I’m not a naturally generous person. It’s not my first instinct — sharing. Last Christmas Joel said, “How about we get some beer for the gardener to say thanks for all the work he did this year?” My response? “Joel. Listen. We can’t go around buying beer for every single person who has ever crossed our sweet little path. We’ll be broke in a week. No beer for the gardener.”
I tend to think of the world as having a set amount of abundance. Like there are only ten slices to the pie. If I see someone else score a piece I get a little nervous. There is only so much money, success, fame, and talent to go round and when somebody rises and claims a portion, there is a part of me that sinks a little further down in my chair. Nooooooo… only nine slices left. Ahhh! When success strikes someone else, I can sometimes feel bad about myself. It’s awful, I know. I would never tell them of course, because I’m nice like that, but it’s just that I start to feel grabby on the inside. Like it’s urgent. Like it’s an absolute emergency to find me some pie right now because this god damn pie is RUNNING OUT.
Lately, I’ve realized this way of thinking was getting in the way of me liking myself. It was also preventing me from loving others well. At this stage in my life, right now, if there is one great, huge goal I have, it’s to like myself and love others well. Simple dreams, I know, but ridiculously hard to practice. I read a quote recently and it was one of those slap-in-the-face moments. It was like someone had tipped ice-cold water all over me.
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.
I read it and I thought, yes. That’s our job. That’s all we have to do. We love and we give not because we are feeling noble, or altruistic, or generous, or guilty. We give love because it’s our job to.
I called my friend Renae and I told her I wanted to do something. Something out of the ordinary. I told her that for my 29th birthday, I wanted to spend the entire day doing 29 good deeds for people just because it’s our job to love them. I wanted these things to be small things done with great love since that’s what Mama T reckons is all we can do. It helps with the overwhelm, that advice, and I follow it because I believe it to be true. I told Renae I needed her help because this Small Things Great Love Project would be rather involved. She agreed immediately, but I always knew she would. Renae loves love. Joel didn’t buy me anything this year, and we didn’t go out anywhere to celebrate. Instead, we used the money (plus a little more) towards this.
The Small Things Great Love Project.
Yesterday, I turned 29 and I can honestly say, it was the best birthday I have ever had.
1. Toy Drop
We bundled ourselves in the big, full car and headed towards the children’s hospital. We had with us brand new activity books and stickers and jewelry making kits and airplane craft kids — things which might brighten a child’s heart on a bad day. I was tempted to keep some of the bracelet making sets for Ella because they looked so ridiculously exciting but I quickly reminded myself what the purpose of this mission was. Ahem. Give to others, Rachel.
The Wonder Factory at the Royal Children’s Hospital was like heaven on earth. The people who worked there were angels. They loved their work so much, we couldn’t help but become love-giddy from their passion. It was a bright, cheerful, amazing place — Renae reckons better than any daycare she has ever seen – – and it truly offered the kids a place to forget about the reality they might be facing. Even if just for an hour. We decided then and there we’d come back once and month and volunteer to visit the children who couldn’t make it to the bottom floor where the Wonder Factory was. We left buzzing.
2. Vending Machine Coins
At the children’s hospital, we stuck some spare coins onto a vending machine and were wide-grinned and a little giddy as we thought about how much joy it would bring a person. Being at a children’s hospital is usually never good news, so this little bit of love might have just kept them going.
3 – 12. Car Love Bombing
When we left, we raided the cars around the hospital. We left hearts on people’s windows and notes on their windscreens wishing them a happy day.
We felt like villains for some reason, and in between fits of giggling, we’d squeal quick! quick! like if someone caught us, we’d be busted.
We jumped in the car and headed to the local grocery store. We had a bunch of flowers we wanted to give a tired, stressed out, weary-looking mum.
This one made me nervous. For some reason, stepping outside my comfort zone and approaching a stranger, even to do something nice, called for a lot of courage. We scouted the store for the perfect candidate and since I can’t see very well, Renae spotted just the woman. We walked over to her and I began the spiel. Hi, I’m really sorry to interrupt. It’s just that it’s my birthday today and I’m turning 29 and, so, um, how I’m celebrating is spending the day doing 29 small good deeds and, oh sorry, I think I’m going to cry…… I just wanted you to have these flowers. I pushed the flowers into her hands and she looked at me in a way I will never forget. With tears in her eyes, she told me she’d been really, really sick. She said this was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for her and her two little girls kept looking up at us in shock as to what the hell was going on and why their mama was crying in the middle of the baby aisle. We hugged and grinned like crazy people and Renae snapped a quick picture before we bolted the hell out of there. I thought I might have just exploded with happiness.
