Pay it forward…

Phew, we made it. January is finally over. It felt like making it February wasn’t guaranteed a few times. If you’ve also been struggling, I hope the new month brings better things. I am by no means back in tip top condition, so I will be taking my return slow; bear with me. I thought I’d start with something that can make us all feel a little better.

Random acts of kindness are small things you do for strangers for no reason other than it’s nice to be nice. I often feel like I’m too small to make any lasting difference in our big messed up world. I think refocusing some of my efforts onto the wee picture can help. I feel less lost & hopefully the person on the receiving end feels good too. Keeping ourselves politically informed, active & compassionate can be exhausting. The feel good kick of helping someone out can go a long way to recharging our philanthropic batteries.

So, here are some simple & cheap tips for putting a smile on a stranger’s (& your own) face. These are all things I have personally tried or know of someone who had positive results. I will endeavour to tick off the whole list & repeat regularly!

Tampon dipped in red glitter

Tackle Period Poverty

Period poverty is a multi layered issue. Domestically it seems that our governments are finally trying to tackle the problem by providing sanitary products in schools, council facilities etc. There are still lots of people who will fall through the gaps and struggle to access the specific products they need. I’ve found a simple way to tackle this directly is just to leave tampons, pads, wet wipes etc in public toilets. Homeless organisations have suggested that train/bus station facilities often used by those sleeping rough are good places to leave supplies. I also leave them in bars, restaurants, fast food places, shopping centres, anywhere I go really. I can think of so many situations in which someone might be unable to buy period products or even just be taken by surprise with a period. If enough of us leave a few pads or tampons on a regular basis, it could make a bad day a little better for lots of people.

Please & Thank you

Manners make a huge difference. Whether it’s a thank you to the stranger who held the door open or please to the person who got your coffee. It costs us nothing to be polite to each other. A smile or acknowledgement when you accidentally catch someone’s eye is much gentler than a scowl. I am not by any means saying we must all wander around being happy 24/7. I know life is hard, but just trying our utmost to be pleasant to those we come across makes the world a much less threatening place.

Black text, please and thank you are still magic words on pink background

Tip

Taking the last suggestion a step further, please tip if you can. Unless someone is outright awful to me I always leave at least a little tip. Food service staff, taxi drivers, juniors in the beauty industry, all of those lovely people who deliver things right to your door! If someone goes the extra mile for you, bump up that tip.

Leave a little extra

If I buy something from a vending machine and don’t need the change for a specific purpose, I’ll just leave it there. I started when I was at hospital with my mum. After hours of waiting I was starving, nowhere was open & I had a long wait for a taxi. I only had £1 coin which didn’t go far in the vending machine. Lucky for me, some lovely soul had left their change. I was able to get a cup of tea & a nut bar, which went a long way that night. It struck me as a simple, but incredibly effective act of kindness.

Clean up

It always saddens me when I visit somewhere beautiful and discover people have discarded litter. A really straightforward act of community spirit can be just to collect any litter you find when visiting beaches/parks and so on. Cleaned up beauty spots are much more enjoyable, plus safer for kids & wildlife.

Spread the love

Compliments can make a person’s day. I always feel great when a stranger gives me specific compliment. ‘I love your nails’ or ‘your shoes are pretty’, gives me such a boost. When it comes to strangers I think it’s safer to praise something in particular. Unknown folk saying you are pretty or similar can come off a little creepy. A smiley ‘great coat’ is much nicer. With people you know well, go for it. It feels good to know that someone genuinely likes your style.

Pin badge with I like you style on confetti background

Fill a stomach

If you want to help someone in need places like Social Bite are amazing. Social bite do lots of work to combat homelessness. They provide free meals, employment & have even built the social bite village to provide housing. When you buy lunch at their cafes you can order & pay for an extra lunch (or lunches) for a homeless person. Those in need can then claim one of those pre paid meals. If you just want to treat anyone you can simply pay for an extra coffee/cake and tell the cashier to give it to the next customer. I saw this happen in a coffee shop and the recipient of the cake was utterly delighted. The smile on their face must have been worth two quid of anyone’s money.

Grant a wish

This one is a little whimsical, but it appeals to my soppy side. Leave a jar of pennies by a wishing well or fountain. Thus ensuring anyone who wants to can make a wish. At least some of have to come true, right?

Coins in a wishing fountain

I hope you find these ideas inspiring. A little kindness goes a long way. We could probably all do with some extra good will.

And a happy new year…

I think it’s fair to say that 2019 has been a shit show. A political nightmare on a global scale. Environmentally disastrous & frankly a genuinely worrying time to be alive. My faith in humanity has taken a battering this year.

It won’t be like this all the time stencilled onto a pavement

It hasn’t been an especially uplifting 12 months on the personal front either. There’s been loss, illness & a struggle for meaning. It has all felt a little pointless at various stages, but I made it. Here I am living & learning. Carrying on.

Woman in bed with teary eyes

The year got off to a heartbreaking start, but there have been ups. I cemented a crucial relationship & extricated myself from one, which in hindsight, I hadn’t wanted to be in for quite a while. My people have proven once again how marvellous they are. Circling around when needed & letting me be when required.

Txt conversation

There have been a few professional triumphs. I returned to public speaking (terrifying), embarked on a little social media consultation & posed for some excellent photographers. I produced writing I am proud of and my expanded audience significantly.

I applied myself to the task of enjoying life. It’s not always easy when dealing with chronic & mental illness; I’m pleased with my progress. My little ones continue to be of endless interest. I have immersed myself in the joy they bring as often as possible. I’ve allowed myself to enjoy time with someone lovely & undemanding. I even had some successful surgery.

Selection of pictures of children

Most importantly (I think), I have released myself from the need to know where I’m going. I always thought my biggest purpose was motherhood & letting go of that dream has been challenging. I felt bereft of meaning. It has taken time & wise counsel to discover that perhaps I don’t need all the answers right now. It’s ok to take some time to breathe & live. Hopefully other options will present themselves. In the meantime I can work on career goals and hopefully continue to squeeze maximum happiness out of life.

Path continued painted cement ground with foot & walking stick

So, it’s true. Life goes on. I suppose that’s as true on a larger scale as it is personally. We can still strive to be the change. Sadly, it looks like there will be lots of opportunities to test the courage of our convictions. I hope we prove ourselves brave.

Mirror image of fat women smiling

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* Photography Credit – Megi Aben

We can speak louder than ignorance…

We are living in a, frankly, terrifying world. The march to the political right, climate chaos, human rights violations, erosion of reproductive rights are just the tip of the nightmare. It is easy to feel powerless in the face of such monumental issues.

I feel especially frustrated when my health limits my participation in protest. Signing petitions, sending emails & sharing information doesn’t feel like enough. In an effort to feel like I am trying to facilitate change I put my money where my mouth is.

For a few years now I have tried to pick a different charity or organisation each month to donate to. It’s not always a huge donation, but I think every little helps. It also really helps me deal with life to feel that I am supporting action that betters the world.

It occurred to me that I often discover people doing amazing work via social media, friends raising money and the content I consume. Thus I have decided to share the groups I am supporting each month in the hope that others might also feel moved to donate.

Immigration policy on both sides of the Atlantic are alarming. The American situation is beyond compression. Facist dehumanising techniques are in full force & repugnant acts are being committed. Raices are on the ground in Texas fighting for asylum at the border. They support those who have been detained, try to reunite separated families & advocate for unaccompanied minors. This work is vital. We can do nothing whilst sickening acts are waged against desperate people seeking safety. If you can, please consider making a donation.