Definition of Kindness

Just when you start to despair, a ray of hope shines through with simple stories of random acts of kindness.  I opened Facebook this evening and the first two posts I read were from people I knew who had experienced random acts of kindness from a stranger today.  How uplifting to know that there are still those in our midst whose first thought is to do good for others.

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I read recently a suggestion from someone that if you make an effort to perform an act of kindness for someone every day, just something small and random, then by the end of the year you will have brought a smile to 365 people.  Speaking of a smile brings to mind the lines of a poem attributed to Spike Milligan.

“Smiling is infectious. You catch it like the flu.

When someone smiled at me today I started to smile too.

I walked around the corner and someone saw me grin.

When he smiled I realised I had passed it on to him.

I thought about the smile and then realised its worth.

A single smile like mine could travel round the earth.

So if you feel a smile begin, don’t leave it undetected.

Start an epidemic and get the world infected.” 

That doesn’t mean we should all go around every day grinning like Cheshire cats but we can make the effort to smile at those we interact with.  Think of the dozens of people you interact with every day, your bus driver, the barista in the coffee shop, the guy behind the counter selling newspapers and bottled water, the receptionist in the office or the security guard on the door, your co-workers or your bosses.  It could be the girl who serves you lunch or the tired retail worker who checks out your purchases for dinner on the way home.  Think how much better you will feel if you greet them all with a smile.  Think of the knock-on effect on those you meet, for when you smile at them, they more than likely will smile back and be more inclined to pass on that smile to the next person they meet.

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So, today I have decided that in future I will make an effort to be more pleasant in my interaction with others, to be friendly and considerate in everything I do.  I think that effort will be rewarded with a more positive outlook for me and the knowledge that I may just have made someone smile and brought a little light into their day.

January

Now that New Year’s Eve is over and the month of January is underway, it might be a good time to think about the year ahead.  I love the idea that the year ahead has so many possibilities.  It may be good or bad but most likely it will bring a mixture of triumphs and tribulations.  We just need to figure out how we are going to deal with whatever 2019 has in store for us.

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I had a look back at my resolutions for 2018 and I managed to keep some of them, like spending more time with my father, like reading two new novels per month, like establishing a writing schedule.  Okay, I didn’t lose the weight or learn the language but maybe those tasks are for this year.  What I did learn to do is to look for the positives in life.  So this year once again my virgin diary sits in front of me and the possibilities of 2019 beckon.

I don’t expect 2019 to be the best year ever.  There are trials and tribulations ahead but there is also the anticipation of happiness and joy.  I wrote last year that you won’t find joy unless you open your heart to it.  It is found in the most unusual places.  In the smile of a loved one as you listen to them attentively, in the taste of good food lovingly prepared, in losing yourself in the imagination of others, in the taste and smell of sea air as it blows the cobwebs from your brain and energises your soul, in the satisfaction of a job well done.

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The old scouting motto springs to mind ‘be prepared’.  It is good advice, to be prepared for whatever life throws at you in the year ahead, prepare yourself to roll with the punches, prepare yourself to enjoy the here and now and above all to look for the positive aspects in life.

Happy New Year.

Growing human beings

Where did the year go?  Last week in August already.  And what a summer!  The best summer we have had in living memory.  Heat, sunshine and a distinct lack of our normal rain!  We flocked to our beaches to frolic in the waves.  We trailed our mountains and our forests enjoying their natural beauty in warm sunshine and minus the usual wet-gear and waterproof boots.  We had stay-cations and weekend breaks and bought record breaking numbers of ice-creams and beers.

summer-clip-art-2018-15Festival lovers enjoyed a season of outdoor music without the accompanying mud and miserable drizzle with some commenting on how much more enjoyable the whole experience was, with the addition of sunscreen and dry sandaled feet.  This coming weekend, for the young and the young at heart, the last festival of the year takes place in Stradbally, County Laois.  I hope that each and every one of those attending have a wonderful time and pray that the autumnal rain stays away until Monday.

