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It’s a New Year and for the last few years we have seen the New Year in with our New Year Tree. It’s our way of seeing the New Year in with you.
Each year the tree has been covered in wishes, and dreams, and memories. And this year, the tree is awash with kindness … because this year, the New Year Tree is the Cup of Kindness Tree. People have been sending in their messages of kindness for the tree, from remembering a kindness, to witnessing a kindness, to promising a kindness and more. And we have been purchasing cups from charity shops all over the country for every message, and then we will donate them all to charity after the twelfth day of Christmas.
Every New Year, all around the world, people sing the lyrics of Auld Lang Syne, a Scottish poem written by Rabbie Burns in 1788. It is a poem about remembering and nurturing long friendships. And most of all, it is a poem about kindness. And it is from that famous poem that we take A Cup of Kindness for the Tree.
Animals don’t often get credited with kindness, but science does talk about altruism, which in a lot of ways really is just a longer word for kindness. What science understands as altruism is where there is no relationship between the giver and the receiver that could explain the kindness. In other words, you cannot be altruistic to family, although you probably should and could be kind, of course. Some scientists have looked for all sorts of reasons for kindness in animals and why it may not be kindness at all … Does it actually help the animal who is giving the kindness and so is not kindness at all? Are the two animals actually related and so it is just a case of gene survival? And so on. Often it seems like a case of looking for any reason available to show that animals cannot be altruistic at all. People are so worried about thinking it might be anthropomorphic to describe an animal as kind, that they miss how egocentric it is not to.
But other scientists have talked about altruism between animals as a relationship, where the giver might have a reasonable hope that the receiver will return the favour when they can. For this kind of kindness to thrive, we have to have a chance of seeing each other again, of recognising each other again. Sounds like all the makings of a lasting friendship to us! This idea of a relationship of kindness is interesting. The Oxford Dictionary starts out by defining kindness not in terms of the act but in terms of the connection. That is, as well as the quality of being kind, kindness also means kinship and closeness. In other words, kindness means relationship.
But what of the relationship generated by kindness where there otherwise is none? Kindness literally makes friends of strangers. And it can also make friends of people we may never have a chance to meet. Our friend Missy, who lives thousands of miles away, very generously filled a cup of kindness just for us: “A big hug and thank you to each of you guys and your human for always having your heart in a good place when it’s become so difficult to do most days in this crazy world. Y’all are the sunshine on my cloudy days.” Kindness can happen in two places at once, even if “seas between us braid hae roar’d.”
And even science has described how this happens. Scientists have shown that the act of kindness doesn’t even have to happen to you. It can be a kindness you witness or hear about, and that just makes everything better for a while. They have described how just witnessing a kindness can infuse someone with feelings of goodwill and elation, feelings that can go on for days afterwards. And even more than that, witnessing an act of kindness builds community. It creates a sort of kinship with the person giving and the person receiving the kindness. The kinship just grows and grows. Kindness creates family in what can otherwise be a very alienating world at times.
So when we look up at the New Year Tree, and we see all the messages from all around the world filling the cups of kindness, we feel that same kind of happiness. And what’s more, our friendship with our pals all around the world just grows and grows. Kindness is, quite simply, good for you.
Maybe that is what people mean when they talk about the miracles of the season. All it takes is a little cup of kindness and it spreads around. It’s just like Frank Cross says in Scrooged, “You have to do something. You have to take a chance. You do have to get involved. There are people that are having … having trouble making their miracle happen.” Just a small cup of kindness can nourish a person for weeks. But if you don’t take a chance, you will waste that miracle.
In her message for the tree, Meg reminds us of the wonderful lyrics that Mahalia Jackson sang: “If I can help somebody as I travel along … my living shall not be in vain.” As Meg wisely says, “Everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about, so be kind always. As I travel through 2019, if I can be gentler, kinder and more giving of myself, then maybe my living will not be in vain.” Our pal Kathy pledges for 2019, “I want patience with people and situations. I want to be more gracious and give people the benefit of the doubt whether they are being aggressive in driving, speaking unkind words, I want to look beyond their harshness and be sensitive. The world will be a gentler place.” And Mary’s hope for the tree, “Peace and love. Both seem in extraordinarily short supply.”
