It has been a whirlwind couple of days! I traveled down to London by train yesterday to meet Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace for a Macmillan Cancer Support Reception…it was as amazing as it sounds!
My train stopped for 3.5 hours en route so plans of a shower and change at the hotel went out the window and instead I curled my hair, did my makeup and got changed on the train. It’s amazing what you can do in a confined space!
Macmillan, and all of the staff at the Palace, went out of their way to ensure I was still allowed on…I was meant to arrive by 5pm but made a fashionably late entrance after 6.30pm!
I am still laughing to myself at the taxi driver’s startled reaction when I asked him to drive me to the main gates of the place. ‘Love, you know you can’t actually go in?’ He asked bemused.
Greeted by the police I was directed to walk through to the courtyard where I was told I would be met by a policewoman. It was surreal walking across the heavily gravelled entrance (which was in no way practical for either my stilettos or the wheels on my suitcase, which I had to carry). As I was late, I was completely alone except for the armed police. It was dark and the thought of ‘stepping out of line’, both metaphorically and literally, was never far from my mind.
Finally I made it to the famous red carpeted steps you will have seen the Queen greet people on such as Obama and Michelle when they visited (pictured). I was met by the Palace staff and Macmillan team and taken through to the ‘meet and greet’ room. Security went out the same window as my plans for a shower…I much look trust worthy because, despite the plans, my bag wasn’t searched and I near threw my suitcase and rucksack at the cloakroom woman (sorry ’bout that).
As I entered the room where the event was being held I was overwhelmed by the realisation that I was actually in Buckingham Palace….although it wasn’t until after meeting Prince Charles that I felt relaxed enough to explore the parts we were allowed access to and take in all of the art work, statues, furniture, architecture and china plates on display (loads of them!) Best of all was a perfect pencil drawing of the queen dated 1987. It was photo accurate! Stunning!
Under recommendation I checked out the toilets and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact I took a cheeky photo to show you…shhh…
You pull up the handle and the toilet bowl falls away…in case you were wondering.
While waiting to meet Prince Charles, I was in great company with the Scottish fundraisers, including Team McKeown who I’ve had the honour of meeting at several previous events – these guys have raised over ONE MILLION POUNDS for Macmillan! Inspiring!
Meeting Prince Charles was so normal. He was lovely and very down to earth. I was a bit overwhelmed and forgot to courtesy and call him ‘your royal highness’; instead I took his hand and said “Hi, I’m Fi, nice to meet you”- he didn’t seem to mind though!
One of the ladies beside me asked him if he was drinking a gin, he replied “oh yes, I take after my grandmother”.
It was such a lovely evening and I’m so glad I made it! It was such an honour and a memory I will always treasure.
“oh yes, I take after my grandmother”.
Now, after all that excitement I was knackered this morning and also sore from carrying my suitcase so I decided that instead of getting the tube to Kingscross Station, that I would get a taxi instead. And I’m so glad I did because I met the loveliest taxi driver AND delivered one of my random acts of kindness.
Once in the taxi, I got chatting with the driver in my usual way, asking about him and the morning he’d had. As we chatted more we ended up talking about where he was from (Iraq) and his young family. It turns out that he left Iraq when he was 11 and moved to Europe and has been in London for about 6 years. Oh and his wife is training to be a dentist. What can I tell you…I ask a lot of questions; I love to meet new people and hear their stories.
Anyway…he has three young children and we were talking about how he raises them. He told me that his eldest son (age 13yrs) started to have bad behaviour and he was worried. He explained, “My mum always taught me, either you teach your children how to behave or other people will teach them, and if that fails then the street will teach them.” “I didn’t want the street to teach my children” he went on “so now I work 5am till 3.30pm so I can collect my children from school each day and then I spend lots of time with my children. We go swimming and we do their homework together each night. At the weekends they do things like kickboxing and they get three house a week to play computer games with their friends. It’s about balance and structure and them knowing what matters.”
“What’s that?” I asked
“Family, education and manners” he said.
Wow, where was this guy when I was writing my Phd?
“either you teach your children how to behave or other people will teach them, and if that fails then the street will teach them.”
Our conversation continued as we discussed how modern society has changed how many children are brought up. We discussed drugs, vandalism and so much more. We also discussed my yoga classes with children.
As he dropped me off he said “I wish I knew you well so I could show you how bad it is for some children in London when the street teaches them how to behave, instead of their family teaching them”. I could sense his sadness. It was almost like he held the weight of the next generation on his shoulders, like he truly wanted to make a difference. I told him that he was making a difference with his own children. He smiled.
I tipped him but it didn’t seem enough. I wanted this man to know that he was magic and wonderful and a special breed. So I also handed him a random act of kindness…a £20 note from my kindness pile. He didn’t want to take it, telling me it was too much. I told him he must. He had made my day. He had inspired me that there are wonderful people in the world, not just the ones we hear about on TV but out in our communities, silently doing their part to improve the world we live in.
I wonder how many other people have ever taken the time to ask him about his life, his values, his family while they sat in the back of his taxi. I couldn’t help but think that this was a greater act of kindness than the money….
As I walked away I headed to the train toilets. It costs 30p to get in. I dug in my bag for some change and noticed a woman fretting over her own bag. “Would you like 30p” I asked. “Oh yes thank you,”she smiled “I could only find 5p in my bag”.
I laughed to myself, it was like confirmation that the amount of money isn’t were the value of kindness is placed. Instead, it is the act itself. A £20 note wouldn’t have helped this woman’s needs, only 30p would enable her to use the toilet (Yes I know there are change machines, but I’m focusing on the metaphor…)
It often costs nothing to be kind, to offer help, to listen, to connect, to smile; but the value is greater than any financial cost we could place on it.
How can you connect and show kindness to the people you meet each day?
Love, light and kindness, Fi xxx