"Happiness is not so much in having as in sharing."
Last week I was in Melbourne for a few days, doing a talk about “The Purpose of Your Pain”, at an event organised by my brother Sacha. Wednesday the 19th August was my last day in the vibrant city and while Sacha and good friend, Catherine, went to watch the matinee session of The Lion King, I decided to enjoy the sunny day and do a few things that I didn’t get the chance to do during my stay.
Firstly, I went to surprise Helen, a family friend who works as a receptionist at SBS, which is located in Federation Square. We were organising a catch up but it wasn't working out and since I decided not to go see the Lion King, I decided not to tell Helen my change of plans and surprise her instead (because, who doesn't love interstate surprises from friends, right?).
I made my way down to Fed Square and waited for Helen to come out of her meeting. She was quite surprised to see me and in a flurry and fluster, gave me a box of Belgium Chocolates she had prepared for our catch up. We had a coffee at the cafe in the building, talked about our respective lives and then Helen had to go back to work and I had to dash back to top up the parking meter for the car because we parked at the wrong theatre. On my way back to the car, I walked past two homeless men. One was a youth sleeping next to the Seven Eleven on Bourke Street and the other was sitting outside the Paperback Bookshop, also on Bourke Street. For some reason I was overcome with the urge to share the chocolates with them.
So I topped up the parking and walked back to the homeless man who was sitting outside the bookstore. I in front of him and taking the box of chocolates out of my bag, I asked: "Would you like a box of chocolates?" I wish I had a photo of his face as it lit up! He replied "Would I?! I'd love to, thank you so much." Giving him the chocolates, I asked him what happened: how did he become homeless?
At first I knelt beside him but my feet were sore from the heels so I made myself comfortable on the cold floor. He even offered to go halfsies on the change, which was sweet and funny.
And so Anthony started his story.
He was married with two kids and was considering changing jobs to one that was closer to his home, where he could save on this and that. His company at the time said that they understand and he can come back anytime. So he started his new job and after a few months it turned out that it wasn't what he wanted. So he left, thinking he can go back to his old job. Unfortunately, they had already hired someone else. And from then things spiralled down and eventually one thing lead to another and he ended up on the streets.
What I loved about Anthony is his kindness and beautiful, positive spirit and wisdom and desire to start afresh, which will hopefully happen soon. We sat and chatted for 30 - 40 minutes until Catherine messaged to say that they were on their way. I gave Anthony one of my Butterfly business cards to inspire him on days when he felt low and when I got back in the car, I decided to give him a pack of Empowerment Cards so that he would had some words to fill him with hope.
I cannot explain his gratitude for those small acts of kindness. He was so thankful and so appreciative and made me realise that I could take a lesson from him and be just as appreciative when small acts of kindness present themselves in my life.
So if you're ever on Bourke Street in Melbourne CBD, check out the bookshop because it's really gorgeous and say hi to Anthony, trust me, he'll really appreciate it.
While we are on the subject of homelessness, there is also a really neat project that was founded in Melbourne called Streat. It is a mobile cafe run by homeless youths. It was set up by two women to give homeless youths the opportunity to work and study and break the cycle of living on the streets.
Another girl, Veronika Scott from Detroit, America, founded a non-for-profit organisation called The Empowerment Plan, where she recruits women from homeless shelters to make homeless people coats that they can wear during the day and that transform into sleeping bags during the night! You can check out the projects by clicking on their names.
There is so much happening out there in the world, and even if we may not be in the best positions to help the projects, we can be aware of them and spread the word. I gave Anthony the box of chocolates and talked to him because it could have been me on the streets instead of him. Life is uncertain and stability is a myth but kindness, gratitude and love and our attitudes are the only things within our control. The more we use them in our lives, the better life will be.
I’d love to hear about your stories about random acts of kindness. Please feel free to share them in the comments below.Oh, and have a wonderful week.