When we moved into our house a few years ago we didn’t really know the area very well at all. We had all sorts of plans to get out and get to know the place, and meet some new people. But nothing ever turns out quite as planned, does it?
We weren’t here that long before I gave birth to our son, and not long after that a series of national and international lock downs began. As a consequence, for quite some time our explorations were limited to our back garden, and the only new people we met were our immediate neighbours.
They are an elderly couple who have lived on our the road for a long time and they have taken great delight in building a relationship with our son. The husband in particular looks out for my toddler most days, and makes a point of smiling, waving, and saying a loud hello to him in an excited tone of voice.
When this began in the spring this year, I am not sure if Baby Magpie knew what to do with this kind of attention, but now it has become one of the highlights of his day. He will often look out of the window for our neighbour, and give a little wave to the space where he expects to see him, irrespective of whether he is there or not. When they are ‘talking’ face to face over the garden fence, Baby Magpie is a little more shy, but our neighbour stands and waits patiently for my son to give his little wave back.
I think as the last couple of years have been difficult because of the pandemic, and I feel grateful for simple moments of connection like these, that have become particularly precious.
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I’ve been finding the heat pretty difficult to handle this week. Yesterday afternoon our seemingly neverending dry spell finally broke. We had a little thunder storm and a couple of hours of on-off rain. I don’t work on a Friday – it’s normally my day for doing creative things. I was finding it difficult to get my brain moving on any thing yesterday. I wasn’t as productive as I had hoped to be.
Then the weather broke. I coukd see the clouds gathering outside, and then the rumble of near by thunder, a flash that could be lightning. I took myself out into the garden and waited for the rain to fall. And it did. Lightly at first, then big fat, delicious water droplets that soaked into my T shirt and covered the ground. I felt cold for the first time in weeks. Wonderful.
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I’ve been thinking a bit more since I wrote about gratitude last week. I feel like a lot things I have seen written about gratitude have a focus on what being grateful will do for you, i.e. how it will make you feel better. How and why we express gratitude to other people is often not really spoken of, but it is potentially far more important.
Wellbeing is closely related to the quality of our connections or relationships with other people. I feel like over our culture has become very focused introspection, on the me, and that can make this easy to forget. We are pushed to think about questions like: How do I make myself happy? How do I improve myself? Our interdependence is not always that evident to most people, and it can be easy to take the things that other people do to help us for granted. It can be relatively easy, in our increasingly individualistic culture, to forget that humans are social animals. We are biologically rigged to work together. None of us every really achieves anything alone.
One of the things I have been thinking about is being mindful of expressing gratitude to other people. In particular in trying to make sure that I am thankful to the people close to me, like when my boyfriend makes me buttered crumpets, or when my sister buys me pink swim fins for my birthday. I think that taking the time to show people you appreciate the small everyday kindnesses they may pass your way is possibly the best form of gratitude practice I can think of.