Dr Julie Carter



Evening over home. Photograph by Jessie Leong

It was a warm day in August a couple of years ago and Mandy and I were about to go away for a couple of weeks on a climbing trip. The van was packed, we were ready to go, except for a few last-minute garden jobs. The greenhouse contained a crowd of cucumbers, the rocket was rampant and the beans had gone bonkers. If we didn’t harvest them then the plants would stop making more for us later in the summer, but what can you do with a dozen or more succulent cucumbers, and a mountain of beans in a hurry? The only thing I could think of was to rush out into the street and ply them to passers-by. I felt a bit weird, but the responses I got were very unexpected. I was taken aback by the unbridled joy, the grins from ear to ear, the sheer delight being expressed by people at being given free veg while out on a holiday stroll. I had little idea it could be that easy to make so many strangers so happy.

A similar thing happened a few weeks ago when we were having a clear out of the garage and had amassed a pile of no longer wanted objects; walking poles, footwear, bags, bits of bikes and so on.

“What are we gonna with this?” I could see Mandy thinking it would be shame to throw it out, and yet we ready needed to get rid of it.

“You could go round the corner and see if anybody wants it. The seats outside the café are bound to be busy.”

Mandy staggered out with armfuls of junk returning a few minutes later with a big smile and largely unburdened.

“The folk couldn’t believe it. Kept trying to give me money. They all seemed very happy.”

One advantage of living in a village where lots of visitors walk through is that there is an endless supply of people to give things away to.

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A wise friend of mine once gave me the advice that there are three types of interactions between people. There are ones where both parties are worse off (lose-lose), or where one party is worse off and the other one gains (win-lose) and then there the win-win ones. The trick, said my friend, is to avoid the first two types and concentrate on the win-wins.

Now, with it being nearly Christmas and with there being so much war and suffering in the world, it feels almost wrong to celebrate. But the truth is I can do very little to effectively advance the cause of world peace and to protect the vulnerable from the violence of our times. But maybe looking close to home I can do a little to make someone smile. Small acts of kindness are not just a salve for the conscience but an effort to restore respect in our common humanity. My experiences with the cucumbers and the unwanted gear have emboldened me to buy a box of treats to hand out to strangers when I go for a little Christmas morning run.

Go on then—I dare you to commit some random act of kindness or giving to a stranger over the Christmas holidays. It might be wise to avoid giving money directly as this, I have heard, can cause offence to some. If you can’t face approaching strangers then leave something anonymously on a doorstep or at a bus stop with a little “Dear Stranger” note. It’s just fun to give people you don’t know something for nothing; it’s not selfless—it really is a win-win.

Christmas can be a tricky time, and as we reflect on the year we have had, there are never just pleasant things to remember. Unless you are exceptionally lucky, there will have been challenges, difficulties and sadness too. Whatever you are feeling, I hope that there is something to raise a little smile. For myself, amongst other things I could berate myself for not sending blogs out for the last couple of months—but I won’t. I’ll do my best to keep writing next year and thanks for the gift of connection through the reading. Life—we’re in it together.

Wishing you Love and Peace

From Jules