I’ve been reminded in the lead-up to Christmas just how lucky I am. I mentioned in my last blog post how I walked past a homeless lady on a freezing cold night and was brought to tears by how much I have and how little she has.
True, I don’t know her life, the choices that brought her to sit on that dark street, but I can’t believe it would be anyone’s choice to sit freezing on the street in the winter.
As the Christmas season comes upon us, I feel compelled to honour all that I have through giving more and I thought you might like some ideas, dear friend, of something you can do (big or small) to give back and recognise our relative richness. Plus, I think giving (which doesn’t have to cost anything) is the best way to get into the Christmas spirit of gratitude and generosity!
Pay it forward
There are so many ways you can give to those less fortunate and you don’t have to give a huge amount of money to make a difference! For example, the suspended coffee scheme allows you to buy a drink for someone less fortunate when you buy your coffee or tea – you can find coffee shops signed up to this scheme all over the world: http://suspendedcoffees.com/find-a-cafe/.
The Kitchen in Bristol (where I got married to my lovely husband) has a scheme where you can buy a drink or a meal for someone less fortunate. So if you can, why not give a little and pay some joy forward?
I can’t imagine what it’s like for homeless people to be ignored by so many people on a daily basis as they ask for help. I get it though – I was in London recently to see some friends from my Local Government Challenge days and was lost. I was running late and dishevelled. I walked past someone begging on the street and the last thing I wanted to do was interact with him and step out of my own little bubble of worry and anxiety. But on the most part, when someone on the street asks for money, I try to look them in the eye and say ‘I’m sorry, I don’t have any change’ or just ‘Sorry’. It doesn’t take much but I can imagine it brings them a bit of connection and I truly hope it makes a few of them feel that they matter just a little bit through my acknowledgement of their existence.
And I know from a personal level what a difference it can make, dear friend. This memory I’m going to share with you is still a bit raw, so please treat these words with kindness and compassion. So here it is, a few months ago, I had a panic attack. I can’t remember ever having one before and it was really scary. I guess life just got too much for me and I momentarily cracked. I couldn’t hold the picture perfect Amy mask up anymore. It happened in the middle of Brighton station and although the sunglasses I was wearing masked my tears, I couldn’t catch my breath and I think it was clear to many people around me what was going on. A kind stranger approached me and asked if I was ok and I feel such gratitude for the kindness of that man. In connecting with me, I was able to ground myself a little bit and although I wasn’t ok, I was able to make it back home and deal with what had happened. So what I’m trying to say, dear one, is that reaching out with just a few words can make such a significant difference to someone you don’t know. So let’s do it more.
Write some kindness
Not so many people write Christmas cards anymore…and I suppose it’s probably better for the environment that way. However, I personally love receiving something in the post. When I get mail, I feel so warm in my heart knowing the other person is thinking of me. I’m sending some cards out this year – mostly to people who I won’t get the chance to see – and I’m making sure I spend just a little bit of time sending them some kindness. Reminiscing about a shared memory from the past year, expressing gratitude for who they are to me, sending hope for the future. So if you haven’t yet sent your Christmas cards, why not spend a few extra minutes writing some extra kindness in them…?
Commit to giving
I’m a regular giver to a charity, Paul’s Fund, which enables young adults and their families who are facing challenging personal circumstances to have a respite holiday break. I don’t give a lot (just £15 a month) but I’ve been giving for a good number of years and think my donations have now amounted to over £500, which is awesome! I feel good knowing that a small charity which does so much good has had my support – it increases the warmth and connection I feel with others, makes me feel more generous of spirit. I know some of you who are reading this may not have enough to give and I respect that…but I would argue (and please forgive me if you disagree) that if you have money to go out and buy a drink at a pub or a coffee at a coffee shop, you have enough money to donate a small amount on a regular basis to a cause close to your heart.
I’m passionate about causes that protect the environment and have just started giving to EarthJustice (http://earthjustice.org/) who advocate for the environment in court. If you’re also passionate about protecting the world, why not have a look at the following website to see where you might like to start donating: http://learn.eartheasy.com/2014/12/where-to-donate-10-high-impact-environmental-charities-with-integrity/
Hug people more
We’re living in an increasingly a virtual world. Hell, I’m the queen of sharing my personal self online despite not being able to do so comfortably in person yet. This somehow makes it even more special to reach out to someone and give them a hug. To bring comfort and a bit more love into the lives of others by pulling them into your embrace. Again, it’s free but I think it can make a huge difference and it has done so in my life. When I’m stressed, I quite often retreat into myself like a hermit crab. I feel so brittle with my sadness/guilt/pain/anger that I don’t feel able to reach out for comfort and it’s the persistence of my husband in pulling me into his arms that leads me to surrender, to release the emotions bubbling beneath and to feel a level of peace and love that I don’t feel deserving of. So hug more, people! Show some love this Christmas.