When a Maltese woman found herself in a dark place around her mid-twenties, she searched for a way to pull herself out of it. Her findings: kindness is the perfect balm for the hardest moments. She spoke to Lovin Malta about her experience
Being stuck in a rut, for whatever reason, is a dangerous state of mind to be in. It's a slippery slope into a place of despair, a slope that's a hell of a lot easier to slide down instead of climbing your way back up. But recognising that you're in a dark space is the first step towards making sure you don't fall all the way down, and making an effort to find a way out can take various forms. The route back to peace of mind may not necessarily the most obvious one.
"The route back to peace of mind may not necessarily the most obvious one"
On my 27th birthday, I was feeling demotivated, uninspired at work, and almost verging on depression. Recognising the dangerous space I was in, I tried to fight it and found inspiration in a story of a British woman who celebrated her 25th birthday by carrying out 25 random acts of kindness, after also experiencing a low moment in her life.
The reasons people feel alone, alienated, or dejected very often can't be overcome overnight, but what I began to think was that at least I could try to change the many other variables in my life. I soon discovered that if the positive things can outnumber the negative ones, then tomorrow the negative won't seem half as bad as they were yesterday.
One thing everyone has experienced, whether consciously or not, is that great feeling of satisfaction and warmth when they selflessly did something for someone else – when you had nothing to gain from it, but as a result, you actually received more than you gave. With this sentiment in mind, I decided to Steal Like An Artist and came up with my list of 27 good deeds of my own.
The list was tough to come up with at first, but with two supportive friends in tow, we set off on our mission to do what seemed impossibly long. We visited the war graves at Addolorata cemetery, took animal balloons to all the children at Mater Dei, cat food to Rita (the University of Malta cat lady), made a donation to #NothingButNets, brought vegetables to the Ursuline creche, a box of food to the St Julian's parish office for a family in need, a ponsietta for an elderly lady with no relatives at Casa Leone, gave bags of pastizzi to the kind staff at the Accident + Emergency Department at Mater Dei, the Hamrun Police Station, CPD fire station in Floriana, doughnuts for the staff at the Blood Donation unit...and so many more deeds that I can't even remember them all.
You never really know how far the ripple effect of your kind action will reach. Your smile to a stranger can change his/her mood on the way to a job interview. A kind word can boost someone's morale. An encouraging comment can make the impossible seem possible.
I began to feel better about things. So what if I can't end world hunger, or cure AIDS? One moment of kindness from me and my friends could provide just enough encouragement to someone else to get through another day. The kind of encouragement I knew to be essential for anyone going through a tough time.
"You never really know how far the ripple effect of your kind action will reach"
So I've kept up the tradition and last Friday was my 29th birthday. The whole thing becomes more challenging year after year – not only because the list increases by 1, but also because I always want to take it up a notch, challenge myself to do something bigger and better.
I also have to fight the temptation to make a cash donation. Whilst cash donations are always useful, it would be very quick to log in to internet banking and make 29 bank transfers to charities which I empathise with. But that would be too easy.
This year, in a conscious attempt to complete these 29 random acts of kindness (on a budget), I tried to balance my list between cash donations (or buying food, cat food etc.) with other things that may cost less but will hopefully have equally or more impactful results.
So here's my list:
1. Bring a 'thank you' cake to the Police
2. Bring a 'thank you' cake to the Accident & Emergency Dept, Mater Dei
3. Give colouring books to the Fairyland, Wonderland, Disneyland and Paediatric Day Care Wards at Mater Dei
4. Pay it Forward at a Vending machine at Mater Dei
5. Bring a 'thank you' cake to the CPD Fire Station in Ħal Far
6. Bring a 'thank you' cake to the staff at the Blood donation unit
7. Bring a 'thank you' cake to the Lovin Malta team
8. - 12. Donate five #LovinMiliedChallenge boxes
13. Bring a 'thank you' cake to the AFM soldiers at Haywharf
14. Bring carrots, marrows and potatoes to the Ursoline Creche, Sliema
15. Pay it forward on a Children's ride
16. Bring a box of food to Fr Stefan, St Julian's Parish church
17. Send some cat food to Rita at UoM
18. Buy a ponsietta for an elderly lady at Casa Leone
19. Donate clothes to an Inspire charity shop
20. Encourage post it notes in books at the University library
21. Give a donation to Nothing but nets via JCI Malta
22. Write a thank you note to someone who inspired me
23. Pledge a half marathon for Cystic Fibrosis
24. Recruit a donor – help someone get a donor card
25. Send a Christmas card to Jess (Hero network)
26. Babysit kids for a young family.
27. Donate blood
28. Reach out to someone who I fell out with and try to sort things out
29. Make a bird feeder
This has now become the highlight of my birthday and I look forward to it as much as I used to look forward to a heavy night out to celebrate in the past. I recommend it to anyone who's going through a tough time, or anyone at all. It will make you and the world around you feel great. And that feeling goes perfectly with a slice of birthday cake.