I don’t recall exactly how it started, but years ago I devised a strategy for picking myself off the floor when Life really really knocks me down. Some people might call it practicing random acts of kindness or paying it forward. I call my version of delivering surprises that I hope will make people smile “Fairy Deeds.”
Fairy Deeds come in all sorts of creative guises, from sending packets of wildflower seeds to friends (when I was bemoaning the fact that I had no space for a pretty garden of my own) to dropping off scratcher lottery tickets (when I was worried about how the bills were going to get paid) to wrapping up (in colored paper and a satin bow) a big package of Oreo cookies for a friend who had shared with me that she, too, had dealt with difficult losses with a note that said, “To remind you of the sweet things in life.”
The key to all of them, for me, is that they must be done anonymously. There is something about the adrenaline rush that happens when you’re making deliveries under the cover of darkness and the silly feeling of holding a juicy secret as you overhear a recipient sharing trying to figure out who the fairy is that completely lifts me out of my own malaise.
I’m thinking about Fairy Deeds this week because one of the deeds that was the most fun for me was done on July 4th, our Independence Day in the United States. Our country’s birthday was always a family holiday, one that included the gathering of close friends and extended family, the serving of favorite foods (homemade peach ice cream), and many traditions. As far back as I can remember, I looked forward to one day hosting my own family-focused celebrations, and well, we all know how that worked out.
On that original 4th of July, I had to work late and missed all the picnics, barbecues, and fireworks watchings I might have otherwise attended. Feeling beyond lonely, and nursing an epic case of self-pity, I faced the choice of going home and wallowing or…choosing to do something different.
I stopped at the market on the way home from work and picked up six ginormous watermelons. At home, I thought of people I knew who were also going through tough times, and wrote each a short note of encouragement. After several hilarious attempts with various types of tape and string, I finally came up with a way to attach each note: staples. OMG, I was already laughing at myself, so my plan was working. I loaded up the back seat of my car and headed out just after midnight.
Picture this: Like a thief in the night, I “canvassed” each home, making sure the coast was clear. Then I parked out of the occupants’ visual range, lugged the watermelon out of the back, and waddled (you try running with a huge melon in your arms!) up to the front porch. Quietly, stealthily (I was totally holding my breath), I placed the watermelon at the door, then dashed back to my car and, with my heart pounding out of my chest, raced to the next delivery. It was awesome!
I heard some of those friends later share what they’d discovered the next morning, and it filled my heart to know that I’d succeeded in doing something that surprised and amused them. There was no question I had cheered myself up.
This week, if you’re feeling sad/lonely/stuck, I encourage you to give this a try. It doesn’t have to be a big or expensive gesture, it can be as simple as:
- Paying for the coffee for the person in line behind you.
- Cutting some pretty flowers or herbs from your garden and dropping them off for a neighbor.
- Leaving a box of donuts or bag of cookies in the break room with a note thanking your co-workers for being awesome people.
- Placing lemons and a cup of sugar in a gift bag and dropping it off for a friend who’s going through a tough time, encouraging her to “Make lemonade.”
I wish you a magical week!
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.