positivity

A Royal Rant

This Friday marks an important date in the world’s calendar: the Royal Wedding. Now, some of you may be rolling your eyes and hovering your cursor over that red X, but I ask you to bear with me – this isn’t intended to be a gushy post of patriotism (okay, maybe a little), but to express why this event has – and rightfully deserves – captured the hearts of millions across the globe.  (Sidenote: isn’t this the most beautiful wedding image you’ve ever seen?)

Sadly, people’s reaction to my talking about the royal family usually tends to be one of apathy or of utter opposition.  I’ve lost count how many times I’ve heard people say things like “why bother with a monarchy, they don’t do anything”, or even profess “hatred” toward people they don’t even know. In a way, the royal family seems to be met often in the same manner people talk about celebrities – they love to gossip, spread rumours, and thrive on stories that show them in a poor light. Just take a look at your local checkout stand, and you’ll see all sorts of defamatory headlines about pop stars or politicians, sold by the hundreds of thousands and making people throughout the world salivate. It’s awful, but it’s also a strangely intriguing behaviour – why do people try to tear down those in the spotlight without second thought to the fact that behind the magazine covers and paparazzi shots, these are real people with real feelings?

A couple of months ago I read a post from a wonderful writer.  It came following the Oscars, and really made me think:

It’s a night dedicated to people who love what they do, who pour their heart into their job at all hours of the day, and then get a bad reputation for it. They are the only people we don’t whisper about when we’re gossiping. Everyone else receives hushed voices, but for them, we gawk and squeal, and we forget that they’re someone else’s daughter or sister or son or husband. Someone else’s friends and families. They are real people with real passions. And each year, we expect more of them. We have the nerve to complain about the clothes they wear or the colour they dyed their hair. So many people in our world are guilty of the same indiscretions and yet we magnify their lives and their missteps and we forget that they stumble over all the issues that come with being human. We forget that they have to roll out of bed and go to work… that they’re real. They have big dreams, just like you and me.”

Prince William and Kate Middleton may not be movie stars, but they are real people who just so happened to be born into the public eye. They didn’t ask to be famous, they just happened to fall in love. And yet so many people in the world meet the mere mention of their names with an almost reflexive tone of scorn. Why do people do this to anyone in the spotlight? They’ll make judgment on people they don’t know, and spread rumous like wildfire without a second thought to bother questioning if there’s any truth behind them. They’ll jump on the bandwagon and spread criticism like the plague, without considering that the subjects of their scorn are real people with real feelings that can be hurt just like yours or mine.

To me, the Royal Wedding is a wonderful occasion. I love to celebrate anyone’s wedding, but there’s something special about something that only tends to happen once a generation. She’s intelligent, charming, and a beautiful role model and ambassador for England. He was raised by one of the most compassionate, caring mothers there ever was; his life was touched by tragedy and his grieving thrust across newspapers globally. Yet he faces the world with a positive attitude, does work in third-world countries, and has done a lot in his career to make the world a better place. Years ago, entire nations would rejoice at a royal event. People would hold parties and deck the streets and squeeze big groups into living rooms tightly around a little black and white television, celebrating the occasion, united and proud, happy for people that were synonymous with the country they loved so dearly.  There are still lots of people that do this – my heart gave a little leap when I saw the bunting decking the streets of London. But today, a large proportion of people seem quick to vocalise their apathy or distaste. They find reason for fault, create hateful Facebook groups, and the British security have to be out in full force thanks to the enormous range of threats to the royal family from protesters, terrorists, anarchists and anti-monarchists.

Do people really have nothing better to do with their lives than trying to take other people down?

