How do we offer goodness in a big bad world?
Time and again I ponder this question – how can we make a difference when the scale of the world’s disasters, sadness and fear seems so massive and immoveable? We question ourselves and whether our acts of kindness really make a difference.
The requests I receive for hearts often break my own; a three year old with brain cancer, a victim of violence, a suicidal child, the bereaved, the lost, the anxious and the sad. Sometimes giving out hearts kind of feels like throwing a marshmallow at a giant monster and feeling the futility of that gesture.
We feel the monster advancing and fear it will swallow us whole. I give out hearts and see a face light up, a tear welling gently in the corner of an eye, but I am often left feeling “Did it really help? There must be more I can do.”
However, there is the flip side too, the bright hope in the face of all the darkness. I’ve had countless conversations about the magic contained in one small act of goodness and the thing I hear most often from people who receive the hearts is that it’s those little things that really make a difference. I actually think the power is magnified when things feel overwhelmingly bad or scary.
It’s like one tiny twinkling star in the darkest of nights; it stands out and offers the kind of hope that only souls close to despair can really understand. My belief in this project and the power of kindness keeps getting stronger and deeper.
I recently received an email from heartist Jo, telling me about all the hearts she’s been making and where she’s been giving them out – a kindness display in her workplace at Christmas time, hearts for people struggling with mental illness, a “kindness ninja” quest with her daughter where they hand delivered hearts to every letterbox in their street under cover of darkness (I cannot tell you how much I love this!!) Jo took hearts to her son’s high school and her daughter’s primary school, some for a Dementia carers support group, 120 for each attendee at a funeral.
Jo had young mums who were low on confidence making hearts and opening their own to candid conversations. Jo wrote to me “I have been struggling to comprehend the recent violent attack in Christchurch and where as a human race we can possibly go from here to make things better. However, after typing this list I realise, as just one hopeful heartist in a list of many, we ARE already making things better because we are combating hate with love, violence with peace and fear with kindness and we’ll continue to do so thanks to you and those little felt hearts.”
When I get close to feeling that what we do here can’t make a difference, I stop myself and reflect on this; one small act is one small act and it’s true that on its own, it doesn’t change the world. But when you get a community together, you start growing an army of heart warriors intent on bringing love and light to those around them. And as the light touches more and more people, the ripple effect gets wider and things do start to change.
Slowly and surely, you start to see connections grow and love take hold. I see this when people make hearts and share them in their world, and when they come together with other heartists to share their delight in this project. I see it in our online community and in the faces of people receiving hearts. It’s simple, but it’s also inclusive and powerful, and with the growing number of heartists out there, I wonder at what we can achieve.
On our own, we can’t stop the terror and violence and hatred and fear. We can’t prevent a person from taking a weapon and hurting others. But if we stand together in the face of these acts, we can be part of the healing, and over time I truly believe we can create a world where these acts become less frequent and kindness becomes the norm.
We need to hold our nerve and keep the faith. We need to keep reminding each other of the power of our small gestures and we need to look at this community (and other kindness communities) growing and extending beyond what we can possibly imagine.
Someone said this to me recently and I would like to say it to each and every one of you reading this; You’re doing a great job.
You are making a difference.
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