We all write our names of slips of paper, then drop them into the bottle-green velvet bag. We all pick out a name, and write on the slip of paper what colour of the rainbow that person would be, and why. Then we share the positivity. Some people are sunshine yellow, because of their enthusiasm. Others are blue for calmness, pink for their loving hearts. Even if they are new to the group, like me, they are still gifted a colour and the benefit of the doubt. I am white, for clarity and honesty. It’s a positive version of judging a book by its cover, and I’m surprised at how touched and buoyed up I am by this simple exercise.
This is just one of the ways in which things are kicked off each week at the MAP Project, a very lively and welcoming support group at ARC Stockton that engages anyone having mental health issues through Mindfulness, Art and Poetry – and a whole heap of friendly enthusiasm. Their strong focus on positive reinforcement comes directly from personal experiences of anxiety and depression, and they are creative, practical, committed practitioners of inclusive kindness.
One member has set up her own support group for people living with invisible illnesses, so I visited them too. They meet up just for a Wetherspoons breakfast and a chat, twice a month. The tales they told me of ways in which they have been able to help others was an inspiration, literally – I have decided that part of the show will be the creation of an ‘instruction manual for compassion in action’, turning examples of kindness that have been donated to the show into a set of (sometimes strangely specific) instructions. For example – ‘take someone black tights and cigarettes after their mother dies’.
If you’d like to contribute an example that can become an instruction, please take my survey, and be as detailed and specific as you can!