It happens to a degree whenever somebody lands themselves in the spotlight. For every fifty people who’ll be happy for you, it seems certain that there’ll be five that will spread hate and gossip and try to rain on your parade.  A good friend of mine said it well when I last wrote about this sort of thing (after being targeted repeatedly by an Internet troll): “There’s always gonna be haters, and they only get more numerous and louder the more successful you become.”  Which is why I think it’s important to try to counter the negativity thrown carelessly about the world with kindness and support. Don’t join the bandwagon of gossip and rumours – if you don’t like something, keep quiet. Spreading hate isn’t going to do anything except make you look bad. If you’re in favour of something or someone, wear your support proudly on your sleeve. There’s enough pessimism and slander in the world already, and how are you going to feel at the end of your life when you look back and see that you chose to spend the time you were given actively trying to hurt others? Trying to tarnish reputations and ruin occasions of joy. I feel so strongly about this because I’ve been the subject of it, and I don’t want to live in a world where people are quicker to fuel the rumour mill than they are to stand up for somebody.

In two days, two good-hearted, loving people who just so happen to be under the microscope of millions across the planet, are going to celebrate their commitment to each other in a beautiful ceremony that will be talked about for years, at the heart of the country I’m proud to call home. If you have negative thoughts about the monarchy, please keep them to yourself and allow those who support them (as well as those directly involved) to have their day unhindered by hate. There is nothing worse than looking back on your once-in-a-lifetime day and remembering it for something other than the joyous celebration it deserves to be. Trust me. So, this Friday, I will be hanging my Union Jack, making the Royal Chocolate Biscuit Cake, donning fascinators and celebrating the Royal Wedding with my girlfriends as we wonder where on their journey the congratulatory cards we made for William and Kate might be. (Yes, we are secretly twelve years old. :)) 

Think for a second that whether you’re discussing a coworker or a celebrity, there are real people at the other end of your commentary. In this situation, there are real people with real feelings who’ve committed no crime other than falling in love, who would probably prefer an intimate celebration to a national event anyway.  And keep this in mind as you go about your day-to-day life, or your travels across the Internet. 

If someone passes on a rumour, question it rather than continue it. Stand by those you care about instead of keeping quiet while they’re under attack. Take a stand for positivity, and spread love in a world where it seems so easy to spread hate through text messages and cowardly anonymous comments. It’s easy to do what everyone else is doing, but it takes courage to stand up for what’s right. And on Friday, the decent thing is to show nothing but a spirit of congratulations, and allow the Prince and Princess-to-be to celebrate their love just like anyone else. Surely it can’t be too much to ask to allow them to have this one day?

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Judas at Easter

I was a little hesitant to post my thoughts on this because on blogs, the rules of conversation often seem much like those of dinner parties: don’t talk about money, politics or religion, and you’ll be fine. Considering the last time I talked about the latter I almost didn’t have a wedding, I’ve learned to tread carefully around the subject: but I’m also torn, because I’m such a strong advocate for being able to have a voice as long as your intention is never to hurt anyone.  Which mine has never been. I was talking with a good friend of mine lately about the phenomenon of cyber-bullying, and he framed it brilliantly: the risk of putting yourself out there is that someone may hear you. Should the fact that no one can please everyone stifle your freedom of expression? Quite the opposite – there will always be naysayers, but you can’t allow others to control your life when in your heart, you know your intent is fundamentally positive.

So. Religion, hmm? The reason I’m posting this today is that something has happened in the world of pop culture that has me fascinated. It’s Easter weekend this week, and Lady Gaga has released a single with the lyrics “I’m in love with Judas” chanted repeatedly over a thumping techno beat. The reaction from religious folks across the globe has obviously been negative, claiming she’s merely attention-seeking and trying to create controversy. In her music video for Alejandro, she dresses as a nun and swallows a rosary. In Judas, she refers to herself as a “holy fool,” a “fame hooker, a prostitute wench who vomits her mind”.  It’s not surprising speakers from religious groups are up in arms. “Because of her fame and the influence she has with young people, one would think that she’d learn to back off”, says Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, claiming her release of the single at the start of Holy Week is just “one more example of her ethics, choosing to stick it to the Catholics again.” But are people even bothering to read the lyrics? Are they simply conveniently forgetting that the majority of poems, works of literature, and most definitely songs use metaphors to illustrate a point?

