One day I was feeling very depressed. I could go into all the external reasons I gave myself at the time for this depression, feeling overwhelmed with family responsibility, feeling un -appreciated, addicted to negative thoughts etc. but the truth was I had temporarily forgotten who I really was. I decided to go to the beach. At least I could wallow in my misery there.
I sat on the sand and shut my eyes and began to pray.
Umm. Here I am. On the beach. Umm. I don’t feel so good. I umm, don’t want to bother you, but if you have a moment could you help me, please.”
It was not a very articulate prayer.
After I few moments I heard a sentence, inside my head. At first I dismissed it. But it kept repeating itself. “Give something away.”
I had left my bag in the boot of the car and had jammed my car key into my jeans pocket so I didn’t have anything to actually give away. And I was not about to give away the keys to my car.
“Give something away,” repeated the voice.
I stood up and began to walk. I passed a child holding her mother’s hand, carrying a tiny bucket and spade in her other hand. Cute.
Climbing the steps to the promenade I noticed a dog doing his business on the side walk.
Not so cute.
An old man, wearing a pair of shorts walked towards me and I raised the corners of my mouth, ever so slightly. He had looked away and then suddenly seeing my pathetic attempt to acknowledge him, he turned his head towards me, bared his crooked, slightly yellow teeth and smiled back at me.
I smiled as I passed a boy on his bicycle and surprise, surprise, he smiled at me!
I decided to create an experiment. I would see how many people would return my smile. At first it felt ridiculous. I felt like a fraud. Smiling and feeling dreadful but I smiled at every one who passed by. And every one that passed me, smiled back.
I smiled at a mother carrying her new baby in a pouch on her chest. I smiled at a man munching on a bag of chips as his mongrel dog lie peacefully beside him. I smiled the cyclist who rode past me and at the old man who looked a miserable as I felt. And then he smiled too. The strange thing was however, I was having fun, in spite of myself.
Sitting next to a couple who were just looking out to sea, I turned to them and said, “Hi, how are you today?”
They told me they had arrived from Finland two days ago to visit a sick friend. Their friend had passed away that morning and they were so grateful they had arrived in time to see him before he died. “You must have been very close, to him, to have come all this way”, I said.
They looked at me and told me that he had been the best man at their wedding two years earlier. He had been the man’s friend since primary school. He said that he was so happy to have known him. So grateful to have shared 27 years of friendship with him. They were both smiling and I felt the love for their friend and each other far outweighed any grief they may have been feeling.
We said goodbye and I began to walk toward my car.
The depression that I had carried with me to the beach that morning had completely lifted.
Miraculously I felt only joy and gratitude.
And all I had to do was give something away.
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