I love the ‘Five Smiles a Day’ initiative to reduce loneliness in our community. It connects us with fellow travellers on our journey who we have not yet had the privilege of meeting. I began this practice the very next morning, after first hearing about it, and interestingly by early morning I had already:
* met and greeted two very beautiful local residents and shared smiles with them before I even completed my seven minute walk from home to the bus stop; * connected with a smile, and then had a wonderful sharing with the female bus driver on our route that morning; * got off the bus in the city and connected with two lost tourists bearing maps and shared smiles, directions and hugs with them
… so I had already connected with and shared ‘Five Smiles a Day’ in the 50 minutes it took me to travel from home to my city clinic. Therefore, I have decided to raise my personal quota to ’10 Smiles a Day’.
Today is the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Big Issue in Australia.
There was a lovely story on radio this morning, celebrating the importance of this magazine which provides employment for its sellers.
A man who had had a series of life-shattering experiences had become intensely lonely. Finally he found work selling Big Issue and he through interaction with his customers and passers-by, he began to realise that people enjoyed his company and bit by bit felt confident to increasingly interact with others and began to re-build friendships.
The simplicity and profundity of a smile and a kind word.
Community gardens provide a wonderful context for connection with others. This one, in a high density part of Sydney, is particularly interesting. It is run by an inter-faith group as a seed bank, and seeks to bring together people of different backgrounds and faiths to share both an interest in gardening and a deeper understanding of each other through the plants that are important to each group.
Have been re-reading Stephanie Dowrick’s book, “Intimacy and Solitude”, published by Random House. Although it was originally published in 1991 its message that loneliness and solitude are different remains a good reminder. Being comfortable with solitude by be-friending ourselves is an important life skill. Loneliness, by contrast, is a deeply human physiological and social prompt to connect with others. Both are important. Solitude helps us to enjoy our own company. Loneliness prompts us to seek out the company of others.
The lift in my neighbouring apartment block is not working. It has been out of action for two days. Emma, a student who lives there, has walked up to every floor and knocked on the doors of all the elderly residents, offering to run errands if they need anything done.
The “Compeer” program run by Vinnies provides an opportunity to create friendships with people with mental illness, who are some of the most isolated folk in our community.
Here is the link if you would like to know more about this opportunity to develop a new friendship: https://www.vinnies.org.au/findhelp/view/113