Some of the secondary schools are already back and into their autumn term.  The majority of schools return next week with the colleges the following week.  Whatever stage you are at, enjoy it.

rekfoto - orangeAs you are watch your child skip through the school gates, try and remember to give thanks and treasure the memory.  The years fly!  Before you know it, you will be dropping a teenager into school, maybe a surly one, maybe not.  Some will kiss you goodbye, some will ask to be dropped a mile away so that they don’t suffer the embarrassment of their parents dropping them at the school gates.  Either way is completely different from the eagerness of the national school child.  And as for college students, well, they’re adults.  They only need their mammy and daddy for washing and a good meal.  And that’s the way it should be.

Our children are on loan to us.  Our job is to bring them up to be self-sufficient adults who make a positive contribution to society.  The schools they attend will teach them the academic subjects they need, the Maths, the English the Sciences, the Languages.  Our job as parents is to teach them the values they need to be the best human being that they can be.  Our goal should be to teach our children the value of family, the value of hard work, the value of community and of respect for themselves and for their fellow human beings.  We should aspire for our children to have compassion for those less fortunate, to always lend a hand to those who need it.  We should aspire for our offspring to always stand up for themselves, to be confident in their abilities and their place in the world.  We should teach them the skills to make their own informed decisions, and how to change course if those decisions turn out to be the wrong ones for them.  Our goals for our children should be that, first and foremost, they become good human beings who will love life, love themselves and those around them and who will experience true happiness.

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Social, to be or not to be

To me, the biggest advantage of social media, and Facebook, in particular, is the contact with old friends and far-flung family.  Thanks to Facebook I am in contact with people from my childhood, from my school days, friends, acquaintances and family from around the globe.

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While now and again people rant on Facebook and Instagram, most of the posts are happy and uplifting, imparting good news and holiday snaps and photos from birthday parties and weddings.  We post our best photos and share our joy in the world around us on Facebook.  We want our Facebook friends to share in our uplifting moments, our happy days.

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

Anyway, it is good to keep in touch, even if it is only through social media.  It reminds you that life goes on around you with or without your participation.  It reinforces the indisputable fact that your life impinges on others, and their lives impinge on yours,  ever-widening circles of human interaction.

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But social media also reminds you that we humans are sociable creatures.  We need interaction, we need to talk to each other, we crave human contact.  It is when we become isolated that we encounter problems.  It is very easy to isolate yourself without planning to.  To take a back seat, and not contribute.  We have to try not to fall into that trap.  We have to interact with our fellow human beings and in a positive way.

Use social media as a force for good.  Join groups that educate, that entertain, that encourage you to engage with others.  Use social media to keep in touch with friends and family in far-flung places.   Enjoy those ‘likes,’ those comments on your posts, and the interaction with your Facebook friends.

Photo by Nobo Xious on Unsplash

But don’t depend on social media for your only human interaction.  Lift your phone and instead of scrolling through your newsfeed, call that friend you promised to meet for coffee.  Walk down your street and smile at the first person you meet and see that smile returned.  As Spike Milligan once wrote in a poem, ‘smiling is infectious.  You catch it like the flu.’  Google it!  It’s a great poem.  There is nothing more uplifting than a smile, or a poem about a smile.

 

 

(Wo)man’s Best Friend

Our lovely lab ‘Bernie’ died last Saturday.  I know, strange name for a dog, but that was her name when she came to live with us twelve years ago, and we kept it because we thought she was traumatised enough.  She was a rescue dog, 6 months old, beaten, starved of affection and terrified of all adults.  The only person she would go to was our youngest boy, who was eight at the time.  It took her a while to trust the rest of the family but when she did, oh boy, she was the most affectionate slobber of a dog.

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She craved human contact up to the day she died.  She loved to be stroked and seemed to believe that if any of her humans were sitting still then they should be stroking her.  If she was ignored she pushed her snout under your arm repeatedly until you petted her.  She was permanently wagging her tail especially when any of her humans came into her line of sight or scent.  She was greedy like most labs and we had to watch her diet.  She loved to swim, and she loved to play, particularly with our other dog, Louie the terrier.  He is lost without her.  She was one of us, a member of our family.  Any of you who have dogs in your life will understand and if you don’t own a dog, I would urge you to get one.

Dogs are great.  Every home is enriched by the addition of a family pet, and there is no pet like a dog.  Who else is always happy to see you and always eager to welcome you home.  Your dog gives love and affection with joyful abandonment and is a great companion.  All they ask in return is to be loved, fed and watered.  40% of us share our homes with our canine friends and reap the rewards on a daily basis.

