Thursday, May 29, 2014

RAOK (every day in May)

Two acts of kindness toward me as a child have stuck with me into my adult life. They've made me want to pass on the favour with my own acts of kindness.

The first one happened when I was an eight year old. It was in the midst of the recession and for a variety of reasons we were living below the poverty line. I can remember mum having to scratch for money for essentials week after week after week. At the time we were temporarily living in Far North Queensland.

For some reason, in amongst all this scrimping and making ends meet, she decided to treat us with a trip to the local show.

We went after dinner, in the warm Cairns evening. My mum pushing my little brother the entire way in his battered stripy stroller and my sister and I tagging along in our sandals.

We knew better than to expect anything other than a look at the displays and rides but mum surprised us with some toffee popcorn to share. We'd gotten our free cardboard caps courtesy of a real estate man and were feeling really pleased with ourselves, getting ready for the walk home.

Some big kids approached. I can remember being afraid of big kids. Big kids, in my experience, were unkind to girls like me. The girl gestured to we kids and spoke to my mum (who at five foot nothing and in her twenties looked much like a teenager herself). "My boyfriend won me this, do your kids want it?" It was a big, red, bean-filled bear wearing a checkered bow tie.

Well. We were absolutely made up with it and my brother clutched it in his stroller all the way home. How lucky we felt! I can remember we took turns to sleep with it for weeks. I wonder if that girl knew how happy she made us? I hope she had an inkling.

The second act of kindness was more thought out. We had elderly neighbours who lived very simply but who had 'done alright for themselves'.

They had been born in the wake of World War I and had been through the blitz in their young adulthood. He liked to tell me how when they'd met, she'd been so poor she'd lined her shoes with newspaper to keep out the cold and wet. After the Second World War, they'd moved to Australia to raise a family on a farm.

Despite the fact they were now reasonably well-off, old habits die hard. She cut dishcloths from his worn out clothes. He grew vegetables in their yard. She made almost everything from scratch and their house was warm and comfortable.

She used to watch me walk to school every day in my grey fleece jumper. I often felt a chill, we lived in the hills in South Australia where it was often cold and wet.

One day she called me over to show me what she'd made me. A duffle coat she'd cut down from a large winter coat of her husband's. She'd lined the hood with soft, yellow towelling so the wool wouldn't scratch my face. So thoughtful.

She said I looked like I needed it. I really did. It made me feel special and cared for and valued.

It also kept me warm on my walk to school every day and it still hangs in my cupboard, 20 years later. Sometimes I get it out to look at the careful stitching she did especially for me. Even though I now live in tropical Queensland, I can't bear to part with it.

It's inspired me to create with love for people around me. Sometimes it ends disastrously, but it is the thought that counts.

It's also inspired me to do simple deeds, without fuss or fanfare - hoping to repay the kindess that's been shown to me.


  1. I have a wee tear in my eye. I blame tiredness, a long month, but also the fact that life is so precious and despite there being some uber dickheads in the world, people such as your old neighbours are there. I love that you still have the cardigan, bless, SO special xx

  2. How beautiful were your neighbours.
    One year at the Easter show 3 different people gave us ride tickets they had finished with. Totally random.


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