2018 40 Acts :: 6 :: Chocolate Tuesday

Hello dear ones.

I hope all is well in your world. We had a lovely meal out with Louis and Odette yesterday: I’m rather lucky, as Mr FD does quite a lot of sorting-out-of-other-peoples’-computers, and sometimes, instead of paying him in cash, they reimburse in kind, as it were. So last night Louis & Odette took us out, Traudel -who co-owns a restaurant with her Michelin starred husband – owes us a meal, the hotel round the corner also says that we can have a meal there…Thank you Mr FD!

So, last night I had feuilleté des escargots (snails in a lovely buttery sauce, in puff pastry), followed by magret de canard au miel et figues (duck breast with honey and figs). Then I had fromage frais, instead of ordinary cheese, then finally pannacotta with a raspberry coulis. Very delicious, and lovely to be out with good friends.

And now, it’s Chocolate Tuesday on 40 Acts.

Lots of people in the 40 Acts community seem to love “Chocolate Tuesday”, but I’ve never really taken to it. Maybe because I’d be a bit suspicious if I discovered random chocolate bars left on trains or park benches…There’s also the language barrier, trying to explain what I’m doing. Michelle left a comment saying: I’ve gotten the impression in reading about your 40 Acts over the years that the French are befuddled by “random acts of kindness.” Is a correction assumption? Is it totally absent from their culture or thinking?

To be honest, I don’t know! It could simply be that I am very poor at explaining what I’m doing, or why I’m doing it; also, I’m very shy about approaching strangers anyway, which makes it harder. Certainly when I look up gestes de bonté spontanés on Google,there’s nothing dated later than 2015 so maybe this isn’t a “thing” in France.

Anyway…

Giving away chocolate. Maybe it sounds a bit less radical than the last few days. But small, overlooked acts of generosity achieve big things. Today, take a bunch of chocolate bars with you wherever you go – five, ten, or twenty – and fling them, carefree, to anyone you come across.

Green, Amber, Red: You know the drill. Chocolate everywhere.

I have to go to the chemist today, to fetch my drugs for after chemo, so I will take them some chocolate. And I’m going to make some healthy meusli bars for me & Mr FD, full of dried fruit and seeds. I’ll make a few extra, and take them to the Hypnotherapist man this afternoon. A sort of thank you, as I get the feeling it was a bit inconvenient fitting me in today. Whether I’ll be able to explain why this strange Englishwoman is bringing him meusli bars I don’t know.

So, here in St Just, it’s not Chocolate Tuesday. It’s

Healthy Meusli Bar Tuesday!

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Act N°12 (2017): Chocolate Tuesday!

It’s Chocolate Tuesday!

Ever popular with 40 Activists it is the regular Chocolate distribution day… The year before last I found this tricky…I didn’t feel comfortable handing out chocolate to random strangers. I still don’t – although I did so last Wednesday, handing a packet of Lidl’s version of Twix to a couple of council workers who were doing some weeding. To put it mildly they were confused but grateful. Last year I arranged for a delivery of chocolate eggs to a Women’s Refuge in Milton Keynes…And this year?

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The prompt reads: Stress levels are high in this world. And we’re sitting on a solution. The smell of chocolate alone increases theta brain waves, which then trigger relaxation. So today we really are saying: give chocolate a chance.

The Challenges are:

Sling a bar of chocolate into someone’s bag with a note saying ‘#40acts’. Or leave a bar or two in your local library, on a park bench, or on the train.

Hit everyone in your department/road/toddler group with a chocolate bar – or wherever you happen to be going today.

Clear the Easter egg aisle in your local supermarket and get out onto the streets, handing them out early. Or, you could do what some challengers did a few years ago: stand up and announce ‘free chocolate’ on your commute home.

