Insights • Inspirations • Destinations • Design

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

2012: The Year of Kindness

If there's one thing that makes me quietly annoyed, it's when people are deliberately rude or discourteous for no reason. Unprofessionalism and inefficiency make me quietly annoyed too, but being inconsiderate is right up there on The Frown List.

I was muttering about this to my partner last week, and how the world seems to have become far more stressed and therefore more critical and curmudgeonly, when something happened to make me reconsider. Something quite profound.

Last weekend, mentally exhausted and missing human company, I grabbed the dogs, bought a bouquet of peonies and went to visit my friend Belinda for an impromptu cup of tea. (Remember how we used to do this?) Belinda used to be in the Moulin Rouge. Now she runs a beautiful blueberry farm and B&B near the Dandenong Ranges/Yarra Valley, which has an amazing Edna Walling garden.

(BTW, she's still stunning. If I had legs like that I'd be breaking into a Can-Can too.)

Unfortunately, their farm's sewerage system had collapsed, and so the scent of No 2s (poo) lingered in the air, with an additional top note of Oh-My-God for malodorous effect. (Actually it wasn't that bad; I'm just embellishing it for the story). And yet, despite the effluent, she was as calm as Obama.

She made me a coffee (she always makes me coffee – even though I've told her I hate the taste – and I always drink it cos that's what friends do), and we nibbled on cake and chatted about life and gardens.

And, yes, the issue of No 2s. As you do.

I told her I wanted to eventually donate a portion of the Garden Tour's profits to a charity involving either kiddies, animals or gardens. As some of you may know, I can't have children, and so this was my small way of giving to things I love.

Straight away, she gave me a list of great charities she donated money to. To my surprise it turned out that Belinda is a font of information on giving. My friend is One Super Generous Girl.

As the dogs and I drove back down the mountain, with the spring flowers clearing out our nostrils, I contemplated the value of friendships. And kindness. And cups of eye-watering coffee. Somewhere near the 23rd hair-pin bend, I had an epiphany. It was about the under-valued quality of kindness. Which my garden-loving friend clearly has in spades.

And then I started to reconsider my attitude. I started to think that perhaps the world really was kind but we just didn't know it? Look at New York. There was an unbelievable amount of kindness after Sandy hit.

And so this is what I think. I think 2012 may just turn out to be The Year of Living Kindly. The year when we remembered the value of such things. It's been a very long time since we've seen this much kindness in the world, but 2012 was chock-a-bloc full of it. Truly. There was so much kindness  floatin' around the globe that were in danger of becoming a changed society. Who could have guessed it?

So this year, to honour this year of unexpected compassion, we're having A Kind Christmas in our house. Instead of buying a tree, we're picking flowers from our garden, and giving the tree fund to somebody who needs it more. Rather than cooking up a feast, we're considering a light lunch. (Or persuading our families to do so.) And then donating the extra money to the Salvation Army. And instead of buying things on sale on Boxing Day we're going to find a kinder way to use that energy.

It's not much, but if everyone did one tiny kind thing this Christmas, perhaps people wouldn't be so stressed? And perhaps people would be happier, too?

Anyhow, it's Thanksgiving in the US this week, and so I'd just like to say a heartfelt thank you for the kindness you've all shown to this small blog this year. I've often thought of stopping (as everyone does), but all the wonderful emails I've received have made it worthwhile. Those emails and comments have touched me more than I can say. Sometimes they touched me so much I shed a quiet tear. Kindness will do that to you.

Try and be kind this festive season. As Janet from The Gardener's Cottage points out, "kindness is never out of style". So true.

That's all! Thanks for listening to this small post.
Back to normal programming later this week.

{All pix by me. Usual copyright jargon here}


  1. No matter what happens. Joy is always present.

    Take joy. Tasha Tudor's favorite line of poetry & how she signed off on many notes.

    When I decided I must give something nice every year to the humane society I considered CS Lewis. He said when we give it must 'hurt' us a bit, enough to feel. Amazingly my earnings went up with this new philosophy. And I decide every day to take joy. No matter what happens.

    Children are a gift of Providence, so is infertility.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

    1. Dear Tara
      This is such an interesting and thoughtful comment.
      I greatly admire our younger son and his wife. They work very hard with their family businesses but made the decision early on that they would always give a percentage of each month's takings to charities they'd researched. Because they have young children and are animal lovers, their charities are those that benefit chidren and animals. With a mortgage and their young family they have lots of expenses, but stretch themselves to give to others less fortunate. With best wishes, Pamela

  2. Dear Janelle
    This is such a lovely inspirational post. So many wonderful ideas on how to be kinder and more generous and sharing.

