“Love in your heart is not put there to stay. Love isn’t love till you give it away”
It’s been on my heart for a while now to write this particular blog.
Christmas seems the perfect time to do so, when we are all focused on finding the perfect present for loved ones.
Last Friday marked 20 years since the death of my grandmother. Her funeral was on the Christmas Eve. Christmas Day was surreal and bittersweet that year. I don’t think that any of us really knew how to feel.
Granny absolutely adored Christmas. She would scour the shops in the lead-up to Christmas searching out the sweetest and most unusual treats, which would be laid out on the sideboard for Christmas Day – we’d try to sneak a mouthful before lunch when Mum wasn’t looking. Being together as a family was Granny’s most perfect gift. Her face would light up into the most enormous, enduring smile whilst she watched the family festivities. She just glowed with contentment and love.
It isn’t the glittery, wrapped box that makes the best gift.
“Happiness has a new best friend. His name is kindness”
In his book, “Graceful”, Seth Godin observes that “Kindness creates connection. It generates respect (on both sides) and it scales.”
I love where I live. Most of my neighbours are retired and are living life to the full, despite suffering from the usual health complaints age brings to us all. We share plants, garden produce and advice on DIY, gardening and life in general. In the recent cold weather the chaps even had a word with my husband, as he hadn’t de-iced my car windscreen for me !
Kindness is contagious – an infinite gift. It is a parcel of love, which says, “You matter to me”.
Following a family bereavement, a colleague recently had to travel home alone on a train. They were in pieces, sobbing and not one person asked them if they are OK. I guess it was the usual story of everyone assuming that someone else would step in. Psychologists call it “diffusion of responsibility”. I’m sure that you can think of people who have stepped into your life at a crucial moment with an act of kindness. Remember how loved they made you feel, if only for a brief moment ?
Receiving a gift of kindness is a gift in itself.
Some months ago I was in Tesco at lunchtime, buying a sandwich before a meeting. There was an elderly chap in front of me, with a small trolley full of shopping. He came up to me, smiled and said “would you like to go first ?”. Thinking I was being thoughtful, I said “no thanks, I’m happy to wait”. His face fell. I felt so mean. Of course I should have said “yes”, he was trying to give me a gift and I threw it back at him. Lesson learnt.
“You don’t know how strong you are until strong is all you’ve got”
There is a heart-wrenching, but truly awe-inspiring interview, by Anita Chaudhuri, in January’s Psychologies magazine. It is with Scarlett Lewis, who lost her six-year old son, Jesse, in the Sandy Hook school shootings. Scarlett describes how, through an incredible act of courage, Jesse gave his life to save that of his classmates.
“Even with his head wound, Jesse stayed on his feet and faced the gunman…Something happened to the man’s gun and he was forced to stop a moment…so Jesse yelled to his classmates…to run as fast as they could, now…Nine terrified first graders managed to run from the room as the gunman took aim at Jesse.”
After losing Jesse, returning from a trip away, Scarlett saw the message that Jesse had written on the kitchen chalkboard on the morning of the shootings “Norurting helin love”. Over-whelmed and inspired by Jesse’s message, Scarlett decided to set up a foundation to teach the concept of Nurturing Healing Love in schools, through the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation.
The Foundation’s aim is to turn anger in society into love – to give others the ability to be kind.
All I can say is “Wow”.
“In this life we cannot always do great things, but we can do small things with great love”
Small acts of kindness can make a real difference. Perhaps unexpectedly offering to load the dishwasher for the frazzled cook on Christmas Day or smiling and saying “Good morning” to someone you pass by.
Research shows that giving makes us just as happy, if not more, than receiving. So let’s give ourselves a gift this Christmas. Let’s light a candle and make a promise to be kind to those we love and to be that kind stranger. As the flame glows, let’s imagine how warm our hearts will feel when we know that we’ve made a difference to someone else’s life.
As a stocking-filler from me to you, I would like to share my favourite quote. I like to think of it as my personal mission statement, as it truly reflects how I feel about my life.
This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognised by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature, instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. I rejoice in life for its own sake.
Life is no brief candle to me. It’s a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got to hold up for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible, before handing it on to future generations.
George Bernard Shaw
Wherever you will be, whoever you will be with and whatever you are doing, I hope that you have a happy and peaceful Christmas.