Haves, have nots and humanity in the city

Image by fastcodesign

Image by fastcodesign

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. Dalai Lama

I have a story to share. I hesitated at first because I didn’t know how it would be perceived. I didn’t want anyone to think it was about me. Because it’s not.  Well, it says a lot about me, I guess, but the gorgeous soaring love I felt for humankind  arose, not from my actions but as a result of another’s.

I shared my story with a friend and she said to me: “Blog your story. That is a beautiful story, you must share it. Kindness does not go unrewarded! It makes me all teary again, how the haves are sharing with the have nots cos they want to and it feels right.”

So, one day, not so long ago…. there was a homeless man on the street. He had a message scratched on a sign, I glanced and walked away. How do explain myself? I can’t except to say I have always felt confronted by homeless people. I’m not sure why or where that comes from. I’m not an unkind person or lacking compassion but I do have a serious issue with knowing how to respond to someone in such need. How much is enough, is a little adequate?  Excuses I know.

Anyway, I felt guilty that I didn’t stop. But the further away I got the more embarrassed I was to turn back. I told myself stories to abate the guilt – I only had large bills or credit cards. I don’t really like to give money. Etc etc. I was surprised to sense a little voice in the back of all of this justification saying if he was there the next day I’d stop and read his sign.

As it turns out he wasn’t there but the day after that he was.

I’d left work early for an appointment but I stopped and tried to read his sign, it made little sense to me.  However, I spoke with him and told him I’d seen him a couple of days ago. I asked him where he slept and if he got any benifits. Then, as if watching myself from out of my body, I heard myself asking him if he’d eaten that day. He said he had but not much. I suggested we go see if the posh cafe I’d just walked past was still open. He agreed and quickly gathered his meagre belongings.

When we entered the cafe the guy behind the counter eyed us strangely and I almost thought he’d ask us to leave. When I asked for sandwiches he said he had none. I could see sandwiches, rolls and wraps in the fridge behind him. He told me they were stale and no good for eating. He said he wouldn’t even give them to me as they were too dry.  I turned to the homeless man and explained the situation. I was a little unsure how to proceed. Then I saw a cabinet with delicate sweets, I didn’t want to buy him sweets with no nutritional value but I spotted salads on the bottom shelf so I asked him if he’d like a salad. Yep. He did.

The young man who served us was so lovely, he kept calling the homeless man sir and asked him if he’d like to eat in or takeaway, if he needed a fork etc. He said he would add a danish and a croissant for later. He asked us if the meal would be eaten shortly or carried a long distance. He was concerned, as it had egg in it and didn’t want any health issues arising from overheated, unrefrigerated food. I asked my companion if he’d like a drink and we got a cappuccino, with two sugars. Again our waiter was charming and continued to address the gentleman by the title of sir, ensuring he had what he wanted. He made the coffee beautifully. Taking care to add just enough extra milk to top it up, wiping the cup free from spillage. He packaged it all up in a carry bag with a napkin and utensils and wished the man an enjoyable meal.

Once his package was in hand  the man left and I turned to the waiter to pay for the meal.   The lovely young man, who had treated a homeless man with dignity and respect looked at me, waved his hand and said, “There is no charge. You are a good woman. It’s on us”. I was blown away. Honestly, how lovely is that? How often have you witnessed something so beautiful? I walked  up the street on clouds of gratitude and love, with a swelling heart, marvelling at the depths of human kindness and grinning like a Cheshire cat.

Aren’t humans marvellous?

This whole interaction occured as if within a bubble.  We three were connected for a short moment in time. A time within time. I felt buoyed by the love, respect and kindness I’d witnessed. I was reminded that we are all equal and that everyone, regardless of background, means or circumstance deserves to be treated with respect. I was reminded that we can share intimate meaningful moments by treating others as we would like to be treated. Gosh, imagine what we could do in the world if we were all a little more like the young waiter who served us.

(Here I am talking of intimate moments with two souls and I didn’t even asked either gentleman his name.)

What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity.
These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.  Joseph Addison

Embracing beautiful connections and never underestimating small actions.

Blessings to you all,


The ripple effect of a $2 gift


Image courtesy of against the grain scholars

Image courtesy of against the grain scholars

My husband made me cry last weekend. He said the loveliest thing that tears sprang to my eyes and streamed down my face.

This story began one Christmas morning about twelve years ago when I gifted my husband and son a box each for Christmas. They were $2 boxes from the discount store, about 20 cm cubed with lids, bright, colourful and empty. Yes, that’s right. They were empty.

My husband, trying to remain polite, looked incredulously at this empty box. His expression conveyed his thoughts – what was the meaning of an empty box? At Christmas?

As I explained to the pair of them the box was a ‘Happy Box’, empty now so they could fill it with happy memorabilia.  I too had a box which I filled over the years with photographs, love letters, certificates, news clippings, small hand-made gifts. I filled it with things that made my heart sing. Things that bought joy to my life. Things I wanted to remember.  My husband’s box began to fill too.

About six years ago my beloved used his box as the focus of a motivational talk to his students. He is a Principal in a high school. I’m not sure exactly what he shared in his story. I wasn’t there but I do know that he shared with them the types of memories he collected, the joy of delving into the box to reflect on successes and achievements. He impressed them by drawing from the box a photo of their cohort and sharing the positive impact they have had on his life and the joy he received from working with them, seeing them grow and helping them reach their goals. Funnily enough, he shared with them too his reaction at having received an empty box on Christmas morning. That got a chuckle I’m told.

That story and the happy box, shared for the first time six years ago,  was such a hit that parents, teachers and students continued to comment about it throughout the year.  In the years since that first speech the senior students have asked for the ‘Happy Box story’ to be told at assembly. Parents, teachers and friends of friends have commented about the inspiration that simple story held for them.  Students have bought friends happy boxes for their 18th birthdays, parents have bought them for all of their children and themselves. Each year a cheer goes up when students become aware that the happy box story is about to be told.

How does this connect with my tears you might ask?

You see, we were discussing the popularity and the reach of the happy box story and my darling husband turned to me and said “Shannyn, from one small act you have changed the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of people.” He calculated that over six years he has told the story to almost 300 young people each year, who then share it with goodness only knows how many others.

He looked at me and said “You always say you want to make a difference in the world. And you do through the small things that come naturally to you. Each day you impact so many people in such positive ways.”

(Hence the tears)

I hadn’t considered this before, particularly in connection with the box. I’d not considered the ‘Happy Box story’ to be my legacy. I’d always marvelled at the inspiration my husband instilled in others with this story.  I’d not realised that a small gift I had given, with love, one Christmas morning many, many years ago would touch the lives of countless people.

I was humbled.

I realised too, that we never really know the impact we have on the lives of others.

I realised that it doesn’t have to be grand gestures that change the world, that small acts of love, consideration and sharing of ourselves can have the mightiest influence.

The idea of the ripple effect really sunk in for me. I have been mindful all week. This new knowledge has put a different perspective on the way I act. The way I talk. The choices I make.

Don’t underestimate the impact you have in the world.

Much love,