You can read the full meditation over here

I’m not sure about the random stranger chocolate distribution – as others before me have said, I might be wary of eating a chocolate bar I just found lying around. But maybe that’s just me and my suspicious nature. A couple of years back a couple of Activists caused much amusement and stirred interest handing out chocolate bars on a commuter train. Good for them! Perhaps, in English, I would feel more confident; here, trying to explain in French, it seems more difficult.

BUT

I am going to pop to the local supermarket in a minute and buy chocolate for my two students today, for the ladies who work in the office where I teach, and for the secretary/receptionist at the company where one of my students works. I have prepared little notes to stick on, that have the 40 Acts logo, and the words “40 jours, 40 réflexions, 40 défis pour faire une différence” and “Plus de 100,000 gens mondialement qui fait 40 actes de générosité pendant les 40 jours de Carême” which I hope may help sort out any confusion!

It’s not a huge challenge, it must be said, but maybe that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I’m doing it, and it will, I hope, bring pleasure to those I give the chocolate to.

But I can!!

Letter writing!

I recently joined in a Hand Written Letter writing Exchange. The idea being that you are linked with two people, one to write to you, one to write to, thus ending up (if you click with them) with two pen friends.

I procrastinated for ages about writing – all the pictures I’d seen of letters sent to other people were beautiful, or witty, or erudite…I hesitated about what to write, what to send, how to present it…Particularly as Kirsten runs a wedding planning company, and creates such beautiful things. I thought she would be woefully disappointed by anything I could send!!

Finally I persuaded myself to just get down to it, so over the weekend I wrote to my correspondent. I sent her a recipe (for Pat’s Chilli jam), a tiny zentangle of a sunflower, a few postcards of Saint Just (yesteryear) and a copy of one of my favourite poems, as well as a letter.

Here is the envelope, ready to go:

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Yesterday I got home from Roanne, rather tired after an exhausting hour-and-a-half’s dancing and a slippy, snowy drive home through the mountains, and found an envelope waiting for me! In it there was a lovely chatty letter from Tracy, with a postcard of the town where she loves and a bar of chocklit!!!

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What beautiful writing paper! I look forward to writing back to Tracy – but not for a few weeks. The next couple of weeks is going to be a bit busy here in the Dormousehold. I’m off to Liverpool tomorrow, so there won’t be any 40 Acts updates (after today’s) until Tuesday. Then I am desperately trying to finish a scrapbook to be filled in at a friend’s 70th birthday “houseparty” before we go away for 5 days with the Cycle Club. And I have to do some work too!!

But letter writing! What fun!

Act N°17 & 18: Propose and Fair Enough!

I seem to be summing up the challenges in pairs at the moment – it is due to my irregular work patterns…Sometimes (like on Mondays) I’m busy, but other times (like today) I haven’t got any lessons. Well, actually, I should have a lesson, but (comme d’habitude!) the company have cancelled at the last minute. Really, I should charge them for the last minute cancellation, but if I did that they would have lost about 1/4 of their allotted hours! If I tell you that they should have finished their 70 hours in June last year, you can imagine how many lessons have been cancelled/ weeks missed for various reasons!

So, on with the challenges. Yesterday was our “extra” day, being 29th February.

Ladies! Today’s the day to pop the question if you’re so inclined! (KIDDING! But do let us know if there is a 40acts wedding – that would be a first!) Today is a leap year, so technically you have been given the gift of extra time. What do you propose to do with it? How might you use today for someone else’s benefit?

Only one option: Today you can choose how to be generous: you have no restrictions on how to spend this extra time. You might want to catch up on any acts you missed so far, repeat any that you liked, or make up your own! Share what you propose to do with your 40acts online community to help those that might be stuck with what to do.

So, as my Chocolate Tuesday had been an epic fail – I had felt distinctly disinclined to go out in the rain to deliver chocolate (how generous is that?!) and the Refuge that I’d planned to send chocolate to hadn’t replied – I thought I would buy some chocolate to send to some old work colleagues back ion the UK. BUT…

I opened my emails and found the refuge had replied! So that was something to be organised… I didn’t have time finally to go to the shops for more chocolate, so that is something still to do. I also emptied my purse into my NASA Space Pig money box, which will be used at the end of Lent for a Lend with Care loan. I’ve already been looking at the possible projects to invest in

So yesterday I was able to catch up on a few challenges that hadn’t quite worked out.

