Last month Julz told us her story of how a random act of kindness eased the pain of losing her baby daughter and this month Miriam from Faith Mummy tells us how one random act of kindness from her childhood changed the course of her life forever.
My family were poor when I was growing up. My two brothers, my sister and myself lived in a council flat with no central heating and threadbare carpets. My dad was on and off benefits and my mum was ill with a breakdown. We knew no different and we were happy. We were loved and treasured and we knew it. What we lacked in physical possessions was more than made up for in time with family and an outpouring of love and faith.
However one time of year was especially difficult: Christmas.
How do you find money for gifts for four children when you barely have enough for your weekly grocery shop? My parents had a strong Christian faith and one particular year they sat us all down in the living room and asked us what one thing we would really like for Christmas. We knew not to be greedy but we also longed to be like our friends as every child would. I wish I could remember what my siblings asked for but I vividly remember with all my heart what I asked for that day.
What I had no idea about then was that that one gift would change the direction of my entire life.
I asked for a black doll. I was almost 9 and loved playing mum. My younger brother had been born on my birthday almost two years earlier and I had been his mum to him as the oldest girl which meant I longed to be a mum myself. All I played with was my dolls. For some reason I craved a black doll. I had not seen them on TV nor had my schools friends got one, it was just something I sort of invented but really really wanted.
I was hoping my parents were going to tell us that night that we might not get anything else that Christmas but they would buy the one thing we wanted. They didn’t. They said they were not going to be able to get us anything that year but they had a plan. What 8 year old does not trust their parents? With firm belief and strong voices they had us all hold hands and PRAY for that one item we really wanted.
They told us Santa could not bring us it but God could.
You may be thinking right now that this was a cunning plan by my parents to get us to believe in their God, to almost brain wash us into having their beliefs, to con us even.
I know it wasn’t.
I saw the tears in my mums eyes as we prayed together. I know without a seconds doubt that my parents genuinely were risking everything. They really had no money. I was my mums carer and did the weekly grocery shop so I saw the reality of life on benefits.
Every year we had my extended family for Christmas dinner. My mum explained how this would be our Christmas. Gran and grandpa and our uncles would come over on the big day and we would eat together and then play cards, watch TV and play together. We would have gifts from them and all would be ok.
But I still wanted that black doll.
On Christmas Eve I helped my mum get everything ready for the next day. The soup was made, the plates and cutlery set out and the box of crackers opened. Then I helped her down to the bottom of the stairs to our own front door where we locked up for the night. I checked the door as we always did then headed uk to the top glass door where we also put the security lock on and headed to bed.
The next morning I woke with a huge excitement.
My room was the nearest to the top door and as I came out of my bedroom I noticed a shadow behind the glass door. I ran to tell my parents, terrified someone was there.
We walked down the hallway anxiously and unlocked the top door.
What we found there that morning will forever stay with me.
We found a big bag full of gifts. Each one wrapped and named. Every single person who was coming for dinner had a gift including my parents.
You can probably already guess what happened next!
Yes, each and everyone of the four children had exactly what they prayed for.
So I know the sceptics now feel well of course my parents did this like so many parents do with things like the tooth fairy, Santa and so on year in and year out. Except I know different. I heard my parents cry over the fact they could not buy their children gifts. My mum was far too mentally unwell to plan anything as elaborate or skilful. My dad would never have ever bought the adults anything nor would he have even remembered who was all coming so there was no way he had anything to do with it.
I believed then and I believe now: this was a massive random act of kindness that changed my life.
This was 32 years ago and I resolved then to be a blessing to others like that stranger had been to me.
So every week I endeavour to do and be an act of kindness: I carry envelopes and put money in them and leave on strangers cars. I give the cashier in the petrol station money towards the next persons fuel. I send flowers to people without saying who they are from. When my daughter’s school had a healthy week I ordered a basket of fruit to be delivered for the staff room anonymously. I feed other people’s children every week. When my own children have outgrown anything I find someone who could make use of it and donate it to them. I volunteer my time to run a toddler group and to help out my daughter’s school. I help people complete disability forms to get benefits because my own son is disabled and I know how hard these forms are. I buy bars of chocolate and stick post it notes on with things like ‘you are beautiful’ and ‘someone thinks you are great’ and give these out to whoever I feel led to.
I want to pay back somehow. I even set up a giving Facebook page so if a child wants something and someone else has it they can post and give for free. I have lost count of the parcels I have posted to strangers! This week it was a huge box to America that cost over £40 to post but who counts the cost of a smile?
I am not rich. In fact like my own parents back then I currently live off benefits as my son has severe and complex needs and at 9 can not dress himself nor speak. Being his carer is amazing though. Living life at a slower pace means I get many more opportunities to give.
One gift from a random stranger has given my life purpose and now I want to pass that on.
With thanks to Miriam for sharing her story. If you have a RAOK story you would like to share then please do get in touch.