My hope year

I have been reflecting a lot over recent days on my year as a first time blogger. Thank you to all of you who have joined me on my journey.

At the start of the blogging hope adventure, I set out to explore what a life with hope looked like. And I have learned many lessons along the way. I promised to be transparent and I think I have stuck with that-you have followed the ups and downs of an amateur to the blogging world.

So what are the lessons I have learned? As it comes towards the end of the year, I acknowledge that I didn’t manage to post every day as I had hoped. But I posted most days. My aim now is to have 365 posts by the end of the year, so some days I will write two or perhaps even three.

I had an accident in October and fractured my wrist. I then made the decision to not put myself under pressure to type one handed each day. I was really struggling enough without added things. Somehow everything is harder with a cast on. But great news-my wrist has healed and I am free of pain!

So I learnt that even if you don’t reach your goal, that is okay and you can perhaps go round the mountain in a different way. And it doesn’t mean you have failed. The biggest lesson about Hope is that she keeps on trying and is ever encourging. If you fail and fall then you can simply get back up and try again.

This might sound extremely simple and possibly trite, however sometimes a perfectionist streak can lead to all or nothing black and white approaches to life which are extremely unhelpful. I think hopefulness is consistent and just rides the undulating curves of life.

Today’s recipe of hope is to do a hope review of this year? How is it for you? Have you lost hope? Are you more hopeful or is there just a glimmer? And take some time just to sit and think, or walk and think. It does you good X

Team kindness

I have been watching a series on Netflix called The Queen’s Gambit. It is a beautiful production about a female chess player. There are many lessons in the show, which is well worth a watch.

One thing I have been thinking about recently and links with the series I have been viewing, is teamwork. I have been collecting items for our forthcoming Winter Shelter for the homeless and have been really touched.

Today a lady brought in beautifully packed and sorted clothes. She had them in suitcases, so they didn’t look like rubbish. And the other day someone traverlled miles, having collected items for people they will never meet-kindness from a town far far away.

These donations will go to the shelter which is opening its doors on Monday. People will have lovely clothes to wear and kindness will embrace them. Swapping a pavement for a freshly made bed, they will be tended to and compassion will flow.

And it is a team. A team of kind humans making the world a better place. The project I manage is growing exponentially and I couldn’t manage without people helping me; collecting clothes, volunteering, befriending others. And it has a big impact. People change when kindness is shown.

Today’s recipe of hope is to think about the human team you play for. If it is your family unit, play well. And if it is just you, join another team. Volunteer your skills, help others. More than ever we need one another.

X

References

A glimmer of hope

Also posted on Hope 2018

When life is tough what do we do? Dig deep into our hope resources. Sometimes people face horrendously difficult times and all there is is a glimmer, a flicker of hope.

Life has its ups and downs and as someone who has faced many painful times, especially this year, I understand what a glimmer of hope looks and feels like. I have been stuck in a cast for a few weeks now, not driving or going very far. My hopes of writing daily blogs were scuppered because much as I love writing, typing one handed is a bit challenging.

But the glimmer of hope has been that I have my faith, I have health, I have a wonderful job and kind family and friends. It won’t be this way for ever, just for now.

Hope waxes and wanes. Hope fluctuates. But that is life. Being hopeful is an attitude and a choice.

Today’s hope recipe is to choose hope even when she seems a distant memory. Let us choose to find her beyond this pandemic with all its limitations. X

Generosity

As I shared yesterday, I have been wrestling with a deep dark question: am I greedy? It is so easy to become greedy without realising it. In my view, the opposite and in fact the antidote to greed is generosity.

Generosity is having open hands. I watched a lovely film yesterday (The Christmas Drop), which encapsulates generosity. Being generous of spirit is a true friend of hope.

So what does this look like? I think it looks like this. On the Clothes shoes helpline there is a page called Secret Santa where people post their needs for hygiene boxes and so on. And other kind people give. And it looks like someone having collected items from their friends to give to complete strangers who are homeless and live miles away (hope you are reading this). It looks like someone giving their rucksacks away because they did not need them for work. It looks like people doing acts of kindness that form a big picture of hopeful help outworking itself in practical ways.

Today’s recipe of hope is to watch The Christmas Drop. And to set yourself a generosity challenge. And please share with us what you are going to do X

References

(accessed 15/11/2020)

GREED

See the source image

Having run a clothing bank for a little while now, sadly one thing that has risen to the surface is greed. And that is what I want to explore today.

I have done a lot of reflecting today. Does giving away items for free make people different and therefore dehumanise them? I have observed people literally fighting over coats. This is so sad and I wonder about us humans.

