I had a beautiful post written for this month’s 1000Speak, all about Spirit and Stuff and kindness to strangers. I spent hours crafting it, working late into the night to hone it to perfection a readable state, and was so tired I was falling asleep at the keyboard. That was my mistake, because with a few misplaced fingertips, I deleted the entire thing, and replaced it with an insouciant ‘v’, which sat at the top of the screen, laughing at me as the cursor winked.
No amount of pressing ‘undo’or hitting the ‘back’ button would return my post, so I shut down and went to bed angry at myself and disappointed. I was angry and upset and determined not to join in because clearly I was incapable of creating a #1000Speak post this month. BUT…the spirit of compassion worked its magic on me, alongside a few happenstance events and discoveries in my life. I decided to make the time to re-write, because it matters – it’s bigger and more important than me and my mistakes and my disappointment. The Village needs me and my voice, as it needs you and yours.
In my beautiful, lost post, I suggested that it might be easier to be kind to strangers, even not knowing who they are and whether they’re really ‘deserving’ of kindness and support, precisely because of the unknowns – when we know people, we tend to judge, and perhaps decide for ourselves whether they are worthy of our intervention. Anonymous recipients allow us to just feel a glow of having done the right thing without wondering what our donation will really be spent on (though I suppose there’s the added advantage of an organisation making sure that monies are appropriately allocated).
I think I also urged you to remember the SPIRIT of the season, in amongst all the having and giving and receiving of STUFF – that your internal happiness meters will raise more with delighted celebration of kith, kin and togetherness rather than wasteful indulgence and excess. I probably suggested a few charities like Crisis UK, which offers homeless people a place to go on Christmas day (or the American counterparts like this Volunteers of America project in OK), and ensure that they have the best day possible, with their material needs well met for that day (we’re talking low-down Maslow here; food, shelter, water, human contact.) I even linked to an initiative by gravy (for reals) company Bisto, which is running a ‘spare chair‘ initiative, linking families with lonely elderly, encouraging them to provide a meal and a few hours of company over Sunday lunch for an old person who would otherwise be alone.
Then, after my post deleted and I discovered a friend was undergoing a wickedly bad mental health crisis, I also thought that it would behove me to point you in the direction of some organisations which support people whose mental health is fragile, and under extra pressure due to the time of year. The Samaritans offer a phoneline that anyone can call to talk and air their struggles. For those in America who are desperate, there are hotlines run by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. These organisations are LIFESAVING, and need donations to keep going, but equally, YOUR intervention could be lifesaving if you happen to catch someone at the right moment to give them a boost and let them know they matter, and to encourage them to continue. Keep talking to each other, lovelies.
Today I discovered The Compassion Collective, which is asking for maximum donations of $25 in order to support refugees in crisis, who have nothing at all. By crisis, we’re talking people who are living in mud, without blankets, food, or clean water. With little hope. With such desperation there have been reports of children’s feet rotting and their mothers begging to be shot so that they no longer have to witness the children’s suffering. I’ve heard about parents sending their children out into the ocean on rubber rings, hoping they’ll make landfall somewhere safer. I’ve read about people with no other options, drowning by the boatload as they flee situations most of us can’t even envisage in our nightmares.
The Compassion Collective is brand new, and has the compass as its symbol, because compassion is humanity’s North Star. The call is for us to be remembered as the generation who stepped up and helped when there was need. That we fed the hungry, clothed the naked, sheltered the homeless, and MADE A DIFFERENCE. That we LOVED.
In 24 hours, they raised over half a million dollars and they’re now on their way to the round million bucks. That’s a beautiful testament to the love and compassion in people’s hearts, and it will do a HUGE lot of good.
Let’s keep the good GOING, shall we?
Because here’s the thing – people get LOST at this time of year:
LOST, and overwhelmed by all of the STUFF there is to do and see and buy and prepare and organise and manage and keep up with. They become slaves to the commercialised norms of Christmas and break under the weight of expectations placed upon them by convention and culture.
LOST, because the stresses of the season are too much to take, and their minds shut down (seriously, if you have a friend who you know has mental health issues, DO make a point of checking in with them and make sure they’re ok) and they wonder how/if they will be able to carry on.
LOST, because there is no-one left to remember them, and the people who might notice them are wrapped up in their own worlds.
LOST, because they disappear from the front pages and the tv screens as we tune into Christmas movies and new releases and latest gizmos and recipes and being with our own people and trying to just keep up with our own lives.
LOST, because they’re on the run from harm, and they have no-one.
I want you to look past the STUFF, re-engage with the SPIRIT of the season, and be SEEKERS.
I’ve realised that it is no longer enough for us to just mean well, or to do incidental good – we need to be mindful, take responsibility, and make actions with INTENT. I know, I *know* it’s a huge ask, but these people – these lost ones – are our human brothers and sisters. They matter, but as has ever been the way with the marginalised, they won’t know it unless those of us in the mainstream make purposeful efforts to reach out to them.
SEEK opportunities to include people who otherwise get forgotten. Make eye contact and give someone a smile. Especially if they seem to be alone, or if they’re working to serve you over Christmas.
SEEK chances to connect with people you know, especially if they have mental health issues. You don’t have to be their therapist, but just check in, say hi, and let them know you’re thinking of them. It could make a HUGE difference, and even if not, no-one loses when you invest in friendship.
SEEK ways to encourage the growth of community in your local area. Whether it’s donating to a community centre or a local initiative, or getting involved yourself, just find something and DO it. It might take time or money, both of which are precious commodities, but we all need each other, and ACT! This is YOUR community, and it’s important to help it get stronger.
SEEK organisations to donate to, which are helping people in desperate need: homeless shelters; refugees; domestic violence refuges; clean water initiatives…any of them and more. This action costs, yes, but do it anyway. Please, please? Because you CAN, and without going into protracted arguments over the relative merits of moral/ethical outlooks…you’re human, they’re human, and it’s the right thing to do. If you didn’t get me a Christmas present, do this for me instead. I’m aware I’m not going to be any good at justifying this because no-one (least of all me) has the right to tell you what you should do with your money, but seriously…you should do this. I’m aware most people who read this blog already donate to organisations which help, and I’m thrilled that my readers are such an altruistic and genuinely compassionate bunch, but there are always more needs to be me. Help meet one more…for me?
Lastly, though, lovelies, SEEK ways to self-nurture, because otherwise you, too, might end up LOST. Draw lines in the sand and start over. Create time-outs for yourself. Say “No” to things without justifying it. Take tea-breaks from life. Ask for help. Don’t bend over backwards so far you snap. Chances are you’re the lynchpin in your own life; if you take time to widen the goalposts, lower your expectations a little, find ways to keep connected with your own inner spark, and what matters to you, you’ll cut through the dross and noise, and make the season golden.
Have a brightshiny Christmastime, and know that my wish for you is this; in every way you seek, you FIND. I have a feeling that what you’ll find is, as ever, #LoveWins.
Be SEEKERS, my lovelies, and find ways to be the gold.
This month, 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion continues to work toward a better world with a focus on COMPASSION.
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