Today, Act 18, is FAIR ENOUGH

Fairtrade Fortnight started yesterday. One way we can live generously every day is by making the small changes in our shopping habits which have a huge impact.

GREEN:If you can’t support Fairtrade with your wallet, use your voice instead. Read up about the movement, and tell someone why it’s a cause worth supporting.

AMBER:Buy Fairtrade today when you stop at the shops for that drink or snack. Want to kick it up a notch? Buy two of whatever you’re getting, and give one to a friend.

RED:Ever thought about a Fairtrade wardrobe? It might be more costly, but ask yourself: if that high street store can make a profit on those £5 shoes, how much really reaches the factory worker paid to make them?

It is trickier finding FT groceries in the supermarket here in France, and in fact some of the FT items I used to buy have disappeared off the shelves,  but when I have the choice, I do buy FT goods. But if I’m buying from t’internet – gifts for example –  I don’t think to go to the Traidcraft site.

So I thought when I was ordering the chocolate eggs for the Women’s refuge (link back to Chocolate Tuesday) that I would definitely buy FT. I looked on the Traidcraft site, but found some others at a cheaper price…So 80 chocolate eggs (small ones!) are winging their way to the organisation in Milton Keynes that runs women’s refuges. Plus some chocolate for the people who work there as well!

And I will also remember to consider TraidCraft and other online FT outlets when considering gifts for friends. It needs to become an ingrained practise.

Acts N°11 & 12…L.O.V.E. & Chocolate

ACT N°11: L.O.V.E.

Yesterday was a busy day for me…I had lessons all afternoon in Clermont, and had planned to leave early to go and do my preparation at the language school where I work. But when I got up all bleary eyed, I discovered that the milk we’d put in the fridge to defrost overnight had a dodgy seal and had leaked everywhere. Oh joy! Cleaning the fridge at 7.00 in the morning wasn’t how I’d planned to start the day!!

Never mind.I finally got to work about an hour later than planned, but I had plenty of time to prepare. The lessons, which were all with new students, went okay. I have a general idea of the levels I’m working with and can now plan in advance for them. It’s nice to have the opportunity to go into ILS in the morning and catch up with the teachers I don’t see very often.

So I didn’t really have much time to think about the Act.

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The prompt reads thus:

Love means a lot of different things to different people. It might look like hanging up the bathroom towels after you use them, instead of leaving them on the floor. It might look like a special surprise. It might look like a day spent in someone’s company. It might just be a pat on the back and a smile. But each of us is built to give and receive love. It’s a basic need. So give it to someone today.

GREEN/ AMBER/ RED (Only one challenge today):Show love to someone today. Consider two things before you do that, though: (1) In what ways does that person experience love the most? Do they prefer acts of service, gifts, quality time? (2) What kind of love do you most struggle to express? Have a think about the ways you might challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone and love someone the way *they* need to be loved today.

The meditation can be read here and it links to another article talking about the 5 Languages of Love. When I first came across this, (I think it was on FaceBook) I dismissed it as being slightly sentimental OTT fare and didn’t take it very seriously. But as I consider it more, I am seeing ways that it might impact on my life with Mr FD. So, I don’t really want to say much more, but rest assured that I did give love today, and hope that it will continue.

And today, it is time for the famous…CHOCOLATE TUESDAY!!

Chocolate. Everywhere.

GREEN:Slip a bar of chocolate into someone’s bag with a note saying ‘#40acts’. Or leave a bar or two in your local library, on a park bench or on the train.

AMBER: Chocolate everyone in your department/road/ toddler group – or wherever you happen to be going today.

RED: Clear the confectionary aisles in your local supermarket and get out onto the streets, handing out free treats for all. Or you could do what some challengers did last year and announce free chocolate on your commute home!

