#AutumnTimeSurpriseProject - an act of kindness
I've spent this weekend with a heavy heart that many of us have been feeling since we went to bed on Friday evening, in shock. It's hard to explain to our 6 and 4 year old sons why we are so affected by something, that seems to them, so many miles away. They live in this innocent bubble, they are protected by us, by their family, their school and their friends and all they know is that the world is full of opportunity. We talk about what they want to be when they grow up, tease them about who they are going to marry, we pitch to them the perfect adulthood. And we are doing our best, every day to give them a carefree, idyllic childhood.
Yesterday 3 generations all came together to celebrate our niece's first birthday, she has the biggest puppy dog eyes and the widest smile, and covered me in slobbery open mouthed kisses as I nuzzled her neck making her giggle. And from the excitement of a family birthday party, we had a very simple day today.
We didn't rush them to get dressed, we cooked a roast dinner, traipsed around the garden in wellies, sat together and ate amongst 20 pieces of scrap paper with scribbled christmas wish lists and intricate drawings of Lego creations and Mr Bean, and did nothing extraordinary. But we were safe, we weren't frightened, they ran across the garden with only their den of bamboo sticks to worry about.
I don't want to be totally honest with them. I want to shield their ears and eyes from the horrors I have seen on my screens over this weekend. I want to instil that romantic ideal that there is good in everyone, even when it's quite clear there is not.
We have a phrase in our house that we try and use more often than "That's naughty". Instead we say over and over, "That's not very kind." It's something my mum always said and still tries to encourage us to do, to be kind.
Whether it's a simple gesture like making eye contact and a sympathetic smile to calm someone's nerves or a grand act of bravery, kindness goes a long way. The internet is being flooded with incredible acts of kindness, selfless acts, love for complete strangers. It highlights how powerful collective courage and appreciation can be.
And we can all do something everyday to be kind. I often thank someone in the supermarket for something random like handing me a trolley saving me the time to head to the trolley park or to the person in the Post Office who chatted to the boys whilst they waited for me to send off a parcel, "That's your good deed for today!" And they always smile.
It feels nice when someone gives you a compliment, it feels nice to receive happy mail. Gift wrap that makes you ooh and aah at the effort someone has put in to package a gift sweetly, or a handwritten note that gives you a glimpse into their personality. Their individual flare.
And that's why I love the surprise project. A group of people of want to do a good deed for a stranger. There are people who have joined in all year, some joining in for the first time and it makes me so happy to see all the new connections being made, people finding new friends to follow, like minded souls swapping not only packages, but ideas and discussions that spill over form Instagram comment threads to messages of their own.
Over 300 kind people are joining in with the #autumntimesurpriseproject and it is wonderful to see all the photos popping up as we get nearer to the deadline for posting, for everyone to have received theirs by next Sunday 22nd November. I've shared a few ideas and the community blow me away with their eclectic wrapping, doodles on the envelopes and creativity. People are making, baking, scouring charity shops and repurposing old treasures. New props for photo lovers, yummy treats for sweet tooths and stationery fans are in for a treat, I have seen lots of lovely washi taped packages whizzing around the world.
This is a project that has partners in Australia, the UAE, America, Sweden, Italy, the UK, Canada, the Netherlands and India!
I have been saving a little box of goodies, bits I have spied on my travels, a few treats from goodie bags I haven't opened yet and some of my own favourite things that might be more appreciated in a new home just in case anyone is left without a partner come the 22nd. I trust those signing up that they will follow through and not leave their partner disappointed. If for any reason you are behind sending your parcel just pop them an email, or if you a re really struggling let me know as soon as possible. Email me with any questions or queries firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just enjoy it, don't feel a pressure to keep up with the Jones'. Do your own thing for your partner and I am sure they will love the time and effort you have put in.
And if you missed out this time there will be a final surprise project for the winter, sign ups will open and close in December, but don't worry, parcels won't be opened until February, so we can all have something nice to look forward to in the new year after the madness of the festive season!
Then next year I'd love to host another project swap - The Surprise Project, and include everyone and anyone whether its spring or autumn, summer or winter where you are.
If you are sending or have received your parcel - I'd love to see. Tag your photos with #autumntimesurpriseproject so we can all enjoy them. I love how everyone is so different, they have been so thoughtful, found their partners on social media and it's such a pleasure to bring this group of people together.
It's such an ordinary thing, posting a letter. We get mail everyday, bills, flyers, our letter box is chock full of Christmas gift guides but doesn't it make your heart sing when you receive something out of the ordinary?!
Happy swapping this week for those sending their parcels this week!