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.
A recent conversation with an older lady left us amazed and delighted at her outlook on life. She shared that with no family locally, she was finding it increasingly tough to achieve her normal daily activities. Shopping, going to church or the hairdressers, getting to the GP’s, meeting friends, doing the housework – each simple task was becoming more like climbing Everest every week! Yet she shared this ‘My horizon is shrinking, but I still enjoy the view!’ Instead of us feeling sorry for her challenges, we left feeling uplifted by her attitude.
It’s clear to both of us, as we are maturing gently(!) that life doesn’t get easier, instead it seems to be more complicated. The world is moving at a faster and faster pace, or so it seems. What we confidently knew how to do can be wiped away once the latest technology ‘upload’ is processed and we are left feeling silly all over again as we try to understand exactly why we can’t do today what we did yesterday! Even shopping can be more complicated, do I self scan as I shop, self scan at the till or wait until staff are on the till and let them take the strain? From blue badge renewals which can only be done online, to 2-factor authentication, the world is moving ever more towards a totally digital reality, but are we?
Even within family relationships things are getting more and more complicated. There are blended families, step families, children who pursue careers overseas and so are no longer able to come and cut the grass or help with shopping, families that experience trauma or who simply can’t agree and fall out – the list goes on.
Each challenge will require a response from us, will we ‘still enjoy the view’ or give up and turn away? There is no doubt that through the course of meeting with many older people in Felixstowe and the surrounding villages there are great examples of people who, whatever life throws at them, insist on dusting themselves off and carrying on. Of course, this doesn’t always mean things go on as they always have done, changes have to be made, accommodations made, but they keep moving forward, more slowly perhaps, but always with one eye on that far horizon.
So, as 2019 draws to its colourful, Christmassy climax, what will you reflect upon? Opportunities taken, or missed (such as the Christmas lunch at the Salvation Army.) Challenges accepted or rejected? Necessary changes made or ignored? Coffee invites offered, or refused? Conversations enjoyed, or avoided? Here at Hope Trust we are always on hand with ideas for things to do, ways to get involved, next steps for you to explore. As we wish you all a ‘Happy Christmas’ we leave you with the gift of the words of Socrates, who said ‘The secret of happiness is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.’