Most of us can manage a few good deeds a couple of times a month. Anything more than that and we start to feel a bit put upon and taken for granted I think. So imagine when in 2011, 48 year old Judith O’Reilly decided that her New Year’s Resolution was to do a good deed for every single day of the up and coming year.
This amounts to an incredible 365 good deeds and included persuading a millionaire to collect money for the homeless and picking up other people’s litter.
When Judith started carrying out her good deeds, she did not realise what a mammoth task she had set herself, or in fact, that some people do not actually want the favours you are offering them. In the epilogue to her book – A Year of Doing Good, Judith explains that: “I didn’t realise when I made the resolution that New Year what I was taking on.
I’d made resolutions before… but the idea of doing one good deed a day morphed into something else again.” She adds: “This year made me question what a good life is, how we give our lives meaning, and what it is to love. It also taught me that people don’t always want the good you want to do, and that doing good – believe you me – is harder than it looks.”
But Judith’s year of doing good wasn’t an entirely altruistic act, as she goes on to say that she completed the 365 days of good deeds, partly as an admission of her own failings.
She says: “My parents are saints, and it is tough being the parents of saints,” she jokes. “People feel sorry for the children of murderers, because they think it must be hard worrying whether you’ve inherited a genetic predisposition to kill as well as those long-lobed ears. It is worse when you’re brought up by those who are good. Really good.”
And if you think the book comes across as a well meaning but pious lecture on how we should all pull up our socks and get out there and follow Judith’s example, think again. With her sense of self deprecating humour, observations on life and comical tone throughout the pages, your only problem will be who you will want to gift the book to next.
It is chock full of ideas that are simple to employ, for example, Judith started up her own charity collection called The Jam Jar Army, in which she put all her loose change into a jam jar, and inspired other to do so and so raised a staggering £26,000.
Each chapter is dedicated to a resolution and they range from tidying a vase of flowers that had fallen over at a child’s grave to giving the Queen some blooms when she visited a nearby town. Judith also become a companion for patients suffering from cancer, she gave up some spare time to teach mentally disabled children to write, and she worked with Operation Christmas Child packing shoe boxes.
The book, A Year of Doing Good: One Woman, One New Year’s Resolution, 365 Good Deeds, £7.99, has been met with much critical praise and is available from Amazon.co.uk for £5.99
In the meantime, here are just a few of Judith’s good deeds:
Having lunch with a friend who had lost his wife
Giving the Queen a bunch of flowers when she was visiting a nearby town
Gave her cousins a CD of their favourite soundtrack picked up whilst shopping
Let the electricians into a neighbouring holiday cottage
Gave a punnet of strawberries to a stranger
Rescued a boy stuck in a wire fence
Asked a favour for someone else
Picked up litter on the beach
Had a child for the afternoon to let her poorly mum rest
Looked after a distant relatives dog who was known to use her carpet as a toilet
Bought a copy of the Big Issue
Registered as an organ donor
Made workmen on the road a nice cup of tea
Pruned roses at a charity-run public garden
Reunited a lost child with their family
Bought a raffle ticket for charity
Mentored a worried media student
Persuaded a millionaire to hold a collection for the homeless
Set up the Jam Jar Army to raise money from lost change
Worked in a charity shop