Here are 4 stories of when I was given something that really impacted my life.
When I had this idea of doing this exercise of listing out what we'd been given, my husband immediately said, "Well I know one that immediately sticks out for me" and it was this...
Many years ago, we were living in France, we had a toddler and I was pregnant about to have baby #2, our business was only just starting to make a bit of income but not very much, enough for us to get by with little else.
One day, we met up with some friends, it was a very cold winter and they pulled out of the back of their car, a HUGE bag of used Children's Clothes, it was absolutely perfect timing...
Since then we've always given away (never sold) all our children's clothes, toys, equipment etc... Everything they no longer need, because of the huge impact and lasting impression that act of giving had on us.
We've also received many, many more bags of children's clothes in return, from people in France, Spain, Greece etc... wherever we've lived.
This kind of giving allows you to make room for the new and helps someone in return, it's a win-win.
This one I was hesitant to share... I wanted these stories to be uplifting, this may not be considered in that light, but sometimes the things we are given may go unnoticed at the time, but the kindness of them still impacts us years later, this is one of those.
When I was 16 I was living in a small town in the UK called Midhurst, I had a job, I was renting a place, and pretty self-sufficient, that's me on the right lol - I also had a boyfriend, he was 18, and one night we were sat in a bar, a few days before my 17th birthday, discussing our holiday we were going on, to Ibiza on my birthday. We were about to leave, and were getting our coats on and he was about to take me home in his car, when a friend of his came along and said there was some trouble with one of his friends in town and he needed to come quickly. He said to me, "Wait here, I'll be right back and I'll take you home." I was waiting and waiting, I heard ambulances, police, all heading in the direction he was in, the bar was closing and I went to another one across the street where everyone was talking about a young man, who had just been stabbed and taken to hospital.
Long story short, that young man was my boyfriend, who had thrown himself in the path of a friend of his and another guy with a knife, to protect him.
There was a guy who I had seen around town, but we never really spoke or were formerly introduced, he came over to me and asked if I needed a lift anywhere... I accepted the lift and he stayed with me all night calling the hospital to try and find out what was happening.
Sadly we eventually discovered that my boyfriend died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
This guy gave me not only a lift, he gave me, unconditionally, his time in the middle of the night when I really needed it, I was a mess...
When we think of giving, the first thought is often to donate or give things, but what this guy gave me (and I didn't even know his name) was very special...
Think about what you can do to help others through difficult times, 2 decades later, that memory is still vivid and I will be forever grateful for what I was given by this guy on that night.
I was also given another gift, the realisation at how everything can change in a single moment by things beyond our control - if something is truly important to you - and you can make it happen, don't wait until tomorrow - start today. Whether it's contacting a friend, telling someone you love them, creating a bucket list, learning a new skill or getting your business off the ground, get it started.
So picture this, I have a Californian partner, Dale, we have a tiny baby, Theo, and I'm pregnant. We're trying to settle in France, for me it's easy being from the UK, but for my American half - not so...
Over the 3 months since we arrived in France we were communicating with both French and American embassies, going from town hall to town hall, trying to get help with a VISA for him to stay and not be deported, and it was tough. Everyone said he had to fly back to America and apply for a long stay VISA in California (at a French Embassy), essentially leaving me alone with a baby for an indefinite period of time, and another one about to drop... that just wasn't an option for us.
Doing all this in French was a challenge, to say the least, then one day the mayor of a village introduced us to a lady who was originally from northern Europe but had lived in the UK for years, her French was perfect, her English was too and she started to help us. One day she got a number of a place several towns away we hadn't visited yet where they sometimes handle immigration, we went into this office, knowing it was a last resort... We walked to the counter and our translator started talking, we saw the usual shaking heads, I could make out with my limited French she was saying the same as everyone else, that he had to leave.
Our translator confirmed this to us, and we kind of just stood there, I looked at the women behind the glass, and said to our translator, to ask her please to just ask others in her office and see if there's something they can do - anything, I didn't want to have this baby alone, or take care of my son alone, I was running a business and it was our only source of income. I had nobody to take my son when I went into labour - so we could either stay illegally, or they could help us to try and stay legally.
She looked over the top of her glasses at me, then my belly, then Dale, and then Theo in his pram, and she asked us to wait...
She came back out with a single piece of paper, handed it to us, and said if we completed the form, then we could start the application process for the VISA and stay in France while it was processing. Around a year later my husband had a 5 year VISA (resident card), ironically just a couple of months before we left France to move countries.
That day, we were given a chance that multiple people (and every Embassy) told us was "impossible", we discovered that with unwavering persistence, when you want something so badly, (and at that time you can imagine I wanted Dale to stay with me more than anything), then you will find a way.
Allow yourself to have hope and expect the best possible outcome, even when it's seemingly impossible - stay strong, and never underestimate the power of your will.
We also gained a wonderful friend in our translator, her name is Eveline, here she's pictured witnessing our marriage in France :-)
What better story to round off with, than one that combines the 2 greatest and most powerful gifts we've ALL been given in the world. Instinct and Love.
Many of you know the story of my husband and I, you've had a little insight into our lives these past few days, we're classic soul mates, and we need each other for so many things, to live, and to learn.
But what you may not know, is that Dale is a man of very few words, and the words "I love you" didn't part his lips until we'd had 2 children and we'd been married over a year. One day, out of the blue, in the kitchen he came out with it, and you could probably imagine, I nearly fainted.
My husband had his reasons for holding back those few little words, but I realised, he never needed to say them to me, I just felt his love, instinctually.
I would of liked to have heard them of course, but my love for Dale was never on the condition of hearing those words, and when they were said, they meant more to me than any other 3 words that had ever been spoken on the planet, and although I'd been waiting a while for them, I didn't feel any more loved in that moment than I had in all those years prior to hearing them.
Sometimes we place too much weight on words and not enough on true feelings, so today's lesson is to be still, trust your instincts, and "act" from a place of love, and see how situations or circumstances can take on a new slant for you...
I hope you've enjoyed this series of 4 stories, and maybe they'll inspire you to consider everything you've been given in a new light ;-)