she hasn’t even met my youngest child yet. I am going to make sure I see her soon, next time I’m up in her vicinity. Again, a nice thing to do but based on what? Guilt. I’ll draw your attention back to this post.

It’s true that some of the Acts of Kindness we’ve blogged about we would have done anyway. That’s not to say they’re not worthy of noting and counting towards our project. Kindness counts every day and there are many kind things we do that we don’t note. All of the times we hold doors open, smile at strangers, pick something up for someone… they all count. This week’s two acts, however I’m not counting. Instead, I’m using them to improve myself – I’m going to make sure they don’t need to happen because I’d have paid them the proper attention they deserved in the first place.

LJM2

 

 

 

Food for Thought

It’s been a tough few days for the UK, whichever side of the fence you’re on. Division everywhere. Not least division between the rich and the poor. 

Growing up, I can’t remember seeing or hearing about foodbanks. Even a decade ago I am not sure I knew of one. Today there  are many and ‘foodbank’ is a word that is frequently heard. When I was little, we weren’t rich: a typical working-class family. But we were far from poor. We always had food on the table. The thought that people are struggling day to day to provide for their families is saddening. The thought of people going to bed hungry and cold or panicking about where their next meal is coming from is truly harrowing. 

Today, I spotted a drop-off point in a Morrison’s store and swiftly decided to go and fill a basket. I hope that the simple gift of food will make someone smile, make someone reassured, make them not panic for a day or two and fill up the bellies of their children. 

Food is a gift and shouldn’t be taken for granted yet it so often is, by me too. Spotting the drop off bin gave me food for thought indeed.  Bon appetit!