And the tree is full of such kindness. A favourite quote of Bobbi’s is anonymous … perhaps no-one said it, perhaps we have all said it … “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” Jacqueline’s cup of kindness thanks all those giving their lives to help animals around the world, and she pledges to try and help as many as she can in 2019. Kristie wants to see kindness receive kindness and just keep the cycle going. What scientists might call reciprocal altruism, Kristie hopes, “that the people who are kind in the world will also receive kindness every day so that they may continue to give kindness and receive kindness and give kindness and receive kindness …” in a perpetual kindness machine! As Sarah rightly says, “The world would be so much better if we all tried to be kind to each other. However, there are so many kind people, hopefully it cancels out most of the unkind.” We need to witness more of that kindness, and Sarah thanks Mila’s Fund for their work in raising funds for Bedlington Terriers with health issues and in need, “The kindness of strangers to help these poorly dogs has been amazing.” And we have filled a cup of kindness for the wonderful London Black Cab drivers and the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans, taking veterans on outings, and to the seaside, and even all the way to France for the D-Day Commemorations.
And the cups of kindness remember as well, for auld lang syne. Missy’s father-in-law very sadly passed away just before Christmas and she remembers him as so generous and kind, immediately welcoming her into his family. She writes to him, “Thank you, Bill. Thank you for your kindness, your generosity and your help. Rest easy my friend.”
We also lost a good friend on the night before Christmas Eve. To Wilson, our “wolfram friend,” Kristie fills a cup, “To honour the love and laughter that Mr Wilson brought us. We will remember him forever.” And Kristie filled another cup, one which we dare say is overflowing, “To our dear Finnegan, who brought so many of us together.”
We filled cups for family and friends. We filled a cup for Leo, one of the kindest dogs there ever could be. Everybody loved Leo, and Leo loved everybody. And to Finnegan, we remember his kindness, which made family of the world. To dear Finnegan, who will always be that dog.
So, on this New Year’s Day, drink from our cups of kindness, and keep the kindness flowing. Remember, recognise, and respect all year round. Sometimes it is just a case of simply noticing someone.
To you, to us, to 2019, to kindness.
We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.
A Be That Dog Christmas Production based on Dr Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Down in Huw-ville
Liked Christmas a lot …
But the Grinch,
Who lived just north of Huw-ville,
The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his garden glove hands weren’t just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.
Whatever the reason,
His heart or his shoes,
He stood there on Christmas Eve, hating the Huws,
Staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinchy frown
At the warm lighted windows below in their town.
For he knew every Huw down in Huw-ville beneath
Was busy now, hanging a mistletoe wreath.
“And they’re hanging their stockings!” he snarled with a sneer.
“Tomorrow is Christmas! It’s practically here!”
Then he growled, with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming,
“I MUST find some way to stop Christmas from coming!”
Tomorrow, he knew …
… All the Huw girls and boys
Would wake bright and early. They’d rush for their toys!
And then! Oh, the silly hour! Oh, the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!
That’s one thing he hated! The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!
Then the Huws, young and old, would sit down to a feast,
And they’d feast! And they’d feast!
And they’d FEAST!
“Who are you calling old?!”
They would feast on Huw-pudding, and rare Who-roast-beast
Which is something the Grinch couldn’t stand in the least!
They’d do something
He liked least of all!
Every Huw down in Huw-ville, the tall and the small,
Would play something silly, with squeaky toys ringing,
They’d play and they’d play. And the Huws would start singing!
They’d sing! And they’d sing!
AND they’d SING! SING! SING! SING!
And the more the Grinch thought of this Huw-Christmas-Sing,
The more the Grinch thought, “I must stop this whole thing!
“Why, for what seems like forever I’ve put up with it now!
“I MUST stop this Christmas from coming!
… But HOW?”
Then he got an idea!
GOT A WONDERFUL, AWFUL, IDEA!
“I know just what to do!” The Grinch laughed in his throat.
And he made a quick Santa Claus hat and a coat.
And he chuckled, and clucked, “What a great Grinchy trick!
“With this coat and this hat, I look just like Saint Nick!”
“All I need is a reindeer …”
The Grinch looked around.
But, since reindeer are scarce, there was none to be found.
Did that stop the old Grinch … ?
No! The Grinch simply said,
“If I can’t find a reindeer, I’ll make one instead!”
So he called his dog, Aubrey. Then he took some red thread
And he tied a big horn on the top of his head.
Today, all of a sudden, we are facing the grief of losing a very special pal. He left so quickly, he barely had time to say goodbye.
His initial is W. And there is something very intriguing about this, because W is also the chemical symbol for tungsten. Tungsten is a rare metal, very rare indeed. And it is lustrous, genuinely luminous. And perhaps most special of all, it is found in the mineral wolframite, which is why it is also called wolfram. And what could be more tungsten than our rare, radiant and charismatic wolfram friend?
