January Reflection

You may have noticed a change with the blog-well there has been one. I completed my adventure into hope so the recipes will be there, but this year I will be taking a different stance. Following the suggestion of Writing Presence who writes an excellent blog, I am going to write twelve reflections, for the twelve months of the year.

Today’s is about how my local community is rippling out kindness to one another. I live in Thanet, one of the most deprived communities in the South East, with high levels of unemployment, many suffering from physical disability or mental health issues. Things here are on paper, pretty grim.

Add to that and what do you get? In actual fact, the opposite from what you would imagine. People helping one another. I am part of an online Facebook community called The Clothes/Shoes Helpline and this is where people need items and other people give. So someone might need nappies and another person has spare, so they give them. It is a give and take process. An exchange of kindness.

I run a clothing bank which is also a befriending service. Maslow’s hierachy of needs is very interesting here. Maslow states that the most fundamental human need is food, water, warmth and rest.

See the source image

Sadly many people do not have enough food. Their physiological needs are unmet. With the pandemic, if basic needs are not met, then people are much more likely to catch Covid. Perhaps meeting these basic needs will help in the fight against it.

In order to self-actualise, many steps need to be climbed. And so food banks are vital, as are clothes banks. Many people on universal credit cannot afford to heat their homes, so basic necessities such as bedding, shoes and warm clothes are beyond theie meagre means. If something breaks down, it is likely the choice will be made to do without.

Thus many families in today’s Britain have no decent bedding, shoes with holes in and children without a warm coat. In my view, every town now needs a food bank and a clothes bank too.

redistribution of unwanted good is becoming a necessity. Let’s recycle unwanted items to charities, rather than chuck them. Or put things outside to be taken away. A small clothes rail with free clothes on it may really help someone. You could put a note saying please only touch what you take.

Just a few thoughts. So much is written about saving our planet. Perhaps we could be creative with recycling and far less would go to landfill.

References

maslow’s hierarchy of needs – Bing images (accessed 20/01/01).

And just in case you are wondering…

This post is number 353. So only 12 short. I don’t think that’s too bad somehow. Until 2021 X

What an adventure of hope

At the start of this year I committed to write every day during 2020. And I didn’t quite achieve it, but I think having a fractured wrist excuses me a few days. So as today draws towards its close, there are almost but not quite 365 posts. And that is okay.

I am pleased that I wrote almost every day for 2020. I am thrilled to have a lovely number of followers and have received many lovely comments and likes. As a first time blogger I have been introduced to a wonderful community of like minded people.

I am still thinking what to do over the next year, so watch this space. I am not going to be writing daily, as it is a huge commitment, but I will keep you updated with the 2021 adventure!

I would love to hear about how the daily recipes of hope have helped you on your life journey and whether you have found the blogs helpful in this very difficult year. I have found them helpful to write and have learnt a lot about Hope. I think my work has benefitted; hope has helped me to carry great hopes for other people.

Today’s final hope recipe is to write down your hopes for next year and keep them visible. Because hope truly keeps us alive X

A celebration of 3000

I wanted to acknowledge and thank all those of you who have viewed my blog. I love to celebrate milestones as you know and am greatly appreciative of all those who have taken the time to look at my posts and musings over the past almost 365 days.

It is lovely to see figures like 3000. I am truly grateful also to those followers and encouragers for their kindness, comments and support.

And for all fellow bloggers out there and especially newbe ones, keep going because blogging is a beautiful thing! X

Goodbye 2020 (almost)

I think I can almost certainly vouch for this being the worst year for many of us. I have had two bereavements this month, both were not close to me, but I am very sad nonetheless. Friends have suffered financially, had bereavements and the list goes on.

But this year I have seen evidence of great hope; there is a beautiful FB page where numerous people have shared photos of their gorgeous grandchildren born this christmas season, or their lavishly ornamented trees. I have seen an abundance of community kindness, compassion and generosity of spirit.

So 2020has taken but it has alos given us much. It has taught us all many lessons and life is definitely different from how it was in 2019.

What are your greatest lessons of the year? Please share with us all.

Today’s recipe of hope is to consider what your greatest gains have been this year and also the greatest lesosns and write them down. Don’t let them go. I have learnt the value of people over material possessions and want to hold onto that X

Who is your hero?