It is interesting to see people snatch and grab things. Volunteers offering their time possibly for what free items they can take. Wanting the best items for themselves. Commenting on the ‘deserving poor’. |What is the answer.

I am wondering about a model of free charity. Is this the best approach . What if people sell things on, as I know some do?

On the flip side, I think about those who have had nothing and are extremely grateful. I think of people who are rough sleeping, who have taken items they need to survive. And I am led to believe that the human condition is that some people need help and some may appear to need help and may not.

I totally agree with the quote by Andy Stanley above. I respond by thinking about my own greed and challenging myself. These days I consider carefully before I buy new clothes? Do I want or need them? Materialism can creep in like a heartfog and clog one’s spirit.

Today’s recipe of hope is to ask hard questions? Am I greedy? Do I care more about myself than others? Have I taken advantage of someone else and should I rectify this? Change begins with ourselves.

GUEST BLOG 4

Today we have another guest blog from Amanda. This is a topic that is very close to my heart and I will be writing more about this soon.

Take care everyone and keep hoping forward!

Hope for a Fairer Society

My background working in social care has led me to see the impact of the welfare state of people’s lives and the need for its reform. There are some hidden and scandalous truths about life in this country that most people will not know about apart from the news headlines.

Today I was asked by a colleague of mine who is very politically active: “In your opinion what are the biggest crises or injustices we should focus on?” He listed them under 3 key areas: Justice and Poverty; Environment and Climate and Democratic Crisis and Corruption. My answer related to my experiences in adult social care, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. Under the heading‘Injustice’I replied:

“People with a learning disability or autism who may experience mental health issues or communicate using behaviour that is seen by others as ‘challenging’ are incarcerated in hospitals with poor quality, sometimes abusive care, sometimes in seclusion for years, away from their families with seemingly no rights or powerful advocacy nor hope of getting home despite the legally required reviews and the Mental Health Act legislation. People in this situation experience less rights than convicted murderers who at least know when they are getting out of prison.”

Just one of the scandals linked to this and the extent of the abuse people suffered hit the press in 2012 through a BBC Panorama programme[1]. Another recent scandal to explode onto the headlines was in Durham at Whorlton Hall[2]. The scenes recorded are shocking and an indictment on a society which believes itself to be ‘civilised’. Sadly, there are more cases; the story of Bethany, a young woman and her dad’s fight to get her home and out of St Andrew’s Hospital, an assessment and treatment unit in Northampton where she was kept in seclusion for 21 months from age 15. Her father reported her food was slid across the floor “like feeding a vicious dog”[3] and she was in a windowless furniture-less locked ‘cell’[4] with barely any human contact. These real-life stories are heart-breaking and make me cry.

Another discrimination or injustice people with learning disabilities face is dying much younger than the rest of the population, with men dying 13 years younger and women 20 years younger than the rest of the population as demonstrated in the Bristol research from 2013[5]. This comes in tandem with massive health inequalities and unnecessary deaths as defined by a government department NHS England in their LeDeR Programme which looks into unexpected deaths of children and adults with learning disabilities[6]. The fact there is a government funded programme to investigate what is happening demonstrates there is a massive problem. Prejudice is sadly apparent in the NHS where during the initial Covid 19 crisis Do Not Resuscitate orders were placed upon people with learning disabilities just because they had a learning disability, without a health complaint to justify it and without being consulted, which is believed to be illegal[7]. This makes me literally feel sick. Some of my best friends have a learning disability. This news will not be popular to those who believe in the much-loved institution of the NHS. But these are the stories of the marginalised and often forgotten few, who amount to 2% of our population or approximately 1.5million people. It may shock you that many members of our society are treated this way by our government institutions.

The recent scandal regarding the slow government reaction to supporting older people in care homes during Lockdown One[8], was eclipsed by an even slower response for adults with learning disabilities living is residential settings or shared living arrangements. Kate Lee the Chief Executive of the Alzheimer’s Society said about the population of older people in residential care homes “it feels like they are being written off.”[9] While the lack of support to keyworkers supporting citizens classed by the government as ‘vulnerable’ adults in the community,including guidelines and protection (PPE) for them and the people they were supporting, was appalling and appears to have been a epic oversight with the focus for the majority of the initial lockdown period being on the NHS and hospitals.