14-18. Food Drops
Next stop was a food delivery. Renae and I had spent the previous day cooking up batches of good-for-the-belly home cooked meals we could give to mums we knew. If there is one thing mama’s want, it’s somebody to cook for them. Food deliveries from friends were one of my most treasured memories of having a newborn baby. I felt so loved when food was baked for me. Something about imagining that person in the grocery store, buying all the ingredients. Then standing in the kitchen, baking their goods. Then wrapping it all up, bundling it into the car, driving all the way over to me. I felt like it was such an act of love, and I missed it when my baby wasn’t so brand new anymore. So Renae and I did it all again, for five families with children, even though their babies weren’t so brand new anymore, either.
19. Coffee Shout
Since we’d calmed down a bit from the grocery store flower lady, we felt brave enough to head back to the shops to shout a stranger coffee. Small things, great impact. Our coffee lady was very happy.
20. $50 Gift Voucher
Back to Woolworths. Back to being nervous. This time, we had a $50 gift card to give a mama towards her grocery shop. We found just the woman, and I walked over to her and launched into the fumbled spiel, only this time, she didn’t believe me. She kept saying you’re joking, you’re joking, is this some kind of joke? and Renae had to jump in and back me up. I put the voucher into her hands and she finally allowed a smile to break upon her face. She was too shocked to say much more. I noticed the four kids scrambling around at her feet and I hoped they felt loved too. Quick photo and we bolted again.
21 – 24. Letterbox Raid
This one was really fun. We had $5 notes and lots of flowers to drop into letter boxes of random houses. More giggling, more shrieking. We dodged barking dogs and whispered dramatically SSHHHHH! as we tried to sneak around neighbourhoods unnoticed and unseen.
25. Babysitting Voucher
A mama who is Renae’s friend was granted 2 hours worth of mama bliss. Nothing says love like here-let-me-take-your-children-while-you-run-free-for-awhile.
We popped the voucher in her letterbox and grabbed some lunch on the run.
26. Nappy Donation
Earlier in the week, I had arranged $50 worth of nappies to be delivered to Assist A Sista, an organisation which helps families who are survivors of domestic violence move successfully from shelter to independence. They are always in need of clothes, toys, furniture and other items and although I wanted to donate my entire house, I reminded myself that small things done with great love is always enough.
27. Money Donation
$29 was donated to Stop, an organisation founded to stop international sex trafficking. I find this crime unspeakably distressing and if there is one thing I could click my fingers and end world-wide, it would be this. Their details can be found here.
28. Money Donation
$29 was also donated to the Desert Flower Foundation. I have talked about female circumcision in this previous post, and this organisation works to eradicate the practice of female circumcision around the globe. Waris Dirie, founder of the organisation, human rights activist, supermodel, best-selling author and survivor of genital mutilation says, “Female Mutilation has no cultural, no traditional and no religious aspect. It is a crime which seeks justice.” You can find out more about this organisation here.
29. Kids Clothes Donation
A big bag of kids clothes was dropped in a local charity bin to head to the Pacific islands to help clothe little bodies and restore little hearts.
After it was all done, all 29 small good things, we sat exhausted on Renae’s couch, sipping tea and re-living every moment of the day. Our cheeks hurt from smiling and we kept saying remember that lady? can you imagine the smiles on people’s faces when they find that money in their letterbox? remember the hospital? And on and on and on it went. I can honestly say that apart from giving birth to my daughter, it was the greatest feeling I have ever had. Receiving love is one thing, but giving it? Giving love trumps the lot.
A special thanks to Marc and Joel for taking the kids far away so we could plan and take part in this amazing day. And most of all, thanks to my friend Renae, who has a heart as big as Africa and who did anything that was asked of her without one ounce of hesitation.
Small Things Great Love.
Pass it on.