And the meditation can be found here.

Last year, I bought and handed out mini boxes of Smarties in Carrefour. It didn’t go down too well, generally. Most people thought I was mad, I didn’t really know how to explain what I was doing, and finally a group of adolescents cleaned out the bag that was offered to them…I also bought 5 “rochers de praline” at the Jeff de Bruges chocolate shop, and asked the owner to give them to his next 5 customers. I assume he did so. He might have just pocketed the cash himself…Who knows? (Oh, I’m cynical today!)

What to do today? I struggle to explain myself in French, so I am probably going down the anonymous route…with a little note. I did this last year, popping some chocolate bars in letter boxes with a note saying “Le chocolat – profitez en. C’est bon pour le moral” I have no idea whether people thought they were drugged chocolate bars and threw them out, or whether they were accepted in the spirit with which they were given. I’m really not sure what my reaction would be to finding a random chocolate bar in my letter box!

But I didn’t quite feel this was enough. Who’d like some chocolate by post, I thought…I was thinking of my friends, but then a thought about women’s refuges popped unexpectedly into my head. So I’ve contacted a Refuge organisation in Milton Keynes, where I used to live, asking if there is a safe delivery address where I can send some Easter Eggs for the women & children who will be there at Easter. I’ll then order some of these

to be delivered.

I also have a big bar of White-chocolate-and-coconut chocklit which is just crying out to be shared with Mr FD!

40Acts 2015: Catching up…!

Well, it’s been a busy few days and while I’ve mostly kept up with the 40 Acts I’ve not really kept up my blogging about them. But actually, I think that’s okay, because the aim is to act, not necessarily to blog!

I was well-and-truly nudged on Friday, and I gave the Carrefour voucher to somebody. I wish I’d taken time to chat to them more – or even to smile a bit more – but I was so concentrated on what I was saying that I sounded a bit grumpy I think!! Still, I hope he found it useful.

Slightly ironically I felt that I didn’t have time to think about the “time” challenge on Saturday…

22: Give It Time

Time is money – or is it more precious than that? Giving your time and talents to a cause or to someone because they need some help, moral support, company or just plain because can be priceless. Whether it’s a whole day or an hour, this act is about blessing others with the gift of your time.

High Five:Book five minutes into your daily schedule now and commit to give that time to someone who needs it. Perhaps your family, a friend, or even more time in prayer.

Half an hour:Got behind with 40acts? Take 30 minutes today and whizz back through some that you’ve missed. You’ll be surprised at how generous you can be in 1800 seconds

Donate a Day:What could you do for someone with a whole day? Could you book one day’s annual leave this year and spend it helping others?

We had friends coming for dinner on Sunday and the house needed cleaning plus food preparing…I was happy to do it and share the work with Mr FD. But in fact, my way of completing this challenge ended up being to “allow” Mr FD to go to Roanne with another friend to give advice on buying a new bike. That is to say, normally I would be grumbling and maundering that I was doing all the work and he should be helping me instead of gadding about in Roanne having lunch out and looking at bikes with friends.

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BUT I DIDN’T! I simply got myself in the mindset that I was giving my time to these friends by cleaning & cooking and Mr FD was giving his time to other friends by looking at bikes…and that actually IT WAS FINE. And it was.

Goodness me. How good is that?! A – may – ZING!

The, on Sunday, we had a fabulous lunch and spent a good time getting to know my Rector and his wife a little better. It was a good time.

Yesterday, the action was to do with prayer and social media…

23: SHARE, PRAY, LIKE

There’s a lot of noise on social media. And probably even more in the newspapers. Everyone’s got a story they want to air. Sometimes these snippets can be great things, but other times it’s a little more worrying. Dedicate some time to scroll through your newsfeed, in whatever form that takes, and pick out what’s shouting to be prayed for.

