When You Look at Good Things (and you don’t win the lottery)

Happiness comes from the simpler things

Here at Dove Lane my husband looked eagerly at an email in his inbox this morning – without his spectacles on. Squinting at the screen he saw there was information regarding a lottery win. He saw a 5 but wasn’t sure how many noughts…A lunge for the glasses and a closer look revealed he had won. £5. Ah well, I guess we don’t think about moving to the palatial mansion by the sea yet.

Whether we had won £500, £5,000 or £5,000,000, how would our lives have changed and would we have been happier if the amount had been in the millions? Initially maybe. But what about in the long term? The way we respond to a windfall depends on where we are in life and the circumstances that surround us. To some people in the world £5 would be more than just loose change, it could mean perhaps the chance for a hungry family to eat for a week,  yet all we felt when we won it was disappointment. £500 would give us cause to be excited but it wouldn’t be life changing, yet to others it could be. £5,000 may make us jump up an down a bit – perhaps we could put it towards buying a new car or a holiday. But £5,000,000 – wow wouldn’t that be something? Now we’re talking!

Or are we?

I could write pages about how winning large amounts of money would benefit us, and what we would do with that sort of cash, but that is not really what I’m thinking about here. I can’t pretend it wouldn’t be welcome – of course it would, but the question is, how important is it for our happiness to be financially rich? What really makes us happy? Are rich people actually any happier in the long run? Can money really buy you happiness, good health or better relationships? Maybe yes. But then again, maybe not. Maybe it brings added complications, arguments over how the money is distributed , even isolation.

For many of us, happiness comes from simpler things and the smaller things in life. In fact, it is the small things in life that are the most important. Always have been and always will be.

Look beyond money. It isn’t everything. Sometime too much of it (or too little)  may even cloud our judgement. So when we look at inspiring stories, and even look at heartwarming pictures unrelated to financial aspirations we can be grounded. Also, even if we don’t have much personal wealth it is good to be generous. Not necessarily with money but with our time, hospitality and compassion.

We sometimes need motivation to be more kind and compassionate. Everyday life encompasses us,  and in the hustle and bustle of everyday life we may forget sometimes that we need to stop and look at the good happenings around us. When we watch others perform acts of kindness, and witness human goodness we boost the optimistic side of our character and then pay if forward ourselves.

If we choose a good attitude we will go a long way in reminding ourselves that we have everything we need. Again, implement simple strategies that help – smiling even when you don’t feel like it, taking time out to give loved ones your full attention. Taking time out to care for yourself. Do one thing at a time and help your day go smoothly.

This week I feel exhausted, I have been working very long hours but it is all in a good cause. I have read many, many inspiring stories and seen many speakers and teachers give up their time free of charge for the Winspiration Day project that I am an ambassador for. (Read more about Winspiration Day here : http://www.winspirationday.org/ ) It has been incredible to be working on this project and to see how so many people believe in working and uniting together to make the world a better place.

My blog may be a bit disjointed this week. I apologise for that but after a long day I hope a few of my jumbled thoughts make sense! And this was a round about way of saying most of us haven’t won the millions tonight but there we go. I may buy a ticket at the weekend though. Just in case.

A Thousand Pleases…

Kindness Matters. Always.

This is my mantra.

No matter who we are, whatever gifts life has or has not bestowed on us, we all benefit from kindness. Words of kindness can help our fears and anxieties disappear, like ice melting in the warmth of the sun.

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Lately it has come to mind – It is most important to be kind. To take a moment, make a choice, Comfort with a loving voice.’

Perhaps I can offer a few examples of kindness I have encountered.

One day last year I was sitting outside a cafe enjoying some coffee and Some welcome winter sunshine. All was quiet until a group of young men walked towards the cafe. They appeared to be in boisterous spirits, shouting and laughing. Swaggering along dressed in their hoodies, they gave off an air of arrogant confidence. They ordered drinks and sat down at a nearby table. They were loud. To be honest I felt slightly uncomfortable next to them and a little annoyed that my space had been invaded. I began to make assumptions about where they were from and wondered why they were out and about. Why weren’t they at work or college? But my thoughts were interrupted when an elderly lady walking across the road tripped and fell, scattering all her shopping in the street. Before I had chance to move, the young men next to me all stood up and dashed over to help. I followed over too, to see if there was anything I could do. Very gently one of them checked the lady over to see if she was badly hurt, and as a group they wondered whether an ambulance was needed.

