By Abby Boak
Sometimes I hate social media. But occasionally I utterly love it.
“Anyone free to give out free cookies with me next Saturday as part of #belovelyday?”
YES. Me! I’m in! Tell me a time and a place.
Saturday 23 January 2016 at the Brink in Liverpool, I met my friend in her lovely orange camper van. She’d baked over 300 gingerbread cookies to give out as part of Be Lovely Day 2016 and I volunteered to help (help to give them out; her baking skills are FAR superior!). We decided to drive a little, hanging out the window of her van, then park on Bold Street and walk up and down with our free, multi-coloured, sugary wares.
Sally and I enjoyed ourselves and each others’ company, and marvelled at the wonderful city we live in. However, there was a concerning detachment from a large proportion of our fellow Scousers that became more apparent as time progressed. There were three categories of people we met; the open, the reticent and the closed.
Open people greeted us with joyous smiles and cries of “How lovely!”, “Thank you!”,
“What a great idea!”. They dove into the colourful array of gingerbreads with child-like abandon and kissed and hugged us freely. Mostly they were in small groups, and a high proportion were with children. There was the original sole wanderer who smiled and coyly thanked us, and one or two who were evidently down on their luck and needed a sugar fix (we insisted of course that they had extra).
Reticent people fell into two categories- those who wanted to say yes but needed a little cajoling, and those who were just sceptical. The former had that little twinkle in their eye – the one that said their minds were telling them “This is a situation I’ve never come across before and I need to be wary”, but their hearts were screaming “OH YEAH! FREE COOKIES!!!!!!!!!!! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR???!!! Most of these were women, and many commented about their figures or what they had already eaten. With some gentle persuasion (read mild bullying) they smiled and conceded that these gingerbread were more than exceedingly good.
The sceptics were mostly men; “What have you put in them?”, “Are they laced?”, “What are you selling to me?”. Again, Sally and I spent a little while explaining what Be Lovely Day was and giving never-ending smiles and reassurances, and most of them ended up tasting her delightful biscuits.
However, a fair few people had that reflex response of “NO”, looking straight down at the pavement and scurrying along, or even after our patient explanation still were too wary to partake in the lovely gesture.
I’d like to state for the record that I am not judging those people who did not take our goods – everyone is on a different path, and for all I know, there could have been extremely urgent and pressing things they had to do.
It is more that I am concerned for them, for us as a race, for our beautiful city. It reminded me of the disconnect that our modern world creates between people. People are generally too wary of talking to others, people are pressured, people are too cut off, too isolated and have too much going on in their own heads to be fully open to experiencing what is actually going on around them.
One of the criticisms of Be Lovely Day is that you should be lovely EVERY day. Whilst I agree in principle, this little outing gave me a real insight into why we need opportunities to do kind things for strangers (or indeed people we do know) for no ulterior motive than being kind.
The more random acts of kindness that happen to a person, the more open they will be to realising that their fellow humans are just like them, trying not to suffer, searching for happiness, and wanting to find meaningful human connections in their day to day lives.
So go out, spread the word, and feel free to be the lovely person that you are!