Someone just sent me one of the nicest emails I’ve ever had in my life.
A nine-year-old person uttered a fine, fine compliment. Her mother wrote it down and passed it on to me.
It was like being sprinkled with stardust.
Despite my best intentions, I spend quite a lot of time scolding myself. I must write faster and better; I must be more organised; I must make all those vital telephone calls that I never make. One day, says the dark voice in my head, you are going to have to tackle the cupboard of doom.
I know that this chastisement is stupid and pointless. A bit of stern galvanising talk is a good thing. One must crack on. But the random, low-level chuntering at perceived hopelessness is only lowering, and achieves nothing but gloom. It is the kind of thing that you would never say to another human, only to yourself. I know better, and yet on those damn voices chatter.
And there, out of a clear blue sky, came the kind voice of a child, and that voice silenced all those inner critics with one sentence.
The particularly lovely thing is that it was passed on. It did not have to be. They might have laughed together and kept it to themselves. But they did not.
I quite often write: say the thing. By this I mean: express the love, utter the encouragement, make the compliment. This sounds very obvious, but it is not always straightforward. For Britons in particular, it can be almost embarrassing. We are supposed to be phlegmatic and deprecating; we bring grumbly complaining to Olympic levels. Too much enthusiasm and appreciation may be seen as gushing and bogus. This is particularly true in this part of the world, where the character is as granite as the land from which it comes. The Scots of the north-east do understatement so sternly that it is often interpreted as rudeness by people who are not used to it.
Say the thing, say the thing, I chant to myself in delight.
Almost everyone is a little bashed and bruised; almost everyone has a private tape which runs on a loop, listing their shortcomings. If you tell them something lovely about themselves, you can shut off that damn tape, even if only for a moment. You can, for a moment, give them their best self back.
Say the thing.
Have been trawling through the archive, trying to tidy it up. I take far too many pictures and do not delete the duds as I go. Naughty. As I made a slightly feeble attempt to wrangle the thing into some kind of coherence, I found these:
The funny thing is that the kind email had a pay it forward aspect. So galvanised was I by the sweetness, that as I waded through the archive, I put together a little album for the Beloved Cousin, of her family, from happy days in the summer. It’s a very small thing, but I think it will make her smile, and it was a way of passing on the joy.