Thursday, 28 February 2013

Thank Goodness For... Poetry Corner


Poetry Corner makes me happy. 
I love looking out for the new verse or quote, making myself chew it over for a few precious seconds before I plunge back into the commuter flow. It gives a spark of personality to what can sometimes be a pretty dehumanising travel experience. 

I keep meaning to ask who is behind these nuggets of wisdom, wit and insight - I will ask. 
And say thank you.

'Thank Goodness for...' 
Posts that celebrate the positive impact people and organisations are having on everyday issues

Saturday, 23 February 2013

366 days of kindness - Bernadette Russell

It's been a week since I heard Bernadette Russell interviewed on a BBC Radio 4 programme, Saturday Live, but I've been thinking about it on and off ever since. The interview explored her 366 days of kindness project which started as a response to the London riots in 2011 and has continued beyond its target timescale. Listening to her talk, and to the responses that were read out by the presenters, I realised that my own concerted efforts in the kindness department could probably do with redoubling. There were two home-truths I distilled from the discussion, and I want to remember them as I move forward.

Kindness asks for nothing in return

Bernadette admitted that quite early on in the project she decided to give up expecting gratitude and act kindly for its own sake - a stance I have nothing but admiration for. In various past experiences, I've found it really difficult to live generously without external validation or recognition. It's costly; looking for ways to put others first can be a genuinely depleting experience. But being on a constant look out for their reciprocation or approval is even more exhausting. So I've stopped (or, more honestly, I'm trying to). It was good to be reminded that the only healthy way to sustain an outward focused life is to be in it for its own sake: to believe that there is intrinsic value in being loving. And leave it at that.

Kindness takes time
This is an even bigger challenge for me. I like to flatter myself that, on a basic level, I'm a kind person. I believe in making eye-contact, smiling, small talk and paying appropriate compliments. Daily. In the little things. I was raised on mottoes like 'a smile is a universal language' and 'do unto others as you would have them do to you'. But in the week since the interview, I've noticed more opportunities to go further than my default of just being relatively pleasant.

I've seen people struggling with luggage on the underground; I bought a Big Issue from a lady who was clearly freezing cold - she probably would of appreciated a hot drink; I've been acutely aware that someone in a sales role seemed to want to break away from the script and have an actual conversation. But I've been busy. This week, I have been so busy. Next week, I will be even busier. And it continues. I'm entering a profession where time is (someone else's) money, where hours are long and - allegedly - even my friends and family will be lucky to hear from me. 

That's my reality, and to a certain extent I can't do that much about it. But I do have some freedoms. I can leave the house in good time to get where I'm going without resorting to getting my elbows out and treating everyone else like an obstacle or inconvenience. I can even try and give myself an extra five minutes for that optional chat, that detour to a coffee shop that gives someone a little extra dignity. I can block out some time in my diary to write that letter/card/email instead of watching TV. I can pick up the phone. 

I know I can.

I can't address everything, but some kindnesses are well within my remit. So here's to re-committing to making the effort.

Sunday, 3 February 2013


I'm enjoying a small slice of Sunday morning peace in the new flat. The boxes are slowly disappearing and our stories are re-appearing: our books, wedding gifts, furnishings all finding their spaces. 

But best of all, beyond the fact that our possessions are being integrated into our new surroundings, is the way this feels like a longed for homecoming on many, many levels. This feels like a place of belonging. It is dreams that are coming home to roost here: tricky to articulate, even harder to make materialise but they are beginning here and now. And not because my life is anymore significant than anyone else's; not because I knew what I was doing all along, had it all perfectly planned out and have it all together all the time. Things are working out because with Love* they just do. And sometimes we get to see it:

"I'll take the hand of those who don't know the way,
who can't see where they're going.
I'll be a personal guide to them, 
directing them through unknown country.
I'll be right there to show them which roads to take,
make sure they don't fall into the ditch.
These are the things I'll be doing for them - 
sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute."

Isaiah 42v16 

*"God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us." 1 John 4v17

It's good to be home. 
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