I am reading one of the most profound and inspiring books I have ever read. The true story of an amazing man. We all need a hero, someone whose story fills us with utter hope.

My hero, who I have only just discovered is Witold Pilecki. The amazing tale of his life which involved offering himself as a volunteer to be imprisoned in Auschwitz is simply spellbinding.

Wittold defines himself as a hero because, as far as he is able, he does not succumb to the hellish brutality he witnesses around him. He encourages those around him to keep their humanity. He is altogether brave and fearless.

However the most important facet of Wittold’s life is his desire to speak about the atrocities he witrnessed in the death camp. When so many minimised or turned a blind eye, Wittold continued to make reports of the atrocities taking placxe.

This has so much to teach us all. Being hopeful is not just a fluffy feeling; it also entails figthing for what is right and speaking up against what is wrong.

So who are your heroes/heroines? And what have they taught you? I want to emulate Wittold’s unswerving commitment to speak up, even when it would appear the world has its fingers in its ears.

References

Fairweather, J., 2019. The Volunteer. London: Penguin Random House UK

Hope of Justice

I have given much thought over the past months, to what justice means, particularly in regard to male violence against women. There is a wonderful organisation called The Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) here in the UK and its aim is:

Holding the state to account for violence against women and girls.

I want to share an excellent blog written by Olenka Hodge on the CWJ site, entitled: ‘The Myth of The ‘Decent’ Domestic Violence Abuser’ I write this because violence against women is unacceptable and coercive control is unacceptable.

On the 23rd January 2020, my mum called me to tell me that, after an emotionally draining three-week court case, my ex-boyfriend John Sukhdeo had been found unanimously guilty on two counts of coercive and controlling behaviour.

The offence of coercive and controlling behaviour is defined as: 

“An act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten a victim.”

“Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.” 

I attended his sentencing and I will always be struck by the judge’s remarks that, despite the level of violence used against me demonstrably meeting the threshold for a custodial sentence, she did not believe it was appropriate due to a number of mitigating factors. One of these mitigating factors included ‘previous good character and exemplary conduct’, which was supported by character references that focused on his community activism and outstanding professional conduct. 

In the aftermath, I frequently thought about the controversial sentencing of Brock Turner in the United States, who was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment by Judge Aaron Persky for three charges of felony sexual assault. In reaching his sentencing decision, Judge Persky drew upon Turner’s previous good character, stellar swimming performance and prestigious education. I wondered why in cases of violence against women that the accomplishments and characters of perpetrators carried so much weight and overshadowed the violent nature of the crimes committed. 

Domestic abuse permeates all sectors of society. There is no race, ethnicity, class or age group within which it does not lurk. If we accept this, we must also accept that some perpetrators will be talented, respected, and even admired. We must be cautious about using their achievements and standing in society as a way to mitigate and diminish the violence and trauma they have inflicted. 

I was shocked by the tone-deaf documentary on Oscar Pistorius, which struck me as a sinister attempt to award further prestige to an abuser and a murderer. Mr Pistorius’ previous sporting achievements continue to be used to overshadow the callous murder of Reeva Steenkamp. To cast or infer her brutal murder as simply another ‘trial’ of Pistorius’ life is to suggest that his culpability in her murder is in a realm of doubt. It is not. He is a murderer and that should always be at the forefront of our minds. 

In all criminal cases, defendants are able to provide character references to assist in determining sentences. My perpetrator had an abundance of character references that highlighted his community awards and excellent teaching ability. These references were used as a positive mitigating factor. I do not blame or begrudge his colleagues for writing such glowing statements; I know they were written based only on what they had observed of him and I’m sure they sincerely believed every word they wrote. 

In cases of domestic abuse and sexual violence we must question whether it is appropriate for colleagues – particularly those who hold ‘positions of trust’ – to ever write character references in the wake of a conviction. We need look no further than the recent revelation that a number of MPs wrote references for Charlie Elphicke, the former MP for Dover. In these references, MPs condemned his actions whilst in the next breath, asked for leniency based on his years of public service. This encapsulates the duality in court proceedings between the perceived good character versus proven criminal behaviour of a perpetrator. 