This all seems rather grim but there is hope as people, including my colleague, fight for a more just society and modernisation of the welfare state to ensure that the welfare state primarily helps us to ‘live together as equals, in particular, as equal citizens.’[10] This fight includes exploring Universal Basic Income as a way to radically transform the way we live.[11]

Quotes like this help me understand the massive shift I believe we need to make as a societyin our thinking about the welfare state from one where the headlines are “Welfare to Work policy ‘casts the disabled as cheats’”[12]to one where we believe that eradicating poverty is essential because ‘poverty means you lack what you need to live as an equal with others.’[13] As Duffy states;

‘In fact the man who named the welfare state the ‘welfare state’ was Archbishop William Temple and he had a very different vision of the kind of welfare state we really need. Temple’s vision put love at the centre of welfare’[14]

He envisioned a welfare state where,as John O’Brien promulgates, we ‘…discover the ways that love… can generate a way of living together that embodies justice, humanity, spirit, equality and community.’[15]For me a new understanding of equality is needed. A new level of connection between members of society to understand how alike we are and as a colleague who has Down’s syndrome recently said to me “We are more alike than different!” This young woman and other colleagues give me hope. Hope for a society free from poverty, free from prejudice and free to give and receive, respecting all the difference we represent, including all our different skills, abilities and gifts to each other. I want to finish with this amazing quote of hope from another man of hope Martin Luther King:

‘Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love.’[16]

The recipe of hope today is, think about what you hope will change in society.Is there something you can change or do to make it a fairer, more kind and just world to live in?

This could be as simple as talking to a stranger or a neighbour you’ve never met or reading about political parties’ views on welfare benefits or joining with others voices to call for peace, justice and equality.


[1]www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-20078999

[2]https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-48367071

[3]https://news.sky.com/story/autistic-teen-girl-locked-up-24-hours-a-day-shes-not-an-animal-says-father-11849347

[4]https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-50661612

[5]https://www.bristol.ac.uk/media-library/sites/cipold/migrated/documents/fullfinalreport.pdf

[6]http://www.bristol.ac.uk/sps/leder/

[7]www.independent.co.uk/news/health/coronavirus-do-not-resuscitate-dnr-learning-disabilities-turning-point-a9561201.html

[8]www.alzheimers.org.uk/news/2020-05-13/care-homes-left-fend-themselves-against-coronavirus

[9] Ibid

[10]www.centreforwelfarereform.org/uploads/attachment/487/citizenship-and-the-welfare-state.pdf p22

[11]https://www.centreforwelfarereform.org/uploads/attachment/739/an-introduction-to-basic-income-plus.pdf

[12]www.theguardian.com/society/2011/jul/24/welfare-policy-incites-hatred-disabled

[13]From talk to the Urban Theology Unit in Sheffield by Simon Duffy in 2019

[14]www.centreforwelfarereform.org/library/love-and-welfare.html

[15]www.centreforwelfarereform.org/uploads/attachment/530/love-and-welfare.pdf p7

[16] Martin Luther King in his Address to the Montgomery Improvement Association, 1959 in Love and Welfare, Duffy S, 2016, Sheffield, Centre for Welfare Reform, p6

Lest we forget

Today is remembrance Sunday and the word remembrance conjures up many things. There is remembrance of those brave souls who fought for us during the war. But I have been remembering others today, who are in my view heroes of a different kind.

Today I want to celebrate those who have fought and are fighting a different kind of battle, especially at this time. So I shout out to people who endure depression day after relenting day without putting a full stop to their sentence. I shout out to those battling poverty, struggling to feed their children against the odds. And to those on the streets, with pavements as their pilow, street warriors, keep going.

Today I celebrate the invisible, the unnoticed, the neglected and the forgotten. Because I see you. Having frequently been overlooked, I know what that feels like. And so I try my best to notice.

Keep fighting on everyone. Keep hoping.

Today’s recipe of hope is to9 notice those you normally would not. Challenge yourself today to see those who may be invisible to others, lest we forget. X

Lessons in Lockdown 2

During the first lockdown, I began to re-evaluate life. In this second lockdown, I am starting to try things out. Let’s explore this further.

So, one of the things I have learnt most about is that people are in desperate situations in huge numbers. Living in fear of a virus, lonely, cut off, isolated, in poverty. Indeed I would say that exuberantly happy people in the UK are in the minority at the present time.

So where does this leave us? I would argue that it leaves us gasping for hope in this pandemic. And what I would suggest is that hope and kindness are inextricably linked. By seeking to give to others, we help keep hope alive in our hearts and the lives of other people.

One small action has a ripple effect. I have seen old people doing walks on their zimmer frames, young children who have lost limbs raising money for others and countless other wonderful things, I have been heartened by the desire to hope and help that is flourishing at this time.