    It's also good if you know someone who is going to be on their own at Christmas, a very lonely time away from family and friends,to invite them to join you. Our sons did this in the past a number of times, including once an Afghan refugee whose family were all back in Kabul. He later wrote to say it had been the happiest day of his life - very sad when you come to think of it, that a day with strangers had made him so happy. Another time we had a girl who'd left her boyfriend because he was physically abusive and she had nowhere to go. Our son knew her at work and invited her to stay with us until she found somewhere to live (which did turn out to be a little longer than we first expected). We used to say that when they were young they brought home lost dogs. As they got older they brought home lost people.
    People were also incredibly kind here in Canberra after the bushfires that took several lives and destroyed over 400 homes. Those who had water and power invited people around to shower and do their washing. Garden centres gave away plants to people who'd lost their gardens. Dress shops gave clothes to those who'd lost everything. People were shell shocked for weeks but kindness was everywhere and so inspiring, as your post is today.
    Best wishes, Pamela

  3. ahhh what a lovely post. and such an inspiration to us all. we all think we have to do some big grand gesture to be kind when really it is the small, everyday kindnesses that add up and make the world a nicer place to live. thank you for the mention janelle. so kind of you.:) xo

  4. I agree, so often you have to search for acts of kindness yet when you do there are always sources of inspiration. Probably more people than you would think create acts of kindness to send out into a world of hostility where so many acts of blatant rudeness instantly dull and diminish them.
    I have done absolutely nothing towards Christmas yet have been pondering how to make it low impact environmentally and spread the festive cheer around....think I might lead an expedition to the bookshop and the children can choose their favourite take and put under the ABC Giving Tree. Rx

  5. What a lovely post Janelle. I so agree. I started to write a comment that I've just deleted back to here, because it became far too long, rambley and perhaps preachy. I'm someone that has a hard time saying no to things (I am working on that though....) so I'm often giving my time (as well as money) to causes and community groups. If everyone else did that too, I wouldn't end up overcommitting to everything. I think extending the hand of friendship, as Pamela wrote above, is also so important. We can get so caught up in our own lives, that we don't reach out to others when they need it, and it can be a little thing that can then have such an impact on someone else. xx

  6. Aah Janelle.. you hit it on the head again.. I just SO enjoy your very positive outlook..

    Jip...the jingle, jangles have started, on the tv, in the stores.. 'its beginning to look a lot like Christmas?.. what does Christmas look like?.. other than tinsel and a maxed out credit card to some?!!

    No, to me its in those very simple acts of kindness, unexpected, and impromptu acts of kindness. This to me is Christmas.. not sitting stuffing our faces, with even more food.. and booze!

    Its sharing from our abundances..As an old uncle once said.. "thanks for this new jumper.. but I don't need it right now.. I've got one! Take it back to the store, and I'll tell you when that one wears out."

    I wish you well in your 'Kind Christmas' this year.. what a lovely plan of action! x j

  7. I luff Kindness myself.

    Hooray for a pared down Christmas xxx

  8. Lovely, lovely, lovely!

    Positive!!!!!! Times three!

    Just what we all need right now!

    My friend who is on the board......(for 40 years or something; Dale Burch), of the 'Henry Street Settlement House"

    It is at the lower "tip of Manhatten"!

    (Completely lights out.)

    Her group......(I am crying as I am writing this!) delivered 22,000 meals in the first (24 hours)

    This could only happen in New York City. I believe the only place in the Universe.....except; of course, the suburbs.....especially New Jersey!

    A magnificent response of NYC to an enormous disaster!




    And our prayers go to people who still do not have electricity!

    I am hoping the "silver lining" is that the utility companies who have NOT KEPT UP
    with upgrades they were notified of (and no one followed up to check!) (YUK!!!)

    Crucify me if you like! However, government fell down on the job! We need MORE monitoring of things like this....(dream people who think that Wall Street and the "compounding companies" will take care of things on their own? Without oversight?" Dream on.

    (The government did not help to repair all the levees.....just the first of a very long list!)

    Here is my thinking. Our daughter who has lived in Switzerland for 8 years just moved back to Montecito!

    She needed major surgery to repair the internal damage of birthing "twins"! She needed major surgery....she chose to have it in Switzerland!

    She had this surgery; (and aftercare and follow up brought me to tears) (of joy and admiration of their system!!!) Switzerland; (not a citizen) for bill of $0!!!

    So; Switzerland and England have "socialized medicine"! Bad? I don't think so!

    Our libraries are "socialized"; our fire stations and police stations are "socialized"!

    (just google 'socialized'!!) It is not "communism"!

    The "stigma" that has been placed on "national health care" ; in my opinion is the biggest disgrace of our country's last 40 years

    We are way behind European countries!



    I do not get what is raising people's blood pressure!

    I went on a decorating trip to England and friend broke her ankle!

    All medical treatment; including crutches(for the way back to the US!

    The charge"0$)!!!

    I see only good in this!

    Very controversial....I do not want any feedback I just hope other people can see other countries....and be objective!

    Not sure that is possible!

    Great blob!!


  9. I agree with Janet above, it is the small, everyday acts of kindness that are so important. We can't all make the grand gesture but we can all do small acts of kindness in our own part of the world.
    Oh, and it is a quiet and simple Christmas in my neck of the woods, also! Bliss.


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