Sunday, 6 March 2016

The Kindness of Strangers...

Today is Mother's Day, here in the UK.  Last year, I wrote a very personal piece about being single and having reached my thirties, without having had children.  I talked about the fear that it might never happen for me and the hope that I haven't, as some callous people like to say, "left it too late."  I called it "Mother's Day and The Ache of Childlessness", because nothing else seemed to sum the feeling up, besides calling it an "ache."  A year on, I'm still in the same position, but with the added weight of knowing that I'm a year older and still single and that the chance of one day knowing what it feels like to have a little person call me "Mummy" might be drifting further away.  Obviously, I hope that's not the case and I do try to stay positive about my chances of meeting the right person and, at some point in the future, having children of my own, but you do hear so much about it being harder to have kids after a certain age that it's something it's difficult not to think about.

Anyway, as is my tendency, I re-shared last year's blog this morning, as it felt appropriate.  I shared it on Twitter and on Facebook, then I also shared it on Sarah Millican's Facebook page, as she'd written a post sending love to anyone who might have cause to find Mother's Day emotionally difficult for any reason.  I didn't think much more about it after that, as I had a lot to do today (trip to the shops, writing a bedtime story for future release on this blog and recording said story as a podcast for a start), but then something unexpected happened.

Throughout the day, I've been receiving messages and comments from people I've never spoken to before.  And those messages have - unanimously - been supportive, empathic and sent with love.

Me and my wonderful Mum.

We hear so much about people being mean to each other on the Internet that it almost comes as a shock when people use it to say something kind, instead.  It got me to thinking about the power we all have to make the decision to reach out to a stranger, just to offer support.   None of those people who sent nice messages knew me.  None of them felt duty bound to offer a kind word out of friendship, or family ties.  They had literally all just read something, empathised with it and decided to say something supportive as a result.  And whilst they may never have given it a second thought once they'd clicked "post comment," or "send message," their words had enormous power.  They had the power to completely change the way I was feeling.  They had the power to make me smile and feel as though I wasn't alone.  They had the power to give me hope.

We all lead such busy lives and it's much too easy to see social media as just an endless stream of people, blurting their opinions out into the ether.  It's much too easy to scroll past someone saying they're feeling a bit low about something.  After all, we go online for a bit of escapism, right?  Who needs another person's problems bringing them down?!  

But who knows how we might have helped that person we chose to ignore?

Offering a kind word doesn't really take any time at all, online.  "I hope you're okay.  Keep your chin up, I'm here if you need to talk."  Typing that sentence just took me less than thirty seconds.  It was nothing - a drop in the ocean.  But to someone who really needed to hear it, it might have been the world.

It's not just online, either (obviously!).  Today's events really made me think about how simple it is to read a person's emotions and to just listen when someone needs to talk.  It takes no effort at all to ask "are you okay?"  We don't have to know the person really well.  We just have to show that we care.

We live in a big, busy world, in which we encounter strangers in real life and online almost every day.  But whoever we are, wherever we're from, we're all just people.  People with hopes, dreams, fears and worries.  Sometimes, just offering a stranger a smile, asking how they are, or taking the time to send them a supportive comment online, can absolutely make a difference to that person's day.

Having been on the receiving end of the kindness of strangers today, I'm making myself a promise to be that kind stranger for someone else.  Pay it forward.

So, next time you see a stranger online saying that they're feeling sad, maybe take the time to ask what's wrong.  Offer a stranger a smile.  Hold a door open for someone carrying a lot of heavy bags.

We may all be strangers, but just by showing a little kindness, we can close the gap between us and remind ourselves that really, humanity is a community and it never hurts to support someone who needs it.

To all those who sent me their personal stories as inspiration today, or who simply took the time to send me positive vibes: thank you.  You've inspired me to be that person for someone else.  I dedicate this blog to all of you.  x

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