To me, it’s not an attack on religion at all. Gaga has stated publicly that she is a believer (not that it should matter), and her last hit rocketed to the top of international charts with references to “capital H-i-m” throughout verses, along with the line “I’m beautiful in my way, because God makes no mistakes” sung proudly throughout choruses. I think Judas is simply using metaphor to make a record about falling in love with the wrong person – a subject people have been singing about for decades. “I wanna love you, but something’s pulling me away from you; Jesus is my virtue, and Judas is the demon I cling to…” How is this a deliberate attack on the church? I don’t see how it could be anything other than honest. It tells of knowing what the right course of action is but struggling to let go of something or someone you know is a bad influence. And haven’t we all been in that situation at one time or another?  Gaga’s creative director for the controversial video (out next week) has spoken up, saying that the Catholic Church shouldn’t be up in arms, since its message is anything but blasphemous. “I will tell you now, first off, I’m Christian, and my career is evidence of God in my life, and I think that most people are already thinking about Gaga and blasphemy and they’re premeditating the approach. I think they’ll be very shocked to find out how huge and really groundbreaking the message is, and how freeing the message is for all the right reasons.” Not forgetting that this all happened in the eighties already – I’m sure Madonna’s music video portraying a black Jesus and people dancing around burning crosses was the subject of just as much speculation then as Lady Gaga’s hit is today. And that didn’t stop her  becoming one of the most successful artists of all time.

I’m not the biggest fan of pop music, but I have to give respect to anyone who breaks down the walls of what’s considered typically beautiful, who uses their fame to stand up for the underdogs, who fights against prejudice, and who isn’t afraid to have their voice heard. People stifle their own thoughts all the time, in fame, in life, and even here across the blogosphere. They keep their opinions to themselves and go along with the masses for fear of how other people will react. Throughout history, if nobody had spoken up, half of us would still probably be deprived of the right to vote, an education, or a voice.  As a good friend reminded me recently, “you’ve got to take a stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.”  People really need to stop finding fault so easily, and hand it to those that actually have the guts to speak up once in a while. I love the verse in Judas where she pretty much says “if you don’t like what I have to say, nobody’s making you listen”. Maybe because I’ve so often wondered the same thing about Internet trolls. 🙂

Ultimately, Lady Gaga has inspired a generation to embrace being different, and has stood up for all sorts of oppressed minorities, helping people who were once afraid to be who they were become proud and comfortable in their own skin.  I think this is a great pop song, making intelligent use of metaphor to sing about a subject that’s relatable to all. It’s just as good as Bad Romance, and better than Born This Wa-hey. Enough with making mountains out of molehills, people – can’t we just stop finding fault and enjoy a decent record? But why the album cover depicts her inexplicably as half-motorcycle (I suppose quarter-motorcycle would just be silly), I’m still guessing…

What do you think? Are people just seeing what they want to see, and making an artist look bad to serve their own agendas, or do you believe the hype and think Gaga’s gone too far? I’m really interested  in hearing your thoughts!

Spread Your Love Like A Fever

“I have this dream of being best friends with everyone in the world. I’ve also always been a proponent of using the word “love” more in everyday life. People in general are just a little more scared to use it I guess.”

Those words were from one of the first e-mails exchanged with who is now one of the best friends I’ve ever had. We were just getting to know each other, and he surprised me with saying exactly what I try to live by – tell everyone that means something to you just how much they mean. It’s not always easy, though – these days, you need to be cool, calm, collected; develop a thick skin, hide your emotions, or the world will eat you up. I’ve always been told I’m more sensitive than most. I remember ex-boyfriends telling me to stop crying so much, friends telling me not to invest my heart so much, people telling me if I didn’t get so emotionally attached I’d save myself a lot of pain. I was talking to my friend about this again recently – I suppose we’d been talking about our resolutions and hopes for the year ahead, and in talking about my goal of filling 2011 with passion, it brought me back to the topic we’d discussed so early on. Going all in. Being as open and deep as possible, putting hearts not only on sleeves, but on lapels, buttonholes and pockets, too. Sharing absolutely everything you are without reserve, without fear of judgment. When the other person is on the same page, outside the realm of what the world may consider “normal”, that connection with another human being can be magical. No wonder we became such fast friends.

