Category Archives: Love Join Me

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! 

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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 long-thought of RAK for dementia

A lot of our Random Acts of Kindness were thought of when we first had the idea of doing this project. This 56th RAK was one such idea that came to us right at the start. 

People whom we are close to have been significantly affected by the loss of a loved one to dementia and  Alzheimer’s Disease.  Right through from diagnosis to death, this is a dreadful disease, robbing the person of their memory and robbing their family of the loved one that they know. The grief starts long before the death even happens. 

Having been through the loss of a parent who was diagnosed with a terminal illness, we have some experience of grief. But she was her until she died. She knew us. Alzheimer’s takes that away; it takes the person away from the body long before they die. 

Her father, for whom we did this RAK back in November, suffered from dementia as a result of a stroke before his death and it was dreadful to see him not knowing who people were. In some ways we were grateful that, for him, his suffering was for a short period of time. We can only imagine the impact that Alzheimer’s must have had on our close family members. 

Not only that, the nurses and carers who work with dementia sufferers every day are incredible. We imagine it to be a difficult job indeed. After all, once the residents are in a care centre for dementia there’s not exactly going to be a good outcome and the nurses and carers must deal with this time and time again.  They give up their Christmases, their nights and weekends, all for the caring of others, others who can no doubt be difficult at times. 

Over the last couple of days I have witnessed such care and compassion first hand. Whilst sat in A&E with little LJM2 (she has a probably but not definitely fractured leg!) I saw an elderly woman arrive with a carer. The woman obviously suffered from a form of dementia. The carers (I saw her again the next day at the fracture clinic with a different carer) were fantastic with her, despite being accused of hurting her, dressing her in someone else’s clothes and effectively kidnapping her. If it wasn’t so sad, it would have been amusing. The carers’ patience was amazing. I wish I had such resolve with my children’s repeated questions and their irrationality! 

Today, we put together the package for this RAK, dedicated to dementia sufferers and their nurses and carers. We sent some reusable pictures designed for dementia sufferers to be able to paint with water, along with some paint brushes. In the end I posted the package as, although I was meant to take it in person, one of the nurses who works there (and the reason we chose this RAK and this place) was working and we wanted to make sure we weren’t seen! 

Nervousness

The LoveJoinMes are nervous. Nervous because we know that it won’t be long until more people are reading this blog. Only this time, it’ll be people we actually know. We have over 400 Twitter followers now and some blog subscribers too. But these new people will be people we KNOW.  

When we set out on our Random Act of Kindness journey we always knew that this would be the eventuality. The fact that it’s going to happen soon is pretty scary. Some of our inner most grief-raw thoughts have poured into these pages. 

I spent some time reading over the blog this evening and taking in just what we’ve done these past 12 months. It’s quite a lot to take in! But, until the reveal, we have a few more RAKs to complete to keep us busy. 

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!

46 – Race for Life

A sea of pink came down the hill over the horizon. I had my whistle and my foam hand at the ready.  I was positioned well; I could hear the start so I knew it wouldn’t be long before they approached. Having run a Race for Life before I remember seeing marshals at the side of the route, cheering and clapping and showing the way.  I never really thought about who they were and why they were there until now. Here I was with my own story, my life affected and changed by the terrible disease they were running for. There were thousands of them, I’m not sure exactly how many, but what surprised me was how many different people were doing it. There were older ladies, small children, teenagers, even young babies in slings and prams. One woman had a toddler on her back and a baby on her front! Let’s not forget the dogs!

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Being near the start meant that it wasn’t long before the back markers passed and I was able to wander back to the start and finish line. I was really surprised that the front runner beat me back – now that was a fast time! I managed to watch as the second and third runners came in and was surprised by a young girl who came in the top ten. It was so inspiring.  There were people selling flowers to raise money and the radio was encouraging you to buy them to give to family and friends running the race. I bought one and waited a while until a little girl ran near me and I gave her the flower.

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I decided to wander back to the volunteering tent and on my way went via the board where people were putting their back signs – signs that showed who they were doing it for. It was moving – so many people affected by cancer, so many people whose lives have been changed because of this terrible disease. There was even someone who’d dedicated their run to Caroline Aherne, who had died aged 52 just the previous day.  Many were running simply for “a cure” and I really hope the money raised today helps find just that.

I watched and clapped as the final people crossed the line. One of the final finishers was a young boy aged 8. He is called Kasabian and has been battling cancer since the age of 2. He has just finished 5 days chemotherapy and yet got round the whole 5km course. What an inspiring young man. 

We really need to find a cure! 

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

 

 

 

Pigeon Hole Positivity #18

Tomorrow I plan to deposit chocolate gifts and notes of appreciation in my colleagues’ pigeon holes at work. This poses a big risk in being “discovered” but I’m hoping that those on the receiving end appreciate the anonymity of our kindness campaign if they do figure it out!  The people I’ve chosen to be on the receiving end of this RAK are not those I work particularly closely with on a day to day basis. Instead, they are people who are always positive. Their smiles are genuine, their “how are yous” real and far from a formality.

Every single one of them has, at some point, made me think “s/he is a really nice person” and I want to show my appreciation. Work places need people like you!

So, to those on the receiving end, THANK YOU for having a positive impact on my working life.

LoveJoinMe

Blue Monday no more

It was all over social media this morning how today is Blue Monday – the most depressing day of the year apparently.

I started the day with a mission to make it not so! Firstly, I tweeted a national petrol station about the excellent service I’d received last night in the hope that the message  gets passed on. Secondly, I took part in a Pay It Forward scheme at a local food outlet and bought soup and bread for a homeless person.

I hope these two acts brighten someone else’s day!

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#ljm #lovejoinme #rak11