Lent began last Wednesday. Many people will give things up for Lent, but over the years there has been a bit of a backlash against this religious tradition. Why give things up when you can take things on? In 2009, my friends and I did something called The Art of Joy in Edinburgh, and part of that was coming up with an ‘Act of Kindness’ that people could do each day throughout the time we held the various events and our art exhibition. Now that idea has become a thing through the 40 acts movement on social media during Lent.
Of course, us Girl Guides have long understood and applied the idea of doing acts of kindness. From the time we were Brownies we had it instilled into us that we should do a ‘good turn’ (that’s Guiding speak for what you folks now call a ‘random act of kindness’) every day. From 1991 you could stop me in the street at any given moment and ask me to recite the Brownie Guide Law
“A Brownie thinks of others before herself and does a good turn every day”.
Whether that was washing the dishes, making your bed without being asked (hey we were only 7!), helping a neighbour carry their shopping, polishing our school shoes, inviting someone to join in a game, welcoming someone new…oh the list was endless. Our Brownie annual would be full of stories of Brownies who knew just what to do if an old lady fell down in the street or our house went on fire or there was a new person at school.
Encouraging our children to do a ‘good turn’ every day might seem silly or no big deal. And some of things that counted as ‘good turns’ may seem trivial. But Olave was right….it helped us learn to think of others before ourselves.
It’s because of that I’m constantly wondering who made the clothes I’m wearing and if they had decent wages and working conditions.
It’s because of that I loved when new people arrived at school and I got the chance to be their ‘buddy’.
It’s because of that, that when there was a snowpocalypse in our town, we made sure our elderly next door neighbour was warm and had plenty of supplies. (We also made sure to remove the iciclies from her gutters in case she did venture outside her front door).
It’s because of that, that Girl Guides have often been proactive in campaigning for equality, rights, peace and friendship.
It’s because of that, that when there was a war on, girls across the country were raising funds and training up in preparation for the war ending to get to the countries more badly affected than our own and bring aid and relief.
And it’s because of that, I was able to spend months of my first year at university showing 18 year old lads (and some girls too) how to use a washing machine and do their own laundry. (Make negative comments about the old Brownie House Orderly badge and the Guide Laundress badge all you like – but at least I went to university knowing how to mop a floor, clean a bathroom, clean my clothes & get blue hair dye off a white sink!)
From a young age I was encouraged to think of others, to try, and to learn new things. I’m so grateful for those opportunities. I’m glad that I went to university confident in my ability to make new friends and live independently from my parents. I’m glad that the importance of engaging with politics and ethics has been instilled in me. I’m glad that I’ve been taught that there are things worth fighting for.
Thank you Olave… I think you’re right.