Less than 8 months ago, some of the people I now hold dearest in my heart weren’t even in my life yet. Now, I couldn’t imagine life without them. I’d like to think I went all in with them, too – and if you’ve been reading for a while, I tend to do the same thing here. Put absolutely everything out there because that way, the ones who stick around know the real you. I thrive on interpersonal connection – not simply having people around all the time, but having a select few with whom you can share the very depths of your soul. I think as we grow up, we tend to believe what we see all around us – that quantity is better than quality: more money, more nights out, more followers, and more Facebook friends equates to a more successful life. We skip the quality in favour of accumulating more quantitatively because that’s what’s normal. We’ll send text messages rather than picking up the phone; choosing the lifeless and ambiguous messages of 140 characters over the real emotion of someone’s voice. We’ll spend hours online rather than visiting a relative, or experiencing the world. We’ll get together for coffee with a friend and talk about work, relationships, or books, but we won’t talk about how grateful we are just to have them in our lives.  We’ll say our goodbyes and leave without a hug. We’ll post status updates and Tweet about everything going on in our lives, we’ll blog about ourselves and talk some more, but we won’t listen. We won’t use the technology created to make us feel more connected to actually… connect. As a group of last year’s troubadours so aptly put it, we are the Battery Human.

I feel so passionately about making the most of the time we’re given, knowing it could all be taken away tomorrow. So, at the risk of defying social normalcies and at the risk of having it trampled, I put my heart out openly to anyone who enters my life, and give it freely to those who stay. It’s taken a beating over the years, and it’s probably got a few more battle scars to come along the way, but at least, at the end of it all, I can say I lived without reserve. I used up all the love I had and spread it to everyone who mattered. Because what good is having amazing people in your life if you never let them know how you feel? If your best friend, or a beloved relative were to be gone tomorrow, if they’ve had any sort of impact on your life at all, if they’ve ever been there for you through something tough, or if they’ve ever encouraged to believe in yourself or follow a dream… the best way to say thank you is to just be honest. Pour your heart out to your loved ones and let them know how much they mean. One of mine did this for me, recently, and it left me totally speechless; all the words I couldn’t voice bundled themselves together, launching themselves in streams from my eyes instead. A very dear blog friend I’ve yet to meet in person did it again today. Words truly cannot do justice to the feeling of warmth and appreciation I felt in reading these posts. People don’t do that, these days, tell each other they’re loved. People keep their hearts in cages locked tight by the fear of what other people may think. And to see someone offer such displays of friendship and emotion felt incredible, and I was left with a sense of deep gratitude, of true blessing, of real worth, and a sense that I want absolutely everyone I care about to feel the same way. They say that to the world, you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world. If there’s anyone like that in your life, why not take a moment to tell them?

I hope my friend continues his dream of being best friends with everyone in the world. If you have a friend, why not give them the very best you can? I hope he continues to use the word “love” more in everyday life, too. I’m going to try to do the same. People may be scared to use it, but I don’t think anybody in the world wouldn’t appreciate… feeling appreciated.

Shelving the Past

Recently, I had the pleasure of going for dinner with one of the most insightful people I know. We only see each other once every few months – he’s often travelling, touring, or teaching yoga day and night – but every time we get together I leave feeling incredibly uplifted and inspired.  We got onto an interesting topic last time we got together – the past – and how we have the tendency to hold onto it.

People always say the past helped them become the person they are today. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that – the past can be full of hardships and mistakes, as well as growth, deepening of relationships, and happy memories. Of course the past helps us become who we are today. But there’s a difference between allowing it to shape who you are, and allowing it to define who you are. We all have the choice between looking back on past experiences and archiving them in the vault of memory, or pinning them to our proverbial jackets for all to see in every walk of life.