It was decided that the lady was just shaken up. Getting slowly to her feet she insisted she was okay but was agitated about her groceries and handbag. No problem they said, and gathered up all her things, reassuring her everything was there. I took her over to the cafe and sat her down whilst one of the young men went inside to order her some tea.

We all sat outside the cafe together, our chairs pulled round one table in a companionable circle. Soon the lady was smiling and feeling better .

She looked up at one of the lads. “Why, I know you! You are Jenny’s son from the next block of flats to me! I haven’t seen you for a long time! It’s young David isn’t it?”

‘Young’ David smiled and looked embarrassed. “Yes that’s me.”

“Well I’m blessed,” said the lady, who’s name was Molly. “How you’ve grown! I’m so pleased to see you.”

We all chatted for a while and then David offered to walk Molly home. Off they went arm in arm, the others following behind. David promised to tell his Mother he had spent time with Molly and suggested Molly came round to visit sometime. Molly smiled such a sweet smile as she waved goodbye to me. An upsetting fall had had a happy ending.

I went inside and ordered another coffee. I thought about the boys and their kindness to an old lady. I realised one thing. It was not my business to question how anyone passes the time of day. And it was the last time I ever made assumptions.

In this complex world we keep afloat, Care for ourselves without rocking the boat. Weigh up the politics, Try and do what is right, Find something we believe in and follow the light.’

I remember having to start a new school when I was thirteen as my family had moved house. I was crippled with shyness and it was a very distressing time in my life. I joined the school at a time when everyone had been there a while and had settled into new friendships. They all had their allocated seats and knew the routine. Break-time was miserable. I lurked around in the changing rooms as I didn’t have friends to hang out with. Sometimes after my father had dropped me off at the school gates I would watch him drive off and then I would turn around and walk the three miles home again. My parents were worried about me but at a loss about what to do.

I knew somehow I had to get used to going to school. Gradually some of the other girls started to include me in their circle and the days started to improve. It would take a while until I felt that I belonged but the person who really helped me was my English teacher. Mr. Walker was a kind and thoughtful gentleman who took an interest in me. He made me welcome and took time to concentrate on my work. He taught us good values and good manners by example. He gave me good marks for my essays! He instilled in me a lifelong love of writing. He remembered my name, even when we met by chance years later. Mr. Walker had a class full of pupils but he took the time to be kind to a young, timid girl. He must be long gone now, but I have never forgotten him.

   ‘Too many times on a solitary track Have we passed on by, and not looked back Not knowing the difference we could have made, To the person standing alone and afraid?’

Kindness often comes at times when we least expect it. A random stranger smiling and opening a door for us. A passer by giving us change for the parking ticket machine, or, as happened to me recently, a waitress who was so kind to me after a rough day she brought tears to my eyes.

No matter who we are and whatever our circumstances, we all have times we feel alone. We struggle to understand what is going on around us, both in our own small world and the big wide world too. Most of us have times when we feel lonely in a crowd; days when we wonder literally what this world is all about.

On Monday my elderly father was rushed to hospital with a sudden infection – he had gone to bed perfectly okay the previous night and the onset was sudden. When called, the paramedics were very professional and efficient and realised he needed to be hospitalised and so we were soon waiting in the emergency room of the local hospital. The immediate care was good and the staff did their best. It was very, very busy though and the staff had their hands full. The unit was overflowing and there was stress. In the midst of it all I heard a lone voice asking for help – ‘please help’ and again, ‘please help! A thousand pleases!’. It made me think that when we are at our lowest the basic need in all of us is to be shown some kindness. And the person was helped. And shown compassion. I’m so thankful there are people who do their best in tough conditions and who are not just motivated by earning money or by fame, but who are just there to make a difference to someone’s well-being and who are doing their job the best way they can.

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‘After frantic years of business deals, With arrogant managers clicking their heels, Would anyone look back and say: “I’m glad I acted mean that day?”’

One last word.

