Sunday, 20 January 2013

A Year of Doing Good (Judith O'Reilly)

I finished Judith O'Reilly's A Year of Doing Good last night and wanted to come here and write about it before life moved on and I didn't write anything. Light reading it may be, if you follow me on twitter you might have seen me describe it as 'human, honest and humorous'. I started following Judith's blog, Wife In the North, back before I got married or had children but despite, at that time, us being at rather different life stages, I was hooked on her diary accounting her move to Northumberland from London, pregnancy, birth and how she built a community in her new surrounds. She battled with loneliness, depression, anxiety and repeatedly running out of petrol and I could empathise with it all, albeit sometimes retrospectively since reading. The blog became a book, which I bought and read and even return to now and then, which is a mark of something being well written. 

And now, her second book. Funnily enough, I bought it after doing a good deed in a cafe (returning a mobile phone which an elderly couple and their daughter had left behind on the table, leaving my baby in the care of a friend whilst I chased after them. The act reminded me of the book which had been serialised (reviewed? I can't recall) in the Sunday Times over the Christmas period and, having received a book token from my grandparents instead of their usual choice of paperback, and which I had mentally earmarked to buy on its release, I decided to go and buy.

A Year of Doing Good is more than a list of good deeds. It's a sequel to Wife in the North, although I think it would be just as enjoyable without knowing the back story. It is inspiring, as ever since I have tried gone nicer to people and have been doing my best to do a good deed myself every day, or whenever possible, even if small. I particularly liked one scene in which Judith buys a parking ticket for another family and they are then inspired to pay the good turn forward. So I have been smiling at other mothers, holding open doors, asking how people are. I wrote a card to a relative; I rang my mother in law when habitually I would have texted or emailed. I have supported a friend's new business (not just as a good deed but because I love her and her products, but still, it is support). [I have still managed to be very very cross though. And give some companies a piece of my mind. But that's another post]. As Judith discovered, doing good turns doesn't make you a better person. But I am inspired to try. (and might even record them too).

What A Year of Doing Good is, I think, is a reminder, a letter. An insight into a community. A reminder that life isn't always good to us but that a little kindness can go a small way to making a difference to people. One recurring theme through both books is Judith's first born son, a son who died in utero. Through both books she details her grief and how she has come to terms with this. I cannot relate but I think I am not too far off the mark in stating that if I could relate I would find Judith's words helpful.

So, I recommend reading. And being inspired.

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