We talked about the things from the past we’re guilty of dragging around with us into our present. Traced negative self-talk back to events in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood to find its origin. As you know, two of my bigger struggles are speaking in front of people, and dealing with how I look. The self-destructive things we allowed to be planted in our youth and grow into poisonous weeds that tangle around our every thought, holding us back from reaching our true potential.  I was in the middle of trying to explain how it feels to have a continual loop of self-detriment running through your head, worrying that the nerves and thoughts about yourself on the inside are going to spill out somehow and everyone will see exactly the same things you do – when my friend interrupted me with a smile.  “But they’re just stories“, he laughed.  “They’re all just stories we choose to keep telling ourselves; they’re not real.”

I’ve always been an advocate for the power of choice. Not blaming things or other people when things are crappy. Not waiting for tomorrow to roll around before deciding it can be a good day after all. Choosing hard work and determination over fear of failure. Questioning rumours rather than contributing to their continuation. Swallowing pride over perpetuating a grudge. But I’ve always had trouble with choosing not to beat myself up over things out of my control. I listen to the voice that tells me I’m not fun or attractive. That I’m too quiet, too awkward, too ugly. I let it hold me back in social situations and I allow it consume my thoughts. But after this conversation with my friend, I felt I really could let go. Close the door on the past experiences that lead to these unhealthy thinking patterns, acknowledge them for what they are – “just stories” – and choose to let go of them.

All sorts of things can happen to us throughout life, and unfortunately, as often as there will be people to lift you up and enrich your life, there will be people who hurt you. They may be deliberate, or they may be completely unintentional – but they can fester in the mind and take over a lifetime if you choose to let them. But there’s something incredibly powerful when you come to the realisation that you are choosing to perpetuate those stories you tell yourself, and you can choose to close the door. When you realise that you’ve had the choice all along to either be defined by the past, or keep it where it belongs. The past definitely shapes who we become, but it doesn’t need to accompany us day in, day out, telling us who we “are”. The danger comes when we start to believe we are the sum of our past mistakes and hardships. Labelling ourselves “awkward,” “ugly,” or “a sufferer” of this or that. If we keep telling ourselves the same stories, we start to believe it.  And in doing so, how we limit what we can become.

When you realise you alone have the power over those stories, it can be as simple as closing the book. Storing it on a shelf somewhere, always there, but up high and out of immediate sight – instead of carrying it everywhere, a heavy weight dragging down on the soul.  Choose how much credit you give those stories, and ask yourself if they’re really worth perpetuating. Choose to learn from the past, and then to let it remain there.  Choose whether you want to limit yourself by others’ definitions, or to let go of them and set yourself free. None of us need be a slave to stories.

Is there a book you’re dragging around with you that would be better off shelved?

Acceptance: A small step towards ‘A New Earth’

I’ve mentioned this book for a little while now, and lately, I’ve been making an extra effort to really live out the teachings.  Well maybe not “teachings”; ideas? Concepts? I must admit I was a bit of a new kid on the Eckhart Tolle block, having heard of his huge association with Oprah (is there something wrong with me if I’ve never seen an episode?), and shrugging it off as “another self-help author”, but A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose was introduced to me early in the summer, and with the path I feel I’m being called to be on lately, it was rather aptly timed indeed.

I cracked open the book one night in the bath. I don’t often take baths because I get terribly bored, and I don’t often read in the bath because everything gets terribly soggy, so this was slightly out of the ordinary. However the experience remains ingrained in memory – I’d put some on pretty music, lit some candles, and had the window half open so a breeze seeped in, refreshing against the steam coming off the bubbles. I’d grabbed a bath pillow and began to read. At first, I was a little hesitant. The first chapter was about the first flower ever to appear on planet Earth hundreds of millions of years ago, opening up to receive sunlight, marking an evolutionary transformation in plantlife. A bit New Age, if you ask me, but I kept reading the analogy, in which he refers to human consciousness – a similar transformation, which has already begun, which, if every human being decided to focus on purpose and awareness, be free of the Ego, and of all the self-imposed limitations and negativity perpetual thinking gives rise to, could bring about a “New Earth”.