5 Minutes:Read your local newspaper, watch TV or scroll through your Facebook newsfeed. Pray for each item as it appears.

15 minutes:Use your journal to write down some prayer points for today or schedule three blocks of five minutes to pray for whatever you encounter either on social media or the news today.

An hour:You’ve got time to act! Yes, keep on praying through your social media feed, but take action too. Write letters of support, make donations to charities in need of help, answer friends’ cries for help and more!

As I’ve said previously I’m not a social media person, and I was working all day, but I have a longer lunch time now as my lunchtime course has finished. So I took 30 minutes to scroll through the contacts on my phone and to pray for those whose names leapt out at me…some I knew had particular needs,others I felt called to pray for something, and others were just “leaving-it-up-to-God” prayers.

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I’m not sure I should admit it, as a Christian and a Lay leader but I am dubious about the efficacy of prayer. I’m never totally sure why we should pray…It seems to me that by praying for someone to be healed (for example) there is the unspoken assumption that they won’t be healed unless people pray for them. If God wasn’t going to heal them, and then I prayed and he changed his mind, well…that’s not saying much about God. And if he was going to heal them any way why do I bother to pray…?

If I pray “make me the channel of your healing…providing…etc” then yes, that’s different. I’m showing that I’m up for being  involved in the work. But just praying “for” someone? I do it, but I know that God knows I’m not convinced it does any good… I guess there’s something in it of the child going to a parent and asking for something, or maybe it’s just saying “Look, God, I feel helpless in the face of this situation…” but I’m still not sure.

Ah well. I’ll continue with my prayers which usually start “You know how I feel about this, but…” and I’ll wait to be amazed.

Today’s challenge is no such a good one for someone who is fasting today (only because I’m following the 5:2 method, not for any deep religious reasons!!) as it involves the temptation of chocklit!!

24: CHOCS AWAY!

Mmm, chocolate. We think #ChocolateTuesdays – free chocolate given to all – should be an official thing. With that in mind, today’s act has one aim: chocolating. Yes, we’ve created a verb. It’s a simple, quick way to surprise someone. And for those that aren’t cacao-crazy? Well, choose a sweet treat of choice. Dentists all over the nation might not approve, but everyone else will be smiling …

Nibble the edges:Slip a bar of chocolate into someone’s bag with a note saying ‘#40acts’. Or leave a bar or two in your local library, on a park bench or on the train.

Get Your Teeth into it:Chocolate everyone in your department/road/toddler group – or wherever you happen to be going today.

The entire confection:Clear the confectionary aisles in your local supermarket and get out onto the streets, handing out free treats for all. Or you could do what some challengers did last year and announce free chocolate on your commute home!

I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses for NOT doing this Act today, but I have already done it!

Last Friday, I decided to make people smile not by doing something silly, but by giving out quotations about smiles…

For example: (except mine were in French!)

But then I thought people might think I was having a dig at them: “Hey Grumpy! Put a smile on your face!” So I left those cards in places to be found by chance. And instead I bought a pack of mini-Twix and a bag of mini-boxes-of-Smarties and wandered the shopping centre giving out boxes/biscuits.

Un petit cadeau! Parce que c’est vendredi!” I trilled as I thrust chocklit at people. Most were so taken aback that they were left speechlessly clutching confectionary as the Mad English Woman skipped off to her next victim. I have to say it wasn’t as easy as I’d imagined it was going to be. Most people did smile back, although they were a bit stunned, but I found the snatchy adolescents a bit difficult to feel charitable towards.

So I have already doled out chocklit. And while I like the idea of leaving a bar or two to be discovered in odd places, there is the lingering thought that I’m not sure I would eat a stray chocolate bar that I found lying around… But maybe I’m just being a bit of a Mardy Cow today and I just need to get on with it!

So…I’ll go and buy a couple of bars, and pop them in a few random letter boxes with a note, saying something like “Le chocolat – profitez en: c’est bon pour le moral!” (Chocolate: enjoy it: it’s good for the morale)