What motivates me? Is it better to make a big difference to a small group of people or a small difference to a big group of people?
I ask myself these questions every day trying to make sense of situations, and they became more pertinent after I stumbled across a beautiful, insightful, and eye-opening verse from the Dalai Lama titled “The Paradox of Our Age.” It’s an accurate portrayal of modern life and our struggles as humans. As the reader, all 13 statements can be solved with one simple tool: kindness.
We all have really great days and we all have really crappy days. My hysterectomy (and health battles after this which resulted in close to 10 surgeries) in 2015 was a horrible day. As someone whose lifelong dream was to be a Mum, having someone seal a fate that didn’t resemble the one my husband and I had planned, felt like a million little daggers were being bludgeoned into my heart. What was I supposed to do now? What were we supposed to do now? I spent the better part of two years feeling numb and depleted. I had few tears left to cry and questioned why I was even here to begin with. What was my purpose if it wasn’t to be a Mum? I was left in a dark place trying to find meaning in something that seemed so unfair. I prayed, I cooked, I cleaned. I stayed awake for days on end because going to sleep resulted in nightmares, but also because I didn’t have to face the moment I would wake up thinking it was all a bad dream. Until reality hit.
In a 3 a.m. moment of clarity, I realized I had two choices: to continue down the rabbit hole of self-pity and sadness, or to look at this as an opportunity to finally ask myself some important questions. Earlier in the day, I quite literally saw a teenager push past an older lady. The woman dropped her shopping bags. The teenager did not look back or help. To make it worse? His parents were in tow. They didn’t stop either.
I decided to challenge people to undertake an act of kindness cards, by designing and hiding 50 kindness cards. The majority I hid in my hometown of Perth. I didn’t tell a soul what I had done because I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get a response. How wrong I was. From 50 cards, I received 32 emails.
Some of the responses:
“I forfeited my place at our Christmas lunch, instead, I got a refund, left my office, and went and treated a homeless man, who I often say hi to but never asked his name, to our own lunch. Hands-down best thing I’ve ever done.”
“I found a card under my wiper at the shops. Wasn’t on every car, so though I had a ticket. Quietly pleased it wasn’t, but intrigued. I thought about it for weeks as I like to think that as a Dad of three girls I am kind. I didn’t feel I should need an elaborate act. Instead, I thought about the meaning and of Christmas, specifically. Two of my best mates lost people in their lives this year. So all I did was pick up the phone and say hi. Told them I was thinking of them. One thing led to another and suddenly we were at the pub. Reminiscing. Smiling. Laughing. Big guys crying. Worth every second and sideways look. Thanks for showing me there is still hope outside my pretty much perfect life.”
I officially founded The Cool to Be Kind Project in January of 2018 and haven’t looked back. As much as I believe I was born to be a Mum, I have little control over whether or not that is in the hand that was dealt for me. Yes, it is true that we can look for a surrogate, adopt, or even foster, if we desire. This doesn’t negate the fact that I will never be able to actually conceive life. In my quest to understand I began taking a deeper look at what kind of mark I wanted to leave on the world. Who was I if I wasn’t going to be a Mum? What was my… legacy?
I realized that I have gifts that need to be shared with the world and that quite possibly, if I went down the path that I had always dreamed of I may never have had the opportunity to touch other’s lives the way I do now. The Cool to Be Kind Project is my platform to help others. Whether fundraising for charity, helping the local community, or just being there for a friend, the opportunity to be kind is everywhere.
There are so many articles which show that regularly being kind to others is good for your own general happiness and self-care. It reduces stress levels, supports mental well-being and the best thing? It often leads to an increased possibility someone will reciprocate your kind act and help others. Whether being kind is fully responsible for it or not, I am no longer on hormone replacement therapy, and 2018 was the first time in years I haven’t been admitted to hospital.
Earlier this year, I let an elderly gentleman go before me in the queue. I had way more items (of course I did — there is no way I could shop for one item if my life depended on it!) and I wasn’t in a rush. When I did, he stopped with a look of shock on his face. It took all I had to ask if he was okay and he responded by saying he was finding it hard to work out what he was feeling because nobody had been kind to him in such a long time. All I did was let him go in front of me.
Situations like this strengthen my resolve to continue to make a difference and in the last few months, I’ve had responses from individuals who have found kindness cards in Philadelphia and Arizona, which is totally mind-blowing.
We all have the opportunity to make a choice: to look at life a little bit differently, maybe with a softer and kinder heart. More importantly, we all have the opportunity to build our best lives. Who knows if children are in our future but I’m no longer sitting around waiting for that to happen. Instead, I’m lending my nurturing ways to the hearts of others in the hopes that I can help them find their way out of their darkness and into the light of new dreams.