Once I passed the first chapter, however, I was hooked. I carried it everywhere and found myself sitting in coffee shops nodding along as I highlighted something on pretty much every other page, wishing there was a way I could steal the words away from the page and install them into my brain where I’d forever be guided and reminded. It’s not a religious book, but the author makes reference to a variety of different religions and spiritual practices, not to add to the reader’s beliefs, but to create food for thought, and hopefully, a shift in consciousness.

One of the main notions of the book is that we, as humans, are trapped in our own minds. Our Ego wants to have an identity, whether good or bad, and we are also conditioned to thinking that if we have more, then we will be happy. Along with thinking and wanting more, comes focusing on lack – lack of money, of friends, of attractiveness, of happiness…  “If the thought of lack – whether it be money, recognition, or love – has become part of who you think you are, you will always experience lack. Rather than acknowledge the good that is already in your life, all you see is lack. No matter what you have or get, you won’t be happy. You will always be looking for something else that promises greater fulfillment, that promises to make your incomplete sense of self complete and fill that sense of lack you feel within.”

The author explains, in a way different from other books I’ve read, that it’s not the Ego itself that is bad, but our identification with it that causes the most suffering. If we identify ourselves by our jobs, our possessions, even on the flipside, by our suffering or hardship – as long as we perpetuate that identification, we are not simply living in the present and accepting things as they are.  The goal is to raise personal awareness of our behaviour, allowing ourselves to simply be in the present moment, rather than getting caught up in in thinking about and reacting to it, or living by the roles we give to ourselves. And aren’t we all guilty of that?

The way we go about the world is shaped, in large part, by our past experiences, by our inner critic, by our fears and by worrying about what other people think of us. We act differently, though maybe only very slightly, around different groups of people. We may act one way around our partner, another around his or her family, another around our boss, and yet another around our closest friends. We ever so subtly fall into different roles shaped by how we want society to see us, or by past hurts or anxieties. Some may have a heightened sense of Ego, going about the world in fancy suits and filling homes with expensive decor, fuelled by the notion that more is better. Some may have latched onto the other end of the spectrum, carrying the weight of their past hardships or present sufferings with a frown on their face and a cloud over their head. The book teaches it doesn’t matter what identification we have with the Ego, as long as it has an identity. And the only way to truly be at peace is to recognise that, detach from those thought patterns, detach from the material things that are ultimately ephemeral, and detach from worry about things over which we have no control.

I took a LOT away from this book, but most of all, I took away the power of awareness and acceptance.  The moment you notice a pattern of behaviour that is no longer working for you, recognise it, change it, and you are on your way to becoming more enlightened and living a more purposeful existence. Instead of allowing reactive emotions to take over in response to unfavourable life events, accept them as they are. Instead of feeling wronged or holding on to grudges, just let them go. And, though painful sometimes, accepting the path a loved one has chosen even though you may believe it’ll end badly. People ultimately only learn from their own mistakes.  There was a great section about peace vs. drama which is something I think we can all identify with, explaining that though we all want peace, there’s something in all of us that also wants drama and conflict. We’re not acknowledged, we have an argument, we feel wronged somehow, and the mind races to defend itself, attack, or blame someone else.

“Can you feel that there is something in you that is at war, something that feels threatened and wants to survive at all cost, that needs the drama in order to assert its identity as the victorious character within that theatrical production? Can you feel there is something in you that would rather be right than at peace?”

The Ego would rather be right than at peace, and the only way to lessen its grip is to become aware of it – the voice in our head that “comments, speculates, judges, compares, dislikes… etc.”  You can catch yourself in these situations, and choose to accept and be happy, rather than insisting at any cost you be right. Since I finished the book I’ve caught myself out slipping into old thought patterns that are ultimately Ego-driven – reacting in arguments, becoming upset over situations I can’t control, worrying about things, and beating myself up. None of this does anyone any good and is never going to pave the way to being at peace, and I think this book should be mandatory reading for everyone who’s concerned at all about finding happiness, and living a good life of intent, peace and purpose. If everyone lived by the teachings of this book, the world would be a very different place indeed. But as with all big movements, they start with a small step. And if I can introduce someone to this reading material and it impacts them the way it did after it was introduced to me… then I’d like to think this was mine.

