Acts Of Kindness: My Expecto Patronum

A couple of weeks ago, I crept out of bed while Manfriend was snoozin’ away and I went for a run. Now before anyone out there starts thinking that I’ve had some kind of personality transplant, I have to make this clear: I detest running. I spend the whole time thinking about how much it sucks, how much my body hurts, and how I just want it to end.

But for the last couple of months, I’ve been trying to teach myself to run without:

  1.  Dying
  2.  Whining constantly about how I want to go hooooome.

This is because I’ve made it my mission in life to copilot with Manfriend on his runs. I dream of the day when I can come running up over the horizon and AMAZE him with my newfound athletic prowess.

So anyway, I was running away (and I use the term “running” loosely here, because I’m a may-as-well-be-walking kinda gal), when I looked up and suddenly noticed how utterly beautiful everything around me was. I was running in the forest near my house, and the sunlight had started to filter through the trees after a brief stint of raining. As I trundled my way through the foliage, native parrots were taking flight before me and flying up through the shafts of light to the treetops—no doubt to get a better view of my stellar running skills.

So, as I am wont to do, I convinced myself that I’ve been wrong all along, that running is GREAT, and that I am destined to become New Zealand’s greatest athlete, ever.

Just as I was deep in Imagineville, musing on what words of wisdom I will impart to the person who presents me with the gold medal at the next Olympics (for the record: “Thanks, lol”)—my feet missed the series of steps that had suddenly loomed up out of nowhere.

Amazing athlete that I am, I took this sudden change of plans in my stride by sailing majestically through the air with my arms outstretched. Then I skidded to an abrupt halt, artfully using my face as a landing pad.

By the time I emerged from the forest, I’m pretty sure I would have looked right at home on the set of a horror movie. My t-shirt was covered in blood, I was torn and bloody, and I was carrying one of my arms at  a rather rakish zombie angle. I was clutching my broken glasses in my bleeding hands and (due to my lack of glasses), staggering around kind of drunkenly, peering crazily out of one eye because my face was coated in blood. I must have looked scary as hell.

As I was slowly limping up the road, wondering how the heck I was going to get home without scaring the crap out of people, a car drove by. And then, the car stopped.

Instead of screaming in fear at El Bleedo, the man driving the car and lady in the passenger seat asked if I was OK, and if I needed a ride anywhere. After looking over my injuries, the lovely lady said that we should just go straight to the hospital, so I was bundled into the car with a beautiful pink baby blanket (which I proceeded to merrily bleed all over), and she called Manfriend from her phone to explain what had happened.

And do you know what they did then? They stayed with me in the emergency department until Manfriend burst through the doors. I was so blown away by their kindness, but too woozy at the time to say anything much more coherent than “I’m sorry about your blanket!” And then they were gone.

Life lesson: I suck at running. Also, people are kind.

Luckily, the only real casualties from my tumble were my Olympic dreams and my poor old glasses. I had grazes on pretty much every body surface, but I’m secretly Wolverine so I’m all healed up now. The thing I’m taking away from this all is a rather humbling lesson on how freaking kind complete strangers can be.

It’s moments like that—when people who don’t know you from a bar of soap will go out of their way to help you—that make me realise that I need to revise my “everyone is out to get me!” outlook on life. Realising that most people are kind is an incredibly powerful antidote to my brain’s constant HIGH ALERT status.

It goes the other way too: If my mental illness is my own personal Dementor (those invisible creatures that suck all the joy out of you—guess who watched “Harry Potter” allllll weekend?), then acts of kindness are my expecto patronum. Doing kind things for randos gets me out of my obsessive thought cycles about how crap I am, and it takes my focus away from myself, and sets it on the people around me. It gives me a happy little kick to think that something I’ve done might have given someone else a little moment of joy.

Why do we only ever hear about random acts of cray?

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how negatively people with mental illness are viewed—both in the media, and by the world at large. We hear a lot about how mental illnesses drives people to do awful things like school shootings and murders and the like—and next to nothing on when people’s cray makes them do kind things.

In my experience, people with a dash of cray tend to be really empathetic, because they know what it’s like to hit rock bottom. They’re the ones who can say “I’ve been there, and it doesn’t feel like it right now, but it will get better” on the days when you’re a walking human sprinkler.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could start off a little campaign to start chipping away at the negative perceptions of mental illness? If we could turn “random acts of cray” into “random acts of crangels”? (Pun police: I am so sorry).

There’s something in it for you too: Studies have found that people who do one random acts of kindness each day for two weeks come out the other end less depressed, happier, and feeling more connected to people. While your kindness might be directed at someone you don’t even know (which means it’s unlikely that you’ll ever be “paid back”), you reap the benefits of your kindness too, because you know you’ve brought a little bit of joy to someone’s day.

This is my Christmas wish: For all the darlings out there to spread some crangellic cheer.

Crangel acts don’t have to be earth-shattering, they just have to be kind. Surprising a stressed colleague with coffee, giving money to a busker, and letting someone go in front of you at the supermarket all count: The Huffington Post has a delightful list of random acts of kindness you can try out.

Christmas can be a lonely time for some people, and it can be stressful for others. So this holiday season, let’s all try and put a bit of crangellic cheer out into the cosmos. I’d love for the world to know that crangels walks amongst us.

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We’d love to hear about your acts of crangel over the holiday period—tweet us @LitDarling.

Rebekah
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  • Always love your pieces where you incorporate the cray. And this made me laugh which is always an added bonus. Native parrots? Busker? I had to look the latter up.
    But I have also found that those of the cray tend to be more empathic and have an increased self-awareness that can be quite refreshing. Considering that 1/4 Americans have a mental illness, there’s a good chance that mass shooters might have a MI. But by no means is it the default and I think any chance we have to point that out should be taken. Great piece and glad you weren’t too banged up from your running adventures. :)

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