As this article is being written, one of us is awaiting communication from our local GP surgery. In this brave new world, the ‘askmygp’ function on their website was used, instead of talking to the receptionist. Why? Well, one of the GP’s spent a good few minutes of the surgery’s answering service telling us this was the quickest way to proceed. So, we decided to embrace the future and try it, and so we wait, and wait, and wait. Now, if we’d rung and been told that the GP/Nurse would ring us back we’d have waited, so why does this feel different? On reflection we’ve decided it’s the personal touch that’s missing. If we’d spoken to a human being, we would know our call had been logged, our concerns noted and we were in the system, this way there is just – nothing. Nothing but hope that the system will work and that communication (and an appointment) will come through.
As we look out into the world around us it seems that more and more of the personal touch is missing. The joy of receiving your bought goods, handed to you in a bag, has been replaced with the service stopping at taking your money. Now we, the customer, have to delve and find our own bag, open it and carefully slide the goods into it while the assistant looks on. Okay, so we refuse to buy plastic bags on principle, but that doesn’t mean we want the personal touch to end so abruptly. It is now possible to walk into a large shop, buy £50 worth of goods and walk out again without anyone in that shop saying, ‘good morning’ or even the dreaded ‘have a nice day!’
It is this lack of the personal touch which should encourage us to support our local independent retailers. Local shops serving local people. It’s also a good reason to look at the work of local charities as they strive to serve their local community. Without a large corporate structure to support, local shops know what their customers will buy; just as small local charities serve in ways that meet the particular need of their local community.
It’s this personal touch that we here at Hope Trust strive to deliver on. We want to know your name; we are willing to learn as much of your story as you want to share. We are happy to make your coffee black, with a dash of cold water in it, just as you like it. We would like to help you move from where you are, closer to where you want to be, if we can. That’s why we offer regular events, because that way you know exactly what’s going on. Whether our weekly Technology Café, Tea & Chat sessions or even the Spring Bereavement Support Group starting on Monday 9th March, we are here for you - Oops, sorry, got to go, the phone is ringing, could it be the Surgery……….?
At the time of writing this article, the story of Prince Harry & Meghan is dominating the papers; a volcano has erupted in the Philippines, the Australian Bush Fires are raging out of control, tensions with Iran are heightened whilst the issues facing Northern Irelands health service just might start to be sorted out now that Power Sharing is back in place at Stormont. Such a difficult start to 2020.
No-one wants trouble, in their own life or the lives of those they love, yet trouble and strife can, at times, seem almost impossible to resolve, or is it? Listening to a recent Radio 5 Live interview, the guest shared quite openly that, living in a block of flats, if he’s about to leave his flat and hears the neighbours doing the same, he will wait until they’ve gone just so he doesn’t have to speak to them! What a strange attitude – if you don’t talk to people when all is well, how on earth will you chat to them if an issue needs to be resolved?
We’ve talked many times about the amazing British Spirit that manifests itself when we have a foot of snow on the ground; we’ve encouraged people to consider showing that same willingness to help, to chat, to support one another when the weather is being kind. An illustration of this comes from Flagstaff, Arizona where all residents are required (by law) to clear their driveway and any pavement in front of their house after it snows, which it does a lot! This provides an opportunity for people to get to know which neighbours need help and which don’t, as well as offering local university students the chance to earn some cash! People helping people. People taking responsibility for their street. People knowing which neighbours can, and which can’t, clear the snow or go shopping for essentials like bread and milk. By working together, people are making a difference and building relationships.
So, back to our title – do you wait until the neighbours leave before venturing out, or are you someone who stops to have a chat? Do we want to be the sort of neighbour that knows an elderly neighbour has spent the last 20 Christmases alone, and do something about it, or appear on the BBC News embarrassed that we didn’t? We are not advocating ‘nosey neighbours’ but caring neighbourhoods. Not busybody central, but informed concern. To be the person who can pick up a prescription for someone who’s really poorly or buy them milk and a paper. Small, simple acts that can make such a difference.
Here at Hope Trust we seek to be a place where people can be moved from where they are, closer to where they want to be. We share details of what activities and services we offer, as well as those of organisations better equipped to help in certain situations. Whether people need our Spring Bereavement Course (starting 9th March) weekly Tech Café, or opportunities for Tea & Chat, we’re here to help – are you?
If you are an avid reader of historical novels, the role of a Steward is not an unfamiliar one. They are depicted as a trusted person responsible for running the master’s estates, or a housekeeper making sure the household is well run. In either situation they are simply people who are carefully and responsibly managing something they don’t themselves own, but have had entrusted to their care. Now, stewards don’t just do it for love, they have a vested stake in the thing they are stewarding – it’s often the difference between having a home and a job, or not!
There are, of course, different expressions of stewardship; from organisations maintaining stately homes for future generations, to individuals advising us on how to make wise use of the natural resources provided by the earth so they don’t run out. This concept of stewardship provoked the question ‘just what are we/am I a steward of?’ Working for a local charity such as Hope Trust, we, along with our amazing volunteers, are in a sense stewards of the ‘helping older people’ work here in Felixstowe. This idea that what we do should maintain, develop and promote the work of the charity so that it can be handed on, in due course, better than when we found it, to other people who will then steward it onwards and upwards for another span of time, appeals to us.
This reflection on things we are entrusted with, but don’t own, was, in part, prompted by the recent BBC series ‘Seven worlds, one Planet.’ Once again we were shown amazing footage of the natural world, from penguins to albatrosses, from whales and polar bears to Asian monkeys and so much more. Each story is a cautionary warning of the dangers of climate change on the fragile eco-systems that we all rely on, yet is this story of change that is happening right now, enough to encourage us to change our ways?
As we at Hope Trust reflect, can you think of something you ‘steward?’ It might be the finances of a loved one who can no longer manage, it might be the care of someone who isn’t as well as they once were, it may even be running an event for the benefit of those who attend. As this New Year begins, is this the time to sit down and reflect on how your stewardship role is going? Or perhaps its time to chat with those that are close to you and share areas where you might need some support or help to ‘steward’ the time and resources you have, so that both are used wisely and well?
As always, if we can help you in any way, we are very happy to chat and then signpost you to activities we run, as well as those run by others. As 2020 begins, may we be wise with all those people and situations that will demand our time and attention. Happy New Year.