2018 was a tough year for me, personally. I lost loved ones, in more ways than one, watched others struggle with those losses and other own personal issues and ultimately felt very sad for most of the year.
But during that time people were exceedingly kind to me. They knew that throughout my hard times a hug here, a compliment there, some time off or simply a surprise coffee was a way of helping me get through it. I wasn’t in a position to return that kindness in the way I wanted too for most of last year but I began to give back in late October by doing a Memory Walk on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Society.
By doing this walk, in honour of my Grandfather - one of the people I lost this year, although he is still with us physically - I was able to raise over £400 for a charity that can often him, and my family help. It was powerful and moving, to say the least, and an honour to complete, even if all I did was simply walk around my city for two hours.
The strongest feeling I felt as I crossed the finish line was a desire to do more to help others, and myself. So this year I plan to start the year with kindness.
As of 2019 I am starting a zero-waste lifestyle, no longer polluting the world with litter or unrecyclable items. Going zero-waste also allows me to support smaller independent businesses rather than conglomerates and superstores, and have a personal relationship with store owners, which benefits me as well as the owners enterprise endeavors.
Also, when I first returned to work after the New Year I popped into a local coffee shop and passed a homeless man I had passed every single day for nearly all of 2018, but who I never offered money to before. I used to wonder what he would do with the money, judging him unfairly with no information whatsoever about his circumstances and use excuses like ‘I didn’t carry cash’ or ‘I was in a rush’ to justify it.
This time I had cash on me and I didn’t need it, so I gave it to him. He thanked and gave me God’s blessing, and the woman behind me stopped and got her purse out. My act of kindness triggered her act of kindness, and this gentleman got a few pounds out of it, which is still meagre when I think about it. But now, whenever I pass him, I say good morning and he smiles at me. Selfishly it gives me a boost. Now whenever I have change - which I honestly rarely do - I give it to him because I realise that he needs it more than me.
Other ways I’ve started offering kindness is by offering my seat to people on the tube. I’m in my twenties with no health problems, I don’t need a seat half the time, particularly if I’m only going a few stops, so why not.
If I see someone in a really lovely outfit or with a hair colour I admire I compliment them on it. I used to think that by doing this the person would think I was weird, but so far everyone I’ve complimented I have either reacted bashfully or with delight. I’d love it if someone told me they liked my haircut or my outfit for that day, it would make my week!
I’m starting to realise that the small things, like thanking someone sincerely or congratulating someone and sending a surprise gift or card is a joyful way to be kind and to give back this year. It helps me as much as it helps them.
There are big things I could do to give back, similarly to going zero-waste but it’s the small things that I’ve found have been the most impactful.
I’m going to do more walks this year for Alzheimer’s Society but I’m also looking at helping to other charities as well, particularly those that support people that have been through things that I and my loved ones have been through across the years. It doesn’t necessarily have to be through a challenge either. I could donate clothes or items to a charity shop, or simply sell items and gift the money to a charity. I could volunteer and help out after work some days, or simply raise awareness through social media.
All I know is that this year I want to start it with kindness. Not only to boost my sense of self but also to improve people’s 2019 when they’re going through a tough time like I was last year. Other people’s kindness got me through it, so the least I can do is help someone else get through their troubles too.