When I set my goals for 2017, I wanted to capture the spirit of a late winter walk I took with a dear friend in 2016. As with many people I know locally, this particular friend and I cross paths once a week but we’re usually (literally) juggling the burdens of the moment–children tugging at our arms or our attention, backpacks spilling open. And like many friendships, we’re often struggling to find time for each other. But this one morning with little planning, we went for a walk in the woods and we talked and talked and the hour we spent together felt like a day. And so, I said to myself (and I think to social media), can’t I do this every week with someone new?
A weekly walk with a friend is a luxury (and a logistical nightmare), too, but it was a luxury worth trying to do consistently. The idea of the weekly walk morphed into simply doing something nice for friends. But to resolve to just do something nice for friends without some benchmark felt like I would never try. So I thought to myself, why not try and do something nice for friends (which may include time with friends) every week. The goal was lighten someone’s load. Do something to make them smile. Add joy to someone’s universe.
This was not an easy goal to achieve. I underestimated the spectrum of things that could happen in life. And life has been rough this year for everyone, really. The state of the world was dragging many of my friends down. Others were going through changes in their relationships with spouses or facing possible massive career choices. No one was immune to illness, either. For the first few months of the year, I was truly paralyzed with what might make a difference to anyone. A surprise coffee or flowers on the doorstep? It seemed shallow and material. What was I thinking?
Some time mid-year, I stopped worrying about what I was going to do and whether I could do something material every week. Instead of trying to do something remarkable, I focused on trying to be present, to pay attention, to check in periodically. There were only so many surprise coffees I could pick up or flowers I could leave anonymously. And I was not full of enough inspiration for a grand gesture once a week.
And then late summer, I was so inspired by a sorority sister of mine going through recovery from surgery that I couldn’t resist doing something for her. And over the summer, I started testing out a zucchini bread recipe and making loads of little loaves that I would hand out to friends. And when zucchini season ended, I moved to banana breads and granola. And then I during the last month of the year, I sent notes to some women in my life who inspired me. Acts of kindness didn’t have to be grand gestures, I didn’t need a note of thanks, I just needed the people in my life to know that they mattered to me and that they inspired me.
Heading into 2018, I already know of friends and family near and far who need extra love and support. And I’ve finally figured out how to offer support with smothering (I think) and to show appreciation and kindness and I think the answer for me is simply act. Don’t wait. Just do.
So in 2018, I’m not setting any kind of goal. I don’t care about tallying up because now I feel compelled to give and make and do for others. And that’s not to say that keeping track is a bad thing, but it took paying attention for me to realize I’m doing for others already.
So now, to keep going….