I question why, during my own court case, my abuser’s colleagues felt it necessary to write references that highlighted the achievements of a man who, during the sentencing the judge remarked, had assaulted me and acted in an erratic manner threatening to crash a car with me in it. I can only assume that they believed his professionalism outweighed the harm, he caused me despite being found guilty. Or maybe they believed because he was so ‘nice’ at work that despite his conviction they were obliged to illustrate how ‘good’ he was in other aspects of his life and how out of character, his violent behaviour towards me was. 

Throughout our relationship, he told me time and time again that no one would believe me. Perpetrators who hold ‘positions of trust’ are able to move through the world undetected as violent offenders. None wants to believe that a police officer, a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, a social worker or even a Member of Parliament is capable of such crimes. But they are. And we know they are. Perceived respectability does not stop domestic abuse from occurring. Perpetrators weaponise their social standing to their advantage and use it to convince their victims, all too successfully, that no one will believe them. 

Highlighting good behaviour during sentencing does not lessen the violence inflicted on the victim – it makes it worse. The fact that my abuser was a great employee and an active part of his community, yet behind closed doors could humiliate, terrorise and harm me, speaks to a sociopathic level of deceit and manipulation. It should not be praised and represents the deeper, more acute danger posed by these types of abusers. 

Despite being found guilty, my abuser continues to works at a local North London primary school. Where do justice and accountability reside when even post–conviction society helps maintain the respectability of perpetrators? In the year that compulsory relationships education (RSE) is being rolled out to teach children about healthy relationships it is, to say the least, ironic, but I remain unsurprised. Many perpetrators enjoy the luxury of their convictions being perceived as an aberration of their character; a terrible mistake that does not reflect who they truly are. 

“I question why, during my own court case, my abuser’s colleagues felt it necessary to write references that highlighted the achievements of a man who, during the sentencing the judge remarked, had assaulted me and acted in an erratic manner threatening to crash a car with me in it”

I will be the first to admit that my perpetrator has many achievements he should be proud of, but it simply does not diminish the abuse he inflicted on me. His accomplishments should never have been used as a mitigating factor during his sentencing. What message does that send to survivors? We all know domestic abuse is a hidden crime, often occurring behind closed doors. So what possible value does an outsider’s perspective hold in cases of domestic abuse? It is inconsequential in crimes of this nature. The abuse I suffered was not an aberration of my abuser’s character –the violence and cruelty I suffered was an integral part of his character and should have been given the same (if not more) weight during the sentencing due to deep and painful impact it has had on my life. 

It suits us all to believe domestic violence abusers are the very worst of society and far-removed from our everyday social circles. However, the reality is that we often know these people, love these people and, many abusers are talented, well-liked and respected members of our community. We have a responsibility to hold abusers accountable for their actions. To do this, we must accept that, despite holding someone in high esteem their accomplishments can never outweigh allegations of abuse. We have a duty to recognise how damaging and harmful this behaviour is, regardless of who commits the crime.

There are no ‘respectable’ or ‘esteemed’ domestic violence abusers. Their accolades should always be secondary when we discuss violence against women and girls. In the UK, each week 3 women are killed, often by men no one would have ever suspected. Perpetrators of domestic abuse are multifaceted: often charming, respectable and still callous and cruel. They use their positive attributes as a weapon to silence their victims and trick those around them into believing such allegations are implausible. We must not allow respectability or ‘good character’ during sentencing to be used against survivors. It is of the utmost importance we broaden our perception of who commits these crimes so that more survivors feel they are able to come forward to ensure that, when they do, they are believed and their experience is not diminished. 

References

https://www.centreforwomensjustice.org.uk/new-blog-1/2020/12/14/the-myth-of-the-decent-domestic-violence-abuser (accessed 29/12/2020)

Loving oneself

As the year draws to a close, I am sure many of us are engaging in some reflection over the past year. It has undoubtedly been one of the most tumultuous years ever for us all and many lessons have been learned, tears shed and goodbyes felt. And the New Year is about to greet us, with fresh possibilities and hopes. A new adventure of hope is about to begin.

