Friendliness To Strangers Is Not A Crime

“Mornin’!” How often do you, if ever, pass by someone on the street, look them in the eye, smile and offer a friendly greeting? It seems lately that we are spending more time with our eyes cast downward as we walk than looking up at what’s in front of us.

All around us, politicians, lobbyists, protestors, and the news, are all-too-eager to point out our differences instead of our commonalities. Suddenly, we are all strangers deserving to be looked upon with suspicion. We don’t like looking someone in the eye anymore, just in case we see something we might not agree with. It may be true, or it may just be in our imagination, but by giving credence to those fears, we start making them true.

I was a volunteer at the Sydney Writers’ Festival earlier this year. During one of my shifts, I was sent down to the shuttle bus stop to assist festival-goers with bus tickets or act as a walking information booth. While I was standing alone at that cold bus stop, I would greet passersby with a smile and a friendly “good morning”. On many occasions, people were caught by surprise that a complete stranger would talk to them. Sometimes, they would return my smile and continue on their merry way. Other times, they would just look annoyingly back at me, as if I dared to interrupt whatever they were daydreaming of.

Well, I think we all need to take some time to look up at the big, wide world ahead of us. Make eye contact. Say “hello” or “good morning” to all the strangers you pass by in the morning on the way to work. Maybe give you bus driver a smile next time you get on, instead of just rushing on. Believe me, if your cheeks start to hurt from too much smiling, it is a good thing. Give it a try. Because friendliness to strangers is not a crime. Don’t let it become one.

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It’s OK to not be OK

IMG_20170511_182157_524You cry for no reason. You feel sad, more often than you show. You can’t get out of bed. You feel like the world is against you or that nothing is going your way. You feel like nobody would notice if you weren’t there. You feel anxious about the smallest things.

Have you ever felt like this, or something similar? I have. I know several people who have or are going through these feelings right now. I bet if you’re reading this that you have, too. Furthermore, I bet you know someone who has felt like this. They might even be sitting right next to you or in front of you right now, with smiles on their faces, chatting away breezily, and you’d never know anything was wrong.

20170209_120150It’s nice to see a lot more open discussions about mental health in recent years, but the stigma attached to mental illness is still strong. I’m not saying that having a bad day here and there means you are mentally ill. In fact, I think it’s perfectly normal to have a bad moment or a bad day now and then. Nobody’s life is perfect. I would tend to think there’s something missing in your synapses if you were just happy all the time.

I’m not an expert on mental health so I am not going to be prescribing any miracle cures here and I won’t be dishing out any medical advice*. A close friend of mine is currently undergoing chemotherapy to treat Stage 2 breast cancer. I have accompanied her on several occasions to her treatments. After her first treatment, she gave me a flyer prepared by the Breast Cancer Network Australia titled “Helping a friend or colleague with breast cancer”. In it, they suggest things like making a meal or baking a cake, or driving her to her medical appointments, helping her with her shopping or just a simple visit.

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Checking In

140611-ybb-check-in-app-banner-1170x315pBelieve it or not, we are already past a third of 2017. Yes, it is true! At the start of the year, I set a few simple goals for myself that I had hoped would become a lifelong habit rather than just the usual “New Year’s resolutions” that are usually discarded and forgotten soon after they are made. Well, to recap, here are those goals:

  • Worry less, especially over things I have no control over
  • Write more, starting with #PostAWeek2017
  • Explore a place or experience something I have not done before at least once a month

So, how am I doing so far?

On the “worry less” front, I am not doing so well. I would say this is a big “F”. Sadly, “adulting” is difficult. There are endless bills to pay, decisions to be made, and the realities of life (sickness and death) to deal with. At times, the temptation to stick my head in the sand like an ostrich is too great and I retreat into my imaginary life. But then the alarm goes off and I know it’s time to get up and remind myself that there is still a world of endless possibilities. I just have to focus on those instead.18209003_10155404189741454_3576625733858078065_o Continue reading

Well, Pardon Me For Putting My Toes Under Your Foot!

I have a lot of pet peeves. I didn’t realise just how many things annoy me until I started to write them down.

Leaf-blowers

Leaf-Blower-ReviewsWhat is up with this? They make a lot of noise. They blow leaves from one spot and scatter them to another.  If Dyson can invert the technology they are most famous for from sucking up dirt into a bag to hand-dryers, hair-dryers and bladeless fans, why can’t whoever makes the leaf-blowers just suck up the leaves like vacuum cleaners? If they already exist, then why aren’t all gardeners using them already? (Do you hear me, neighbours?!)

Where did you get your license?

Poor driving is a very broad category so we could be here for a while. Let’s start with people who don’t understand the concept of signalling. Is it really that hard? You use that little indicator stick “thingy” in your steering wheel when you want to turn a corner or change lanes. Pretty obvious to me. Also, even if you have trouble telling the difference between your left and right, all you have to do is know which side you want to turn your car to and indicate in that direction. The number of times I have seen people indicate left and then turn right, or vice versa, is astonishingly high. 

