Whenever I’ve made a cup of tea, I always refill the kettle. That means the next person who comes to use it won’t have to; they can get their cuppa quicker. Now, I’m the furthest thing from a martyr, but to me, there’s nothing more annoying than when you’re gasping for a brew but the bloody kettle is empty, so you have to stand there for an eternity filling it up, waiting for it to boil, slowly descending into madness throughout the whole process.*
*Alright, perhaps having to do tax returns is a bit more annoying
But what prompted me to make this small gesture a daily habit was something I’d read about in relation to the purest form of love and kindness, that neither of them are a transaction. Love is not a transaction. And kindness is not a transaction. I’ll let you chew on that for a bit.
That statement made me think; of course we know that love and kindness are generally selfless concepts, but if we could cultivate a more conscious practice of this in our lives, how much fuller would said lives be? How many times have we experienced a random act of kindness from a stranger and felt so warmed from it? Even random acts of kindness from those we love? What if we could return that every day, stripped of any entitlement?
When we give love so openly, so freely, not thinking of it as a transaction, not expecting something in return, it makes the act of giving so much richer; you realise that you have such an abundance of it that you actually don’t need it at all – your ‘supply’ of love, as it were, becomes bottomless – and with that you start to see life with far fewer harsher corners and more softer edges. When you see life as an opportunity to give love and kindness rather than a rolling event where you are always waiting on the next moment love will come to you (or perhaps giving love only as an attempt to have it mirrored back), your ability to love and expand your kindness will become effortless. And then sneakily, you’ll find that love and kindness will appear in your life more and more. When you aren’t always seeking more, but giving more, there won’t be any scarcity of love; only a juicy abundance of it, wherever you go.
My mum and dad came to visit me this weekend and when they’d left, I discovered dad had rearranged my hideous Tupperware cupboard. He’d put all the lids together in one place and all the boxes stacked together adjacently, all in the right sizes, whereas before it looked like a scrambled mess of chaos. He hadn’t told me, he just did it knowing it would make life a little easier, even if the gesture was small on the surface. It made my heart smile.
My yoga teacher, a beautiful, kind, warm person, saw that I’d rushed into class one evening in shorts on a day which was definitely not built for shorts. Right before class as everyone was getting into their zone, I was just sitting with my eyes closed, tuning in, defrosting. I opened my eyes as the flow began and saw she’d brought a blanket and put it by my feet. Call me soppy, but this almost brought a tear to my eye. I made sure to thank her afterwards and the small act of kindness made me feel all fluffy for the rest of the week.
As I was frantically trying to make the last train home from London before lockdown was announced, I came downstairs to the foyer in my flat, where all the mail is stored and sometimes people in the building write post-it notes to one another. Someone had left some food with a note saying ‘For those isolating, please take!’ And I thought – what a huge difference this seemingly small gesture would make to someone’s life right now. Again, that feeling of warmth spread through me.
Stripped back of mushiness, what I’m trying to say is that: what if we told someone close I love you or I’m thinking of you for the sake of it? Or put someone’s washing away because we knew they’d had a bad day? Or gave a seat to someone on the tube because you didn’t need it? Or offered someone your umbrella at the bus stop on a rainy day? Or baked bread for an ill neighbour? Or wrote a letter to a friend you’ve been thinking about for a while? Or bought a sandwich and coffee for a homeless person? Or helped someone up the stairs with their pram? All without needing to receive anything back?
When you see love not as a transaction, but more as an opportunity to encourage warmth and kindness, you will find that the love in your life is more profound, infinite, even. Eventually you’ll see the love you’re giving out there being returned to you without even trying – and with that, completing the cycle. Until the next opportunity, and the next, and the next – because Lord knows we need more love and kindness on this planet, eh? And that’s what life should be about – spreading love and kindness as much as we can with our limited time here.