Things are difficult, scary, I’m not happy and I’m going underground for a while. Before I leave though I want to share something with you. A remedy if you will.
I know that eating chocolate, icecream, watching happy movies, buying myself things, and all such other tricks one usually employs to divert a bad mood, will not change my situation. They are temporary distractions at best.
Instead, realising that others around me were also having ‘bad days’ which were not temporary mood bad days but, like mine, part of a string of days, turned into weeks, turned into oblivion. I decided that perhaps, if I could not help myself, I might be able to make someone else smile. Then maybe that would rub off on me, and maybe while I can’t feel thoroughly happy, maybe I can still feel good about myself and find some relief in that.
So with an hour lunch break ahead of me, another pocket of time where I would be left to my own devices to distract my thoughts. I headed out knowing I wanted to do something nice for someone else, but knowing not what.
When I was at school, boarding school, I would randomly buy flowers for my friends. Not for each one of them. Maybe for three of them here, one of them there. For no reason at all except that I liked the Gerberas and it made me feel nice. I was so happy to have friends, I wanted to make them happy.
This came back to me today and I decided on the same. I went past my favourite fruit and veg stand and got a bunch of sunflowers, which I handed out to my fellow misery guts, and which I hope through their bright yellow sunny-ness distracted their more miserable thoughts for a little while.
With half the bunch left, it occured to me that other people, strangers, people on the platforms, at the bus stops, could be having bad days too. For the last three weeks I’ve been walking around like a Zombie, frowning, slouching and probably to the outside world looking generally unpleasant. Think about that next time you see someone who looks nasty, evil, grumpy. It might not be their fault. You never know what is happening to people.
At the bus stop I gathered up all my nerve, pulled out the sunflowers one by one, and handed them to the random strangers around me. It was so much easier than I had ever thought it would be. Once I’d started it was hard to stop. Everyone reached out and took their sunflower and said thankyou. So simple. So nice. That’s how interactions with people should always be don’t you think.
One woman asked me what I got in return. I didn’t know what to answer her. I said ‘nothing’, then added ‘just hopefully it will make someone smile’. She asked if I was having a bad day. Yes. She then said ‘well, you have made me happy’.
Then her partner, whom I had also given a sunflower to. Said ‘Wait! We have to do an exchange… I have something really cool!’ He pulled out a back scratcher and handed it to me saying ‘it’s a back scratcher’ and his wife added ‘it’s retractable’. I laughed. They made me laugh. I took the back scratcher and said thankyou, wished them a nice evening and went to wait for my bus as far away as possible from the people I’d given sunflowers to. Some of them kept looking at me.
Many of them were on my bus. They carried their sunflowers on, and got off at different stops. But my favourite was a girl who got off one stop before mine. The first girl I had given a sunflower to. She stood there in the bus waiting to get out, then got out and stood at the bus stop. With her headphones in and her big bright sunflower in her hand, staring absently at the moving advertisements. She looked lovely. It made me smile.
I highly recommend giving sunflowers to strangers.