Making a Dent

Before I properly get into today’s post, I just want to say a huge thank you to those who reached out and offered words of understanding and encouragement on my last post. I want to write back to each and every one of you because none of you had to say anything, but like good friends, you did, and I have to say how much it meant to me. I’ve been a little absent around the blogosphere this past week because of the biggest arts festival ever happening right now  (post to come!), and friends in from out of town who I get to see once per year… but I will definitely be visiting/writing/commenting back to each of you very shortly. Just had to say how thankful I felt last week to be part of such a caring community. ❤

Now, onto a new week! Close to six months ago, I had the honour of writing something for ItStartsWith.Us. I wrote about the definition of the word “success” and how we choose to measure it in our own lives in ways other than monetarily.  If you’re not familiar with the project, ItStartsWith.Us is a group of people across the globe headed by the wonderful Nate St. Pierre, who band together and make it a focus to have a positive impact in the lives of those around them. “Each and every one of us has the ability to change the world by touching lives in this way. And when we hear stories about the positive things others are doing, we become more aware of the opportunities we have to make a difference for the people around us.”  The team get an email each week with a small, 10 or 15 minute “mission” – things like buying coffee for the stranger in front of you, writing a letter, baking cookies for your neighbours, or telling someone how much they mean to you. Little things that, when you think of them happening all over the globe, add up to make this world a little bit better. “Being a part of the team is always free, and there’s no pressure to do the weekly missions. Do them if you want, skip them if you want. I like to think of them as a gentle reminder to keep our eyes open to the good we can do as we walk through this life.”  It’s a project like this that makes me proud to be involved.

Think about what would happen if our mission for the week was to write a brief letter of encouragement to a terminally ill child. We pick the biggest special-needs hospital in the country . . . and every child in that hospital gets 50 letters. What will every postal worker say when they deliver 20,000 letters to that hospital in a single week? What will all the staff members say when they see the effect on all the kids? What will all the family members say when they’ve been touched with such a demonstration of love from strangers? None of these people will ever forget what happened to them that week, and they will tell the story to others for the rest of their lives. And what did it cost you? 15 minutes and the price of a stamp.

There’s also the Love Bomb project – a division of ISWU -a group that comes together every week to drop hundreds of “love bombs” (in the form of a simple comment left on a blog) on those who need it most. This has only been going a few months, but so far, we’ve dropped love bombs on new parents whose newborn babies have passed away; young girls whose everyday life is a battle against depression, the inner critic relentlessly professing her worthlessness; someone living with MS in enormous fear of its worsening; and, recently,a beautiful young artist recently diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative and incurable eye disease that will eventually cause her to lose her vision altogether.  We know it’s near impossible to take away the pain and distress of situations like this – but when someone suffering sees an outpouring of hundreds of comments from around the world, telling them someone cares, it really makes a difference.  Signing up and taking part only takes five minutes per week, and I’d love if some of you hopped on board with this. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how I needed to prioritise my time and make sure I was spending it on things that mattered – and let’s face it, how much time do we spend online surfing Facebook, reading posts, updating statuses…? We’re bloggers. We live online. We can all take five minutes out of our week to make a difference in the life of someone less fortunate than us.

I’ve been part of the blogging community for a little while now, and I feel blessed to belong to a group of such kind, generous, compassionate and determined souls. I’ve seen people band together in the past for a good cause, and it’s been nothing short of astonishing.  The support this community shows for each other is remarkable – through the good, through the bad, and through the downright competitive!! If ItStartsWith.Us and the Love Bomb Project aren’t already on your radar, and I know many of you are already on board, please take a second and think about how little effort it can take to contribute toward making a huge difference in someone’s life.

Find out more about the projects here and here.