You May Wanna Read the Bathroom Stalls
“Never get tired of doing little things for others, sometimes those little things occupy the biggest spaces within their hearts.”
Last week, I found myself in sort of a rut. I felt like I could be doing more, but I was so unmotivated. As selfish as it sounds, I had lost touch with really helping others. My weekends were no longer spent volunteering, but instead, going out with friends, eating food, seeing the city, and, of course, relaxing in bed. You know, all the essentials!
In college, it was so easy to sign up for this volunteer event or donate to this cause, but in the real, working world, I felt much more disconnected. To be frank, it was difficult to find time to care for others when you had work, hobbies, friends, family, fitness, and you also needed to sleep. It seemed so easy to completely disregard giving back when you were solely running your own race.
Now saying that makes me feel awful, but it’s true! We all get wrapped up in our own lives and our own problems, that it can be very easy to lose sight of the big picture. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing! We do need to take care of ourselves and our own responsibilities. However, it was something I wanted to be more conscious and aware of. I didn’t want to lose sight of giving back or making a positive impact on the world even though small, seemingly useless acts because
Acts of Kindness, regardless of their size, are Never Useless.
That had been my mindset over the past few months. I moved to Boston. I was solely focused on myself. I really didn’t ‘venture into the community’ nor did I see the need to try. I didn’t see the point to try to ‘give back to my community’ or join some volunteer organization that I didn’t believe I had the time for. I had become slightly selfish in my lifestyle and habits. I was content with living my life and staying in my lane… or so I thought.
Then, Tuesday morning came. Now, I would like to warn you, I am a VERY emotional person. I cry at the drop of a dime. I cry when I’m sad, happy, inspired, exhausted, you name it, but I also have been known to shed a few tears when others are feeling pain. I guess you could say I am a huge empath!
I walked into the women’s restroom and saw this girl checking herself out in the mirror. I guess ‘checking herself out’ isn’t the correct wording for what was going on. I saw her judging herself in the mirror. She was turning this way and that. She was sucking her stomach in and arching her back. She had the facial expression of disgust and dissatisfaction. She was completely in the zone of ripping her image apart, and I had thankfully interrupted that.
I felt so sad.
I felt so broken.
I also completely related.
She quickly noticed I had walked in and as she blushed from embarrassment, she finished washing her hands and quickly ran out of the bathroom. I stared at myself in the mirror and thought of all the times I had done that exact same thing; I wondered why I had done the exact same thing and how I still catch myself doing so now from time to time.
I had found a new charity event.
A new cause had sprung my way. Happening right here and right now at my office.
I was going to make a change; small acts of kindness can cause huge waves to manifest. Sure, I could not exactly dedicate my Saturdays to working at the food bank near my college anymore, but I could make a difference in my everyday life for someone who I expected nothing in return from, which is what volunteering is all about.
It is about going out of your way, regardless of how big or small your deed may seem at the time, and doing something good, kind, and meaningful for someone else… just because why the heck not.
So, I began to rack my brain, “What could I do?” I needed something simple, but meaningful; something discreet, but impactful.
I could write.
I OBVIOUSLY love writing. It had become my creative outlet, my venting mechanism, and sometimes the only way my anxiety-filled brain could seem to calm down and focus her thoughts. I could write to the women. The ones I saw every single day critiquing themselves; measuring themselves up against others; degrading themselves by their own thoughts and insecurities... I could write to them.
I wanted to tell them they were worthy. I wanted to tell them they were loved. I wanted to tell them they were enough and didn’t have to change one thing about themselves. I wanted to tell them all these things that I wanted to tell myself; that I needed to keep telling myself. I wanted to tell them all of this and so much more, but I knew myself. I was too shy to do that. What if they didn’t wanna hear it? What if I seemed crazy? (which I slightly am) What if I embarrassed them more? So, perfect, I will write all of this to them.
It started out small. Sticky notes, in fact.
Little pieces of paper that I intended to carry big messages and meaning.
I began making it a habit that every morning when I got into work, I wrote a sticky note consisting of encouraging words or a short quote that I had found online that morning that I really liked. The notes consisted of ten words AT MOST. It took me half a second to make. I would go into the women’s restroom, stick the note on the inside of the stall, the front of the sink mirror, or even the door handle, and leave the scene unseen.
I hoped that it would help the women who came in and out of the bathroom throughout the day. Some of the notes stuck around for a while before I assume they were picked up by facilities at the end of the day. However, some were taken. Some were kept and cherished, I could only hope! Some seemed to resonate with the women who found them. I began to see them show up in the cubicles of some of my coworkers. My good friend who works next to me would tell me she found a note in the bathroom, and how sweet it was, and I would nod my head pretending I didn’t know the women’s bathroom secret admirer.
I didn’t do it for recognition. I didn’t do it for praise. I wrote the little notes because I remembered all the times that I needed some small piece of encouragement or love throughout my day. I could recall time and time again belittling myself in the bathroom mirror, unfortunately, I could recall it sometimes ruining my day, in fact. I wanted to write little notes to make these women not be so alone.
I started out with sticky notes and then graduated to full-fledged letters.
I would write a letter in the morning, lunch break, or bedtime. Whenever I felt compelled to give a little love, I would write it down. I hoped the letters would find themselves a home in someone’s heart who needed it the most.
In a way, this was always my intention with my blog, as well! I just liked writing and talking, sharing and hopefully helping. I liked how much meaning words carried and the power I had to change someone’s day for good or for worse just by the intention behind my words.
I still write the stick-notes, letters, sometimes haphazardly scribbled messages on toilet paper in almost any bathroom stall I use. Why? I guess I hope it helps someone. I guess I hope it makes someone smile even for a single second of their day. I guess I hope it encourages others to write notes, as well.
And then, it did.
I started to see other notes throughout our building. I saw a sticky note in the basement bathroom or in the hallway to our meeting room. I remember thinking that I was going insane. “I didn’t write these,” but that was the beauty… I didn’t write these. I still find them scattered throughout my work-space. Some are on people’s desks, bulletin boards, or hanging from their computer screens. Others, contain encouraging words and have made it into the gym. Was it volunteering? Not exactly. But had I accomplished what I had only hoped for: to spread some love in my life and in my space? Yes.
I hope you find a way to change the lives of others around you every single day. I hope you realize the power you have in this world. I hope you don’t get discouraged or simply believe you are too busy for other people like I did.
I hope you don’t start to believe that small acts of kindness are actually small.
I hope you accept the challenge I give to you and the challenge that I gave to myself: make a difference in someone’s life today. Find someone who can do absolutely nothing for you in return and show them some love. Show them some compassion, support. I challenge you and myself to never get blinded by my our own business again. To never only drive in my own lane. I challenge us to add some good in this world that so desperately needs it. In small ways. In simple ways. Easy ways.
Because small, consistent acts of good create waves of great.