He is a rare pal, and I say is, not was, because we cannot lose him. Not really. He has made his impression, and everywhere he has left his tungsten sparkle.
Tonight, all our twinkly lights are on and sparkling for our tungsten friend. But I’m pretty sure if we look up and around us and look really carefully, we will see that the brightest light still comes from our pal. And that’s a light that will never go out, as long as we will continue to celebrate and remember his wolfram ways. We will miss him, and that is why we remember him.
So tonight, be a little wolfram. Celebrate, sparkle, cuddle your dogs, snuggle your humans, and remember W. He will love it.
A life well lived and a hound well loved.
A little bit of wolfram sparkle from W, his last and loving message to us. We will miss you dear friend!
By Aubrey Beardsley
We are decorating!
Decorating is extremely important at this time of year.
It is absolutely essential that the staircase gets covered in greenery making it twice as treacherous as usual to go up and down. All the windows get covered in some sort of blinking trip wires. And some elves turn up, mostly to check on Howard. Actually, I suspect there will be a whole village of elves turning up this year. Ha ha!
But the elves haven’t shown up yet, so we are making the most of the opportunity. The humans have been cleaning the kitchen, emptying cupboards, checking supplies, and we are helping in every way we can. Howard thinks it is quite wasteful to have two of everything. In fact, just today he has already managed to edit the kitchen collection to one yard shoe, one gardening glove, one yard glove. He is an ingenious little terrier.
Deputy got into trouble for knocking a precious Santa to the floor without noticing. I tried to hide the evidence by turning the Santa into snow, but apparently this just made everything more obvious. I think that’s what’s known as unintended consequences. Goodness me, there have been a lot of those in 2018!
Anyway, with the amount of fun we are having the progress is very slow. We don’t even have the tree in yet. And we still have to booby-trap the staircase with garland. At this rate we might have just about done the lights by February.
As Kris Kringle said in that wonderful classic, Miracle on 34th Street, Christmas isn’t just a day. Well, it’s just as well, because decorating isn’t either!
It’s officially the season to be jolly! And it wouldn’t be a jolly season without our very special Be That Dog tradition of the New Year Tree.
This year our inspiration is that wonderful poem by Robert Burns, Auld Lang Syne, and the tree is taking cups of kindness for everyone for the New Year. This year, for every message of kindness, we are hanging that message in a special cup on the tree. And the cups are coming from charity stores all over the place so that the kindness keeps circulating!
The messages of kindness come in all shapes and cups. You can send in a thank you for a special kindness you’ve been grateful for this year. Or you can hang a pledge for an act of kindness that you will do this year. Maybe it’s to volunteer at your local animal shelter, or visit a neighbour who might be lonely, or to adopt a kitty! Or maybe it’s a kindness that you simply wish to put out there into the world. And we will be pledging some kindnesses too! We can’t wait to share those with you.
You can take part in lots of different ways. You can us your message of kindness for the cup, or you can mail us a message, or you can share it with us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. And please make sure you add #CupofKindness so we know it’s a message for the tree!
And if you’d like your cup of kindness messages shared in the special New Year’s Day Post, make sure you let us know!
Let’s make it a wonderful New Year. We could all take a cup of kindness.
By Aubrey Beardsley
Today is International Bring Your Dog to Work Day and many wonderful humans have been joined in the workplace by their wonderful dogs.
But every day should be Bring Your Dog to Work Day and I am going to tell you why.
You may think the workplace is serious business (pardon the pun) and no place for dogs who will just turn the work day into play day. But that is exactly why they should be there!
You see, playfulness helps everyone get creative. Genuine playfulness makes everyone more social, more cooperative, and very importantly, much more creative. Creative people are happier and more productive people. And a playful workplace is a happier and more creative one.
But not all play is playful.
Being playful is about freedom, not about goals. Organized sports can never be playful, precisely because they are organized. Playing sport means having predictable goals and it is not playful to be working towards a goal. You are unlikely to come up with new ways of doing something if you are following the rules of a game. But so many wonderful ideas have come about just from talking to a dog.
Genuine playfulness is about having fun. It is so much better to have a dog in the workplace than a ping pong table, or a foosball table, because genuine playfulness isn’t competitive.
Being with a dog is all about being creative, expanding your social sphere beyond your one species, losing all your inhibitions as you sit on the floor for a cuddle, and taking your attention away from conventional ideas to the flexibility of play.
And best of all, genuine play makes everyone feel good.
So if someone asks you how you can work with a dog in the office, just ask back how on earth do they get anything done without one!