Some days I can get out of the bed the wrong side and feel grumpy. We all can. These are the times when it may be harder to summon up a smile or be polite. After several cold calls interrupting me on the telephone I can feel exasperated. Or maybe it has taken what seems like hours to be served at the checkout. Or perhaps I have been stuck in a long queue of traffic. These are the times I take a deep breath. These are the times I remember life is good. These are the times I tell myself I have today. I am lucky to have today. I am lucky to be able to walk around freely. I am lucky to have a phone I can take a call on no matter how irritating. I am lucky to have some change in my purse. Therefore I will try and cope with my day and whatever it brings. And I hope I will be kind.

What are your thoughts on the healthcare system? In the Uk we seem to be at crisis point although the present government disagrees. As a former nurse and someone who has worked for many years in the NHS system and believes in it wholeheartedly, I hope to see change and more resources before we lose it forever.

Does the Universe Have us Covered?

Is there a force bigger than us that we can hold on to when life seems to be a struggle?

I‘ve been talking to someone close to me who suffers from anxiety and trying to talk them through it. When someone is seeing the world around them as a bleak place it is very hard to come up with something that will make them feel better. I find myself offering techniques and advice that I know from experience can help, but at the same time I sometimes question the suggestions I offer, even though I am praying that the smallest bit of advice could just be enough to provide a ray of hope or bring a spark of  light in a dark time. Of course,  anxious feelings arise for all sorts of reasons; there may be health worries, both real and imagined, relationship problems, problems relating to the past, work related problems and many more, and each cause may need to be addressed in a different way. Sometimes just a loving hug and a chat with a friend may be enough to help the clouds to disperse and the anxious feelings to lift, but at times when a person is in the severe grip of anxiety then professional help may be needed. Whatever the situation and whatever help we seek or try to give, is there a force bigger than us that can we can hold on to when life seems to be a struggle?

Does the Universe really have us covered?

I think it does. I really hope it does. Why are we here otherwise? We may hear a lot of bad things and we are bombarded with bad news constantly; we know bad things happen to good people, but we also hear amazing stories on a daily basis  – tales of amazing feats of bravery, courage, bravery and kindness. We hear about people who never give up; who find hidden strength from somewhere. We marvel at new life, when a baby takes its first breathe;  we despair when we lose someone dear to us and we wonder how we can ever recover, yet somehow we know that this is all part of the pattern of life.

I think of myself as a spiritual person with a Christian background. I was brought up to go to church regularly and read the bible;  I like the background that has given me even if I don’t attend church now on a regular basis. I like to believe there is a power that is bigger than us, that is all encompassing and is loving, and I find that even though I often have doubts, faith is what gets me through. Faith in a world that is inherently good and a life force that cannot always be explained and is beyond understanding. What compels eels to cross the Atlantic from the Saragossa Sea to spawn in the Irish rivers of their origin, or birds to cross whole continents, following a favoured route that no one could explain, to land atop the same trees every year? In the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives we forget that miracles happen around us every day; we lose our powers of observation and fail to see the wonderful and awesome occurrences happening in nature on  daily basis.

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So what should we do to reconnect with the Universe when we feel we have been set adrift? If we can hold on to that faith we have deep down, whatever the sort of faith we have or follow, we can feel grounded in times of crisis. A spiritual practice I have found to be good is a ‘loving kindness meditation’. Just set some time aside, shut your eyes and generate feelings of compassion by repeating phrases such as ‘may you be happy, healthy and free of pain.’ Direct this to yourself at first then gradually increas your circle to include you family, your friends, the country and then finally, the whole planet. You can alter the words to find something that you feel comfortable with. Do this on a daily basis and at times when you feel stressed or anxious. Make time for this even when you are busy and notice the difference it makes to your day.

Thinking again about my loved one. I wish I could do more to make her feel better and I wish I could take all her worries, wrap them in a cloth bag , throw them out to sea, wish them love and wave them goodbye for good. Indeed, I will picture that very thing happening. In the meantime, I will actively help in every way I can until she can move forward with regained positivity. Even then I will be by her side – figuratively if not physically. And I will have faith that the Universe does have us covered.

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 I lay upon the ground today, Looked up to the sky,

Concentrated on the clouds, As they drifted slowly by. 

Connecting with the Earth beneath, As it wore a peaceful face,

I felt the whole world turning, In this quiet and tranquil place.

And could I see a reason, Shine through the clouded sky

For all the actions unexplained, The many questions why?

I saw beauty and perfection here, Sweet birdsong filled the air,

So I must trust life’s answers, Lie in wait, somewhere.

(C)    Lyn Halvorsen