It’s February, the month associated with love and warm fuzzy feelings. What better time to reflect on how we can make a difference and pay it forward – not just on the 14th but any day it occurs to you.
My philosophy on this is simple. It starts with an Act of Spontaneous Kindness – or ASK – there can be big ASKs or small ASKs, ASKs that have a financial implication or are as free and easy as a simple heart-felt thank-you or even just a smile for a job well done. But, each and every one of them makes a difference to somebody somewhere. And, here’s the best bit, ultimately the biggest difference they make is to yours truly.
I’m sharing my own personal favourite ASK. It’s the story of Elena and just how much one small gesture has forged a bond that has led not just me, but my whole family on a journey to share some very special moments…
Elena arrived in our lives under the guise of Spanish tutor to our eldest son Jake. He now has a GSCE in Spanish and can tell you with a perfect accent what he liked to do when he was growing up in his home town. She was working in Singapore as an intern for the Spanish Tourism Board so the teaching was to help earn a bit of extra cash in the evenings. After a few weeks, she arrived for the regular lesson looking pale and exhausted so I asked if she was feeling ok. Her eyes brimming with tears told me everything I needed to know. She explained that she was sharing an apartment with some friends and wasn’t getting much sleep. The upshot was that we invited Elena to stay for a few months and even back then, the benefits far out-weighed any inconvenience. Jake’s accent improved even if the grammar still eluded him, Hana and Josh loved having Elena around with her stories of friends who we acrobats and entertainers and we all benefitted from watching shy, timid Elena blossom and smile.
When she left that Summer, she said that if she ever got married in future she would like me to make her ring and I smiled, very touched, though I doubted it would necessarily happen…
Fast forward 4 years and Elena, who had stayed in touch, sent a message to say she was marrying Asier, the love of her life, so they would not only need two rings but also wanted Hana to be their bridesmaid and for the whole family to come to Spain. And so it was that we found ourselves travelling last Summer to the beautiful medieval town of Trujillo and an unforgettable ceremony set on a small farm with the vast plains of the Extremadura as a magical back-drop.
And, as we gathered on a beautifully still evening with the sun setting in the background, Elena’s mother, Beatriz, paused during her speech and broke into English to thank me for ‘being a mother to Elena when she most needed it’. Even my most unforgiving audience, the two teenage boys standing alongside me, were moved (momentarily) by the gesture but it was so gracious it was hard not to shed a tear or two.
For me, it was a powerful lesson in just how much one small act of kindness can connect and ultimately what comes around goes around.
We will always remain hugely grateful to Elena and Asier and their families for extending such a warm welcome and for sharing such a memorable and special occasion with us. Being able to be there to help them celebrate such a momentous milestone in their lives is something we will never forget. I can’t do the accent as well as Jake as I don’t have a GCSE in Spanish but, ‘me gustaría decir un gran gracias a todos’
So whether it’s taking the time to simply thank someone properly or going out of your way to do something especially gratifying, do yourself a favour and practice ASKing nicely – and then remember to give yourself a big pat on the back for a job well done…