01 Aug Random Acts of Kindness
How do you help a friend through a tough time from hundreds of miles away?
A few years ago, a really good friend’s Mum was diagnosed with cancer, it was terminal. She was, and still is, one of my loveliest, kindest, funniest, warmest and most inspiring friends. She also lives in a different country to me, so I felt helpless. What could I possibly do to help her through this awful time? How on earth could I show her that I was thinking of her and there for her, albeit from a distance?
I decided to send her a package.
I spent a whole afternoon wandering around town buying bits and pieces. I bought eye cream and concealer especially for puffy eyes, dry shampoo, body spray and mints for when she’d spent too long at the hospital and wanted to freshen up and I bought a book called ‘Dear Grandma’ which was a journal for her and her sisters to fill in with their Mum in her final weeks. It detailed things like how she met their Dad, her school days, growing up, her likes and dislikes. I thought it would be a lovely keepsake for them, for her nieces and nephews and one day, for her own children to read. I also packed a bag of coins for the carpark in the hospital for the days she had no change. Oh, and chocolate. Just because.
I wrote her a letter explaining what everything was for, went to the post office to get a box big enough to put everything in, and then took it home to wrap. I remember wondering if it was an appropriate thing to do or not. After much deliberation I decided to go for it. I tried to put myself in her shoes; her whole world had been turned upside down and she didn’t know how long her Mum had left to live, so receiving a practical package to help her look after herself when doing so was probably the last thing on her mind might just come in handy. I took it back to the post office to post and was shocked when the clerk told me it would cost me about £20 to post. This was on top of everything I had bought to go inside! In case you’re wondering; she loved the package, especially the book. She said that she loved filling it in with her sisters and her Mum, it gave them something to focus on that was positive and took their minds off the inevitable; and they also found out lots they didn’t know about her, as well as reminisced about lots of good memories. (If you’re interested in this book it can be found here. They do ones for all different family members.)
Recently, another really good friend was going through a similarly difficult time; I didn’t do the same for her. I’ve got a pre-schooler and a baby now, nursery runs to do, nappies to change, mouths to feed, washing and ironing piling up and I don’t live near a town to shop anymore. I kept meaning to collect some bits and pieces but I’m ashamed to say that I just didn’t have the time, or the resources to do the same now. I haven’t got all day to traipse around town, go home and wrap it all up and then go back to the post office, and I haven’t got £20 to waste on postage alone, I’d rather that money went on actual ‘stuff’.
I have, however, since found a company who help individuals perform ‘Random acts of kindness’ and do all the ground work for you. At a farmer’s market with my family I bumped into the founder of Secret Hamper, Nigel Richardson. It was launched in June 2016, he explained, after he watched a TV ad that inspired him to perform a random act of kindness. The ad saw a young man leaving a bag of groceries on an elderly neighbour’s doorstep and Nigel was so touched by the idea, that he did the same for one of his own, elderly neighbours. To this day, the grateful recipient has no idea who left the bags of groceries on his doorstep. His aim with Secret Hamper is for everyone to be able to spread a little happiness or perform their own random act of kindness, anonymously or not. They offer a range of hampers for different occasions such as a new baby one containing baby essential, from nappies to pasta and sauce for those early days when new parents don’t have time to cook, an ‘off to uni’ one of food staples for students and a care home one with biscuits and a nostalgia CD. There are so many other packages there must be one for every occasion, and prices start from £29.99. Next time I have a situation where I want to send someone a package to show them I’m thinking of them, wish them Get Well soon, celebrate a birth or even a birthday I know exactly where to look.