I love Christmas. I always have since I was a young boy staying up until 4 in the morning to try and catch a glimpse of Santa Claus, to when I became an adult, and had to work closely with the big man himself, so my kids could have a special one. The last few years it’s brought an added pressure because I have 4 children. My wife and I have always done our best to make sure their Christmas was special, and they had everything they need. But what do they really need, what does anyone need at Christmas?
Here’s what I think. I used to think it was the next PlayStation game, the next doll, or the best BMX bike on the market. I used to think it was stuff, but this past year I’ve learned it’s a lot more than stuff people want.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is John M. Sweeney. I’m the Founder and Chief Kindness Officer of a worldwide social movement known as Suspended Coffees, which has positively impacted the lives of millions of people throughout the world.
You’ve more than likely seen or read about it on social media one way or another. It’s a tradition which was born in the working class cafes in Naples, Italy; if you had some good fortune you would pay it forward to someone else with a simple cup of coffee. It could be a cup of warmth for someone experiencing homelessness, or a cup of hope for someone well to do but perhaps a little bit down on their luck – maybe they’ve lost their wallet or they’re just having a bad day. We’ve all been there. Yes it’s about coffee, but as I’ve said from the beginning, “It’s about more than the coffee.” It’s about being kind, because kindness matters. Whose life wouldn’t be improved by it?
I launched a social movement based on it almost 3 years ago and it’s transformed my life in the craziest way. We have a following of over 300,000 people on social media and over 2000 cafes in 34 different countries that have helped to suspend over 15,000,000 coffees since we began.
I’m also, to the best of my knowledge, the world’s first Kindness Coach. I discovered this was my gift shortly after getting qualified as a Life Coach. I work with individuals and businesses helping them incorporate more kindness into their workplace and personal lives.
I’m an international storyteller. I’ve had the pleasure of speaking at TEDx and many beautiful places throughout the world, all as a result of making kindness a part of everything I do. Yet this time last year, I was a depressed, unemployed father and husband who felt like he had failed his family. I felt like I failed myself because I couldn’t buy them enough stuff for Christmas. I genuinely never imagined I would amount to anything because I’ve been told it enough in my life to believe it. But this past year, my life has been filled with love, the love of strangers, the love of real friends, the love of my family, which I’ve always been lucky enough to have, and best of all, a realisation that I have enough stuff.
I’m also a talker. I just LOVE to talk. I love to talk about anything and everything. At this point, between my travels all over the world, my many conversations with random strangers at airports, on airplanes, and my Facebook pages, I’ve asked tens of thousands of people, “What makes you happy?” You know the answer I keep getting? What makes us happy doesn’t actually cost us money – love, family, friendship, star gazing, nature, a baby’s laughter, our faith in a higher power, moments spent talking with friends about nothing.
I asked one lady aged 96; her answer was that being able to work hard but play even harder made her happy. I’ve asked a 3 month old baby, whose answer I couldn’t understand, but I’m pretty sure she meant her mother’s milk. I asked Ryan from the Minimalists and he said it was simply a pretzel (ok, it costs a little bit of money) and spending time with his loved ones. If all these things that make us happy don’t cost money, why are we all searching for the next smartphone or iPhone?
Why do so many of us want more stuff? It’s because we’ve been made to believe we need it. But we don’t, in the same way our kids don’t need all the most expensive toys. We don’t need to attack anyone on Black Friday to be happy. What every human being on this planet is searching for is love, whether they’re rich poor, young, old, hateful or loving. No one grows up wanting to become a terrorist or to shoot up their school. No kid grows up wanting to become a leader that incites hatred. Something major is missing in these people’s lives: LOVE. It’s what we all crave. Sometimes we just don’t realize it but, trust me, I’ve asked enough people to know this really is the answer.
Life isn’t perfect, and we do need some stuff, but not as much as we think. Right now, in this moment, I want you to think about what it is you want most in life. I want you to think about what the people closest to you want most in life. If you can’t give them or yourself that Christmas present, or stuff you think is needed, replace that void with love. Do that and something magic will happen, and the best part is it will cost you nothing. A very clear and perfect example of this is a child. A child will always want your love, first and foremost, it’s what they want, crave, and need in order to grow. We just lose sight of that as we grow older, but it’s what really matters. It’s the only thing that matters.
This Christmas I want love and kindness, nothing else. What do you want, friends?
Join the conversation below, and let us know what makes you happy!
What makes you happy? (Need as many people to answer this as possible for a blog I'm writing.)