How about people who brake going uphill? You may think I am joking, but I assure you I am not. I can understand the need to brake and slow down when going downhill, especially if it is a steep decline, but the law of gravity generally means that, in order to progress up a hill, you need to accelerate to move upwards. This happened many years ago when I was a passenger in a car that was following one such driver. Whoever the instructor was who taught that driver was obviously asleep during the lesson.

article-2288497-1872C859000005DC-392_634x427And then there are the inconsiderate parkers. I’m talking about the people who take up two parking spaces by parking over their assigned space, those who park in disabled spots when they are not mobility-restricted, those who double park in driveways so that you can’t get out or those who park too close to your driver’s side door so that you can’t get back into your car. If you don’t have a sun roof, good luck getting in.

Tailgaters. Need I say more? Continue reading

You Had One Job!

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Photo courtesy oscar.go.com

When I was a kid, I used to love watching the annual Academy Awards. Even if I was probably too young to have seen any of the nominated films, the family would gather to watch the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. Bob Hope was a family favourite. And then Billy Crystal became our new family favourite. His opening numbers set a new standard for all award shows. Jack Palance doing one-armed push-ups on stage to receive his Best Supporting Actor award at the age of 77 remains one of my favourite Oscar moments.

The 2017 Oscars are memorable, too. You don’t have to have been one of the millions of people who watched it live around the world to know this. I haven’t sat down to watch the Academy Awards broadcast for a few years now. The show seems to go painfully longer every year as each successive host tries to add more “fun” into the audience experience. Here’s how I envisage their production prep meetings went:

Producer: ” We need to keep the show to three hours.”

Host: “We need to do better than the last host.”

Director: “We need to give the audience something memorable, like a few big production numbers, and maybe a prank on someone.”

Producer: “Great. Now don’t forget we need to keep the show to three hours.”

Host: “Now, the nominees are nervous and anxious. Let’s do something funny to ease their anxiety.”

Director: “Great idea. How about we throw the spotlight on a few other people who got snubbed just to remind the nominees how lucky they are to have been nominated then they won’t feel so bad if they lose?”

Producer: “And let’s not forget, we need to keep the show to three hours.”

Show night. Four and a half hours later…zzzzzzzzzzzzz. Continue reading

The Race To Be…Second…?

During the 2016 US election, the now-President based his campaign on the promise to “Make America Great Again” and on inauguration day, the newly-minted 45th POTUS declared he would make “America First”.

In response to this promise, the Dutch news satire show, Zondag met Lubach, decided to make The Netherlands Second. For the geographically-challenged, their campaign highlights all the best things about the Netherlands. (Author update: unfortunately, due to copyright issues, this video has been removed from YouTube. Boo!)

Shortly after the Dutch video went viral, the bid to outdo them began. The Germans joined in with their version and before you know it, a string of other countries around the world began to vie for this “enviable” position of becoming second – Iran, Italy, Luxembourg, Denmark, Portugal, Austria and the list goes on. Even my own country, Australia, decided to join in following the controversial phone call between POTUS and our Prime Minister. However, we threw in a twist: our message was less about “Making Australia Second” and more about “bomb Australia last”.

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Feel Good February

fgf-web-banner-1500x300Welcome to February, the shortest month in the calendar year. Summer is in full swing in Australia and doesn’t seem to want to let up. This means we have more beach and outdoor time. People are generally in happier moods when the weather is warm and the sky is blue.

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FGF founder Linda Pang

But moods are constantly changeable. In the current political and economic climate, we are hit by negative views and news on a daily (hourly may be more accurate at times) basis. There seems to always be something that makes us angry at somebody or something. It only takes one single word, action or inaction from someone to turn a good day into a bad one.

img_7366By the same token, it doesn’t have to cost you anything more than a brief moment or a simple gesture to show kindness to someone and make their day. And when someone is feeling good, there is a greater likelihood of that person making someone else’s day. It is on this simple idea that my friend, Linda Pang, founded Feel Good February back in 2015.

img_7308To kick off Feel Good February for 2017, Linda invited volunteers of all ages and from different backgrounds to participate in a craft morning, where we collectively brought our artistic and creative skills to create cards, paintings and jewellery which we will then leave at random public places to brighten someone else’s day.


So if you find little gifts around Sydney packaged with small orange cards, pick it up, keep it and pay it forward. Remember, it doesn’t have to cost anything to be kind! Of course, you don’t need to be creative or artistic to make others feel good. For more ideas on random acts of kindness or how to start your own “Feel Good February” (or Feel Good Everyday), go to their Facebook page or website. You can also find them on Twitter and Instagram. And please do share with us your own stories of kindness any time!

In the meantime, have a great February and hope you’re feeling good!

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