I am not the biggest fan of New Year Resolutions, because they tend to dwindle away quite quickly in my experience. However I am a fan of starting new ventures, such as this blog. However one change I am going to make next year is to learn more about loving myself. As I work with others, I think it is especially important to model self-care and self-respect.

What does this look like? Here are some suggestions

Set time aside to do things you enjoy; talking to friends, walking by the sea, reading. This is relaxing and helps to recharge the batteries.

Create margins of space. By this I mean don’t get into a situation where one simply charges from one thing to another. Life becomes a tick box exercise and the enjoyment is squeezed out.

Be honest with yourself. Ask am I happy? Is this where I belong? If the answer is no that is perfectly fine. Maybe, just maybe it is time to move somewhere different or change jobs.

Leave toxic relationships behind. We change as we go through life. Some friendships run their course and that is absolutely healthy adult behaviour. It is okay to disengage from those who don’t fit with us. Sometimes relationships grow stale and sometimes it is time to let go. That paves the way for people to come in who fit where we are today.

Don’t compare. Life isn’t a competition. So what if you have 3000 friends on Facebook and I have 10. It really doesn’t matter. We should be happy for one another. And on that front, let’s be sensitive. If we are blessed in areas others are not, then let’s be aware that may be a stark reminder of a gaping space in someone’s life. Obviously we can share our happiness and lives, but in a kind way. And if we detect jealousy, then this is often a result of pain, or inbsecurity.

And let go of the past. I admit to struggling with this. Let’s embrace today rather than yearn for yesterday, because it is gone.

Today’s recipe of hope is to do an end of year inventory. Take stock and if you aren’t caring for yourself, resolve to rectify this. Celebrate you today X

Compassion

Yesterday’s post was about sacrifice in 2020 and today I wanted to focus on compassion. Because compassion and sacrifice are close friends and walk hand in hand with hope.

What does compassion mean? According to Mr Google:

The meaning of compassion is to recognize the suffering of others and then take action to help. Compassion embodies a tangible expression of love for those who are suffering. I really like this definition. I love the action aspect of it. And I would redefine 2020 for me as the year of compassion. Even today I read of someone taking a meal to a homeless person. This year more than ever, our eyes seem to have been opened to this life no0t being about what we can get, but rather what we can give. And that is such a precious thing.

The story of the Good Samaritan which is a very famous bible story in Luke 10:25-37 goes like this:

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

I love the teachings of Jesus because they are so practical. What I notice about this passage is Jesus saying don’t walk by and for me this translates into do not go to church every Sunday and ignore the homeless person who sits near the entrance of the church. Maybe get them a sandwich and ask if they are okay and miss church for a week. Compassion is putting others before oneself.

Other examples of compassion are manifold. Our wonderful Sir Captain Tom Moore who has raised millions for the NHS. Our heroes and heroines who quietly volunteer at foodbanks, homeless shelters, raise money for charities across the land. And this is in the UK. I am sure there are countless stories of compassion you followers can share and please do.

And a very interesting quote on compassion with which I will leave you is

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” (Albert Einstein)

Today’s recipe of hope is to check your compassion level and put the action of compassion for others into practice. Widen your circle, step out beyond the immediate circle and move beyond this.

References

(accessed 28/12/2020)

The hallmark of the year

(also posted on Hope 2018)

I have been thinking a great deal about the past year which has been turbulent, to say the least. There are two words which for me encapsulate 2020; sacrifice and kindness.

There have been many acts of sacrifice over the year. One of the most striking acts of selflessness is the many staff who have laid down their lives for people they work for; nurses, care staff, doctors and key workers on the front line.

The BBC highlighted a tear jerking moment recently:

BBC Breakfast presenter’s teams at Covid care home choir – BBC News

Locally to where I live, there is a a new project recently set up called Community Kindness. That is very close to my heart.

So as 2020 draws to a close, I feel that much has been done by humans or humans. There have been many losses as so many have departed the planet, but there have also been great gains and for me it is learning that the real meaning of our lives is how we relate to others. Selfishness and greed haven’t been in people’s vocabulary as much this year and that is good to see.

Today’s recipe of hope is to celebrate someone who has been kind to you this year. Let them know how they have impacted your life; I am sure they will appreciate this X

Acknowledgements

BBC news online (accessed 27/12/2020)

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