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Dogs are funny creatures.  Their sense of smell is a million times stronger than ours and their hearing is ten times more accurate.  They guard us and see themselves as our protector but will be submissive to whoever they perceive to be the natural leader of our own little pack.  Humans have kept dogs as pets for over 12,000 years and for good reason.  They have earned the title of Man’s best friend, or Woman’s!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Information overload

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with my brother about information.  He made a comment about how much easier it is for today’s kids to access information.  Every little detail they need to know is available on their phone.  If they want to know anything they google it.  When most of us have a question, we google it.  Who scored the winning goal in the All Ireland Final in 1989, how many times has France won the World Cup, what is gnocchi?  Google has helped with homework, provided valuable research material and settled numerous heated debates.  But, as he pointed out, how good is the quality of that information?

We are all better informed and better educated than our parents were, and they were better educated than their parents before them.  It is part of the human spirit to want more for our children than we ever had, to give them a better education, better opportunities in life.  All parents can relate to that.  As children, our information came primarily from books and television.  When my eldest son was a toddler we invested in a set of Encyclopaedia Britannica books.  They cost so much that we had to buy them on HP, but we thought we were investing in his future.  The information age quickly overtook us, and the books became redundant before he ever got to use them.  Nowadays our children gather their information primarily from the internet, through their phones, through their laptops, through the family desktop.  As parents, we have a duty to ensure that the information they are accessing is age-appropriate, accurate, and educational.  We need to understand that not every article published on the internet is truthful or accurate.  We need to educate our children to this indisputable fact.

It’s nothing new.  History has always been written by the winner.  The viewpoint of the writer will always have a certain bias no matter how hard that writer attempts to tell both sides of the story.  That is human nature.  And there is nothing wrong with it.  As long as we are aware of that.

We are extremely fortunate to live in the information age.  We just need to learn how to disseminate the information available to us.  Read widely.  Discuss.  Debate.  Particularly with our children.  They are our future.  We want them to be well-educated, smart, compassionate but most of all, we want them to be good people.  And they won’t get that from the internet, or from a book.

 

Hug your oldie.

I was at the supermarket with my Dad yesterday.  Our usual Friday routine.  He collects his pension, then we stroll around the supermarket so he can pick up his groceries for the week.  I push the trolley, he pushes his mobility aid, sometimes into random people who get in his way while I follow, apologising for his behaviour.  In fairness they usually laugh, ‘sure it’s only Ernie,’ or on one occasion, ‘He’s old, it’s allowed.’

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When we got to the checkout, my Dad immediately struck up a conversation with the checkout operator, a pleasant young man, who responded to him, despite Dad’s deafness making any conversation quite difficult.  Dad walked off happy and smiling while I packed his bags.  Like I said, the usual Friday routine.

The young man then remarked on how lucky I was to have my Dad.  How great it was that he retained his sense of humour and was so pleasant and full of joy.  He repeated it several times, how lucky I was him to have him.

And it made me think.

Sometimes we don’t appreciate what we have.  I enjoy that hour on a Friday, enjoy the time spent with Dad but I hadn’t really thought about it in that way.  I hadn’t taken the time to appreciate how lucky we are to have him in our lives.  He is old, and sometimes he can be cantankerous, and his deafness makes conversation with him really difficult, but he is also funny and kind and appreciative.  He loves his family and enjoys spending time with us all.  We have much to be thankful for.  Sometimes it just takes a stranger to point out the obvious.

So today, spend time with your older person.  Tell them you love them and make them feel important and appreciated.  Be grateful that they are still in your life.  Remember how lucky you are and treasure any time spent with them.  Hug your oldie today and every day.

 

‘Be yourself, everyone else is taken.’ Oscar Wilde

This quote, usually attributed to Oscar Wilde, always springs up on those sites promoting health and well-being.  It is tagged as a funny quote, inspirational, clever.  To me, it conjures up somewhat disturbing images, of a figure running around frantically searching for an elusive figure known as true self.  I always thought that the truth is, we all have several personas that are all our true self.  As women, our first role is of daughter, which then expands to include sister, friend, maybe wife, maybe partner, hopefully mother, aunt, and grandmother.  Each role requires both different and similar attributes from us.  The trick is to be the best person you can be in whatever role you are fulfilling, however difficult that may be.

