5th July 2023 – The importance of spreading joy

My mother, Frankie Lister, died unexpectedly six years ago, and I usually like to find ways of honouring her at this time of year. She was a teacher and an environmentalist who loved to share knowledge, but one of her most endearing characteristics was her ability to share joy; whether pulling faces, gifting jars of honey or apple juice, or dressing up in a hat covered with apples and bees.

It is easy to miss joy from our lives and become overwhelmed by the deluge of bad news. Climate change can induce anxiety. But we still need to live, and we need to be psychologically strong to tackle the path ahead. Gifting joy by little acts of kindness can be as enabling for the giver as the receiver. It can help us to look outwards with compassion, rather than inwards with fear.

An act of kindness can be as simple as smiling and saying hello. It can be a commitment of time in a voluntary role, or can be something that will raise a smile to people passing. 

One of my favourite places for free smiles is Portwrinkle; I love the flowers in the toilet, and the flower beds on the footpath to the beach. The volunteer-run butterfly garden at Seaton is another lovely example of community giving. Other things I’ve seen recently that have made me smile include a beautifully decorated doggie bar offering free water and dog-biscuits, a bug hotel adorned with cheerfully painted bees, a rope swing in a woodland walk, little figurines in a wall, a box of books left out with a sign ‘help yourself’, teddy bears in a window, a garden filled with sculpture made from beach waste and brightly coloured street paintings. 

On a grander scale I was delighted to take a walk recently along Longfield, a byway that runs from St Germans along the top of the hill, that has fabulous views for miles around. The farmer there has planted a meadow mix of vetches, poppies, cornflowers, pineapple weed and other daisy type flowers beside the track. It is wonderful to be able to watch the bees enjoying the flowers. A big thanks to farmers who make the effort to create beautiful wildlife-friendly landscapes; it really is appreciated.

Recently a few posters have gone up in St Germans encouraging villagers to put out flower pots and hanging baskets, to fill the village with summer flowers. I don’t know whose idea it was, but I thought it’s a great initiative; a simple gesture anyone can do. It’s not about competition, just about the love of making our local environment special. Because while we may not have control of what happens nationally and internationally, we do have a choice about what we create on our doorsteps.

So in a nutshell if you have a house that people pass, putting up something that will make them smile is a lovely gesture. If you don’t, then have fun creating something transitory in a public space. If that’s not your thing, then simply remember to smile and be kind. Resilience starts at home, and giving and receiving joy will strengthen the soul and help us face the ongoing adversity of climate change.

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