Every year, around this time, I ask myself the same question: is it too soon to eat a Cadbury’s Cream Egg? They appear on the shelves insanely early – late December in some stores – yet Easter is months away. This year, there is the added incentive of a Willy-Wonka-style marketing ploy: 146 two-toned eggs (half white chocolate, half milk) have been hidden in various retailers; find one, resist its charms, and you could win up to £10,000. Inspired by Roald Dahl’s classic tale, my son, Rory, is determined. A friend once said to me that if more people lived life as Rory does (with endless excitement and unfettered optimism) the world would be a better place. It’s true. Where I see a marketing ruse, he sees opportunity; where I see guaranteed disappointment, he finds sparks of joy.
Ms Lowe’s assembly last week encouraged us to reflect on what makes us happy – not the big things like winning £10,000, but the small things, the “everyday joys”. A quick staff poll revealed that we find pleasure in the simplest things: a coffee on the beach, learning how to crochet, a PB in a Park Run, a child’s smile, or even a duck dressed as Shakespeare!
Using Abraham Lincoln’s simple maxim, “When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad”, Ms Lowe also reminded us that doing good for others is one of the most effective ways to find joy. Our daily lives present us with endless opportunities: opening the door for someone, offering to help when we see someone struggling.
To this end, and following requests from students, we have recently established a ‘Helping Hands’ volunteer club at Brighton Girls. Building on the charitable work of The Guild, the club will meet weekly to explore ways to help the local community. To support us, we’ve teamed up with onHand, a local social enterprise, and we are currently trialling their volunteer app. If the trial goes well, we aim to widen the scope to include staff and parents. The idea is simple: make ‘pledges’, accept ‘missions’, offer support, earn ‘hero points’ and, in return, the onHand team will plant trees to increase biodiversity in such places as Madagascar, Mozambique and Nicaragua. To date, we have 108 trees in the Brighton Girls forest. ‘Missions’ and ‘pledges’ range from helping a neighbour, to committing to washing laundry at 30 degrees for a week. For students, only group missions will apply, and staff will be there to supervise but, as an adult volunteer, you can search for people in need of help near your home. Glancing through the requests provides a reminder of all the small ways in which we can help (Fred needs a “med drop”; Violet needs help with gardening) but there are also reminders of the ways in which we help the environment and, of course, ways in which we can help ourselves. The onHand slogan echoes the words of Abraham Lincoln: “Do Good. Feel Good”. It’s that simple.
Having completed my first pledge this week (to write my ‘morning pages’), I received an email from the onHand team – the email told me I was an “absolute HERO” and contained a GIF of a cat dj-ing. This made me very happy. Knowing that another tree would be planted in our Brighton Girls forest made me even happier.
So, I don’t know whether Rory and I will ever find a two-tone Cream Egg, but I do know that we are giving it our best shot. It’s still January and we have already opened our campaign. In the meantime, I can absolutely find pleasure in the simple act of eating one with a cup of tea while browsing through the onHand app to find my next mission, and plant my next tree.