Where some people fall down, is in trying to be something they are not.  That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have ambitions, that you shouldn’t strive to improve your way of life.  It just means that you should bring your true self with you on that journey.  To do otherwise is to bring unnecessary hardship into your life, and who needs that?  Life is difficult enough without making it more stressful by refusing to acknowledge who you are, where you are from and who you have become.

For we all change in this journey through life.  Each experience, painful or joyful, brings something into our hearts and helps form the person we become.  We can choose to roll with the punches so to speak.  We can hold out a helping hand to those who struggle.  We can decide to be the best version of ourselves.  But above all, we should strive to be the best version of ourselves that it is possible to be.

A Simple Act of Kindness

Acts of kindness towards ourselves, or those we care for, stick with us in our memories forever.

I was at a function last weekend, a surprise birthday party for a friend, and I saw a woman there who had no idea who I was.  But I remembered her.  I remembered how her simple act of kindness towards someone I cared for, made a huge difference to me, and the memory of her kindness so many years ago stayed with me to this day.

Many years ago, my uncle ended up in hospital, in a coma from which he would never recover.  The medical experts advised that we should talk to him, that he could hear what was going on around him.  It was difficult, extremely difficult for his family and friends, but everyone did their best.

He had been there, in that comatose state, for a few weeks, when I had to make a trip to the Hospital Emergency Dept to collect my other half.  Nothing major, a cut that needed stitching and a tetanus shot but he wasn’t ready when I arrived, so I decided to visit my uncle.  It was around 11pm at night and I slipped into the main hospital and upstairs to the side room off the main ward.   From the ward corridor, I could see through the glass door directly into where he lay.  I could see the nurse’s aid preparing him for the night.  She had finished washing him and was tucking the blankets in around him.  She brushed his hair, all the time talking to him with a tenderness that stopped me in my tracks.  She was gentle and kind and most of all respectful.  Her name was Bernie, (is Bernie and she still works there) and she treated him with such respect even though she didn’t know him, didn’t know anything about him and I was touched by her kindness.  That simple act of kindness turned what was, for me, a very sad time, into a memory which triggers a smile.  It is a memory that will live with me forever.

Maybe we should all try to perform just one little act of kindness every day towards our fellow human beings.  Imagine the difference it would make in all our lives.  Being on the receiving end of that little act of kindness is tremendous, imagine what it must be like to be on the giving side.  To have that kind nature, to give of yourself with no thought of reward.  Today and every day, let’s try and perform just one little act of kindness and leave someone with a lovely memory.

Smile and the world smiles with you

This is week eight of my Year of Possibilities and things are looking up.  The days are starting to get longer although it remains very cold.  I think we can all cope with the cold winter days, provided it’s bright and frosty like this week.  My problem is when it’s wet and cold and miserable.  You know those grey days when the rain never clears, and the sky remains grey from morning to night.  In Ireland, the first two months of the year tend to be over populated by those grey days.  Our homes feel dark and grey after the twinkling lights of Christmas have been taken down and put away for another year.  The limited daylight and the wet cold weather prohibits outdoor activity and we miss the fresh air.  It can be hard to find any joy in these dark days.  Which is why it’s so important to look for any reason to smile, to laugh, to find joy in the everyday.

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A simple trick is to smile.  When you smile, that smile is invariably returned and lifts the heart.  I don’t mean grinning like an idiot at every passer-by in the supermarket.  You could get locked up for that.  But if you greet each person you interact with, with your friendliest smile, be it your butcher, your co-worker or your nearest and dearest, your smile will be appreciated and returned.  That interaction will make you feel better and will lighten the hearts of those around you.  The simple act of smiling is proven to raise your endorphins, making you feel better, lowering your blood pressure, relieving stress and boosting your immune system.  Simple isn’t it?  And smiles are catching.  You smile, your smile is returned to you and that person smiles at the next person they interact with and so the ripples extend outward touching more lives than you could ever imagine.  I think I might make it my mission in life to smile more, to spread joy, even if only in my limited circle, for who knows how far that circle could possibly extend to.

‘Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone.’Vector illustration of cool glossy Single Emoticon