Today’s recipe of hope is to watch an inspiring act of kindness that you know about, on your screen. Then take some time to reflect on it and think about acts of kindness you have been shown. You may feel inspired to do something wonderful today. X

Seeing hope in rubbish

Hello everyone. It has been a while. The challenges of having a fractured wrist have been significant and I am glad my hope quota was quite big before it happened!

I have always felt we can do a lot more about waste than we do. A few recycling boxes on a kerb never really cut it in my view. So, during this pandemic, I have set up a project that in my view is about those who have redistributing to those who have not.

We have been running what started as a clothing bank and has now metamorphosed into a free charity shop. We give away many things that could go in the bin; used socks, used or unworn bras, men’s underwear, worn flipflops. I may not need to use a clothing bank, but many people do. Many women are unable to afford bras or new underwear, many men are unable to afford socks, underpants or boxers. This is shocking and true. And many British people are walking around with holes in their shoes, or trainers that are split. Many families cannot afford to feed, yet along clothe their children. I feel we are living in twentieth century Victorian England.

I write this not to shock, but because it is the truth. I live and work in one of the most deprived areas in the South East of England. Many people are struggling; this week’s foodbank queue went up the street about 100 yards-250 parcels are going out each week!

So what can be done? Well pure and simply each of us can do something. Small acts of kindness, befriending the lonely, simply thinking of other people makes a difference. Someone recently sent me a card because I have fractured my wrist. That meant a lot. Someone recorded me a beautiful encouraging message today. Someone else has been guest blogging for me. These things touch my heart.

|Today’s recipe of hope is to touch someone’s heart. Be creative-someone paid for a coffee for the car behind at Costa recently and that made someone’s day. And use your gifts. Some of my friends are the most amazing hosts and make incredible food in their home made pizza oven. Let’s all make a special effort to spread that hope around.

Love to you all X

GUEST BLOG 3

My sincere thanks to Amanda who has really helped me in my hour of need by writing guest blogs. I will write something soon, it is very tricky typing one handed.

Enjoy X

Man of Hope

Going back into lockdown we need something to hope about and this weekend I attended a 24-7 prayer gathering, I was thinking if there is one time this century we need prayer, that would be now! So, I went to learn all that I could, and I found hope there, in the grateful gathering of people turning to prayer to find hope.Onespeaker Heather Hannah rather beautifully said that the ache of the human heart is for hope. She had many interesting things to say about hope, so I thought I’d share them here:

“Hope is the joyful anticipation of good. It is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hope sees the circumstances of your surroundings saying one thing and hope saying another. Hope is the joyful expectation of breakthrough. Hope reinterprets our circumstances. Hope brings perspective.”

Hannah is a follower of Jesus or as some might say a Christian, she described hope as a gift and the title of her talk was ‘Abnormal Hope’. Seeing hope as countercultural because it says, ‘there is another way’, Hannah challenged me to see hope differently. I really was thankful for this new take on hope. That hope is a gift I can give to others by serving, by believing and a gift given to us through our faith.

Ernst Bloch a German philosopher in the Principle of Hope describes hope‘as the framework for human action’[1] I can see his point as Britain and much of Europe goes into its second lockdown. When the pandemic hit, we saw thousands and thousands of people taking hope to others through kindness looking after neighbours and strangers and we saw keyworkers giving up their lives to serve and care deeply for others in an unprecedented way. As I write this I fill up as I remember people’s sacrifice and how we have to do it all again. We need hope in this challenging unpredictable landscape. We need it for ourselves, for our friends and family, for our neighbours and communities and for our sanity.

As Archbishop Antje Jackelén of the Church of Sweden comments the pandemic, politics, discrimination, the climate change challenge, the unrest in the world, the refugee situation “all these things make people ask for hope.”[2]It’s exactly at times like this we turn to prayer.Jurgen Moltmann, known as one of the great theological thinkers of our time, believes that God is closer to us than we are to ourselves, with the result that we cannot see him. A bit like holding a book right in front of your face, it’s so close you cannot focus on it.Moltmann actually wrote a book in 1964 called The Theology of Hope. But I love this analogy. That God is so close we cannot see him. It made me stop and think. It felt almost breathless at this thought! I’ve spent a lot of my life striving to find God and God’s love and what if he was right here all along? This gives me hope! I might judge myself and think I am far from God, but the message Hannah was bringing and the message of the Bible is that Jesus made a way for us to be this close to God! He is the man of hope. Wow! I am going to think about this some more…

My prayer and recipe of hope today is “Give us the courage and faith to be abnormal hopers.”


[1]https://www.oikoumene.org/news/50-years-after-theology-of-hope-jurgen-moltmanns-vision-continues-to-inspire

[2]Ibid

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