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  • Carol Stobie

Halfway to Springtime

...and the time of kindness



Today, February 17th, we’ve been celebrating Random Acts of Kindness Day No, not one of my usual folklore-y ones. It’s a modern invention - and why not?

But first, I can’t resist a reference to earlier times and practices. You may have heard of Candlemas (2nd February), when all church candles were traditionally gathered and blessed; the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. Centuries ago, I might have been allowed to carry on celebrating the Christmas season right up to then (still would if I had my way), but modern work practices cruelly dictated the dismantling of my decorations by Epiphany (6th January). Orphaned Christmas trees were not to be uplifted until 3rd February, so perhaps East Lothian Council’s recycling services also observe ancient folkloric rituals.

But have you heard of Imbolc, one of the Celtic quarter years formerly celebrated on 1st February and dedicated to St Bride, originally an ancient fertility goddess? You might not see a lot of corn dolly-making in tribute to Bride, or folk leaping over bonfires to purify themselves, this week around North Berwick, but I did attend one or two fire-festivities in Edinburgh some decades ago - including some very colourful goings-on.

At a time like this, if you care for a wee ritual to celebrate the lengthening of the days, you could take inspiration from the ancient Imbolc tradition of lighting every lamp in the house around sunset, even for a few moments. Or you could simply light a candle to honour the Sun’s rebirth. Or you could sweep the house (not my thing).

But now for random acts of kindness day – it’s an opportunity to ‘make kindness the norm’, so think about how you too could celebrate, and not just today. You could even become a RAKtivist. The idea is primarily to perform an unexpected little kindness, such as leaving a kind note for the waiter who served you (not instead of a tip!) or sending someone a wee chocolate bar or a Good Morning text - you can find inspiration on the website, or make up your own.

My current kindness ritual is to compile a PowerPoint of vintage photos, culled and scanned from 40 years of friendship with a dear old pal who just turned 60. Not so random – in fact, an exhausting if absorbing trawl through over 120 (yep!) crumbling photo albums. But it will be worth it to honour someone infinitely kinder than I am, who has blessed my life.

When I conduct a funeral, I try to draw together stories of a life, of kindnesses given and received. It’s often striking how much kindness and grace is shown by those contributing, paying tribute and participating - and how much the departed person would have loved to hear the kind words said of them.

We might do worse than to find those words for one another now, before we’re parted, to say them out loud or to write them down for that person as a Random (or Deliberate) Act of Kindness.

Happy Random Acts of Kindness Day – or Year? - to you all.

Carol

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