Change Your Vision – Part 2

For those of you who have been following my blog -firstly thank you it really means the world to know that people are reading my content and see fit to leave some really nice feedback. For those of you who haven’t – why not? I’m knocking out some good stuff here!!

Anyway  – some of you may remember that last week I wrote about how great it would be if we could start to see the world through a child’s eyes, to think without prejudice and to question when we see something wrong.

Change Your Vision

Today I want to talk about children who don’t get to be children and have a childhood. I recently learnt that there are 160 million children forced into slavery. That figure blew my mind, 160 million children who don’t get to play, who don’t get to learn, who don’t get to dream about what they want to be when they grow up. Children who are trafficked into slavery where they get physically and sexually abused. These children might be making the clothes we wear. They might be making toys, games, footballs etc for other children but never get to play themselves.

I don’t want to bring the mood down too much because there are people who are doing amazing things and there are little things that we can all do.

An amazing man called Kailash Satyarthi has dedicated his life to eradicating child slavery and to make sure that every child is free, safe healthy and educated. He has already freed an amazing 80,000 children from a life of slavery. Children who can get on with having a childhood and learn to dream and play.

Last month a film was released on YouTube – The Price of Free. It features the life and work of Kailash and shows some of the operations that have been carried out to free child slaves. To be honest  – I haven’t got round to watching it yet! I will do over the holidays. So that’s one thing we can do. Watch this film, share with friends and raise awareness. I know some of you write some fantastic film review. Why not promote this?

The Price of Free

Another is to be more mindful about how we shop. How do we know that the clothes we wear, the toys our children play with haven’t been made by a child kept in slavery? One way would be to email, tweet the CEO’s of our favourite brands and seek reassurances. If our products can show that they haven’t been tested on animals is it too much to ask companies to display their guarantee that they haven’t used child labour?

The third way is the usual way, to donate what you can to one of the causes that are trying to end child slavery. What I love about Kailash is that he reminds us that we all have the love and compassion to bring about change and we can all do a bit no matter how small.

Thank You

Change Your Vision

For today’s blog I want you to come back in time with me – cue dream like music and wavy filters!

I want you to picture yourself in primary school between the ages of about 5-8. I have to go back a lot further in time than most of you!                                                          

Now – think of your friends. How did you choose your closest friends? Was it based on where they lived, what clothes they wore – the colour of their skin? Or was it based on how they behaved towards you and others?

If somebody joined your class who was from another country or another culture, how did you react? With fear, with suspicion, with judgement? Or with curiosity, with a load of questions that you wanted to ask, with excitement, with a desire to get to know this new person and be the first to include them in your group.

Did somebody in your class have a disability? Were they in a wheelchair, or struggle with communication? What happened? Were they left to get on with it or did you look for ways to include them? Did you adapt so you could fit in with their world? Did you get excited by learning a new way to communicate?

If somebody in your class was hungry and didn’t have their dinner how did you react? Just leave them, or did you look at your lunchbox and realise that you had more than enough and could spare something? Then did you tell someone that your classmate did not have any food with them?

If one of your best friends was feeling sad what did you do? Did you tell them to get over it, or did you try and make them feel better and if they were still feeling sad did you go and tell someone so you could get some more help so your friend started to feel better?

Ok by now I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. Seriously, what happens to us as we leave our childhood? Why do we turn to suspicion, why do we start to judge people based on anything other than how they behave towards us. Why do we look for reasons to exclude rather than include. Why do we stop questioning and just accept? What happens to compassion?

I have my own theory. As children we put our trust in authority, in grown-ups. We believe that people with knowledge and power tell us the truth and have our best interests. Our lives become harder and more stressful. The papers will come up with reasons why our lives aren’t perfect, the politicians will tell us it’s nothing to do with them, it’s always the other lot. We’re conditioned to become fearful, to be suspicious, to look for evidence to reinforce views that we’ve been fed. We’re told to look after No1.

But wouldn’t it be great to start seeing the world through the eyes of a young child again? To question, to use our eyes and our ears to see the world around us. We’re coming up to Christmas, one of the most magical times for most children. Let’s embrace that joy and wonder. Find your compassion x

Fellowship

I was struggling to decide what to write about this week. With Brexit and the news today that Trump has been firing tear gas at children who are trying to escape the most horrific of circumstances the world seems pretty dark at the moment. I don’t want to write about things that get me annoyed and wound up, that’s not going to serve any purpose at all.

Instead I’d much rather write about  things and people that inspire me, events that remind me that the world is an amazing place full of hope, joy, love and possibilities. Yes, there’s a few doyles around who have different agenda’s and would rather spread fear, division and intolerance but on the whole there is so much more light and positivity in the world – fact.

So today I want to tell you about an amazing group of people who I had the pleasure of spending a week with every year from 1990 to approx 2005. I was a volunteer for the Eston Fellowship and every year we would take a group of children and young adults who had a range of physical and learning disabilities away for a week. The guys that we took on holiday were from a deprived community and the week away was a break for them and their carers. It was also the highlight of my year. It was without fail a week filled with laughter, joy, friendship, singing, dancing, and fellowship. It also had a fair amount of going to the pub and enjoying a drink!

The guys that I spent the week with taught me more than they will ever know. I learnt the positivity that comes from volunteering, from giving something back and helping others. Some of the parents and carers were so grateful that we had given up some of our time so they could have a break. The guys also gave me a reminder on how to approach life.

Here was a group of people who all had a range of disabilities who just laughed, smiled, gave the most amazing hugs and just spread warmth and love wherever they went. They danced like no one was watching and when it came to karaoke they certainly sang like no one was listening!! They inspired me so much and gave me some of the best laughs I have ever had and provided unforgettable memories.

So whenever I feel down about the state of the world I’ll remember these times and these guys, some of whom are sadly no longer with us. I’ll remember that we never have to take life too seriously, that smiling, laughter and hugs are the way to go!

Apologies for the quality of the pictures, they were from a long time ago and usually taken at the party to celebrate the end of the week!!!

International Men’s Day

So today, Nov 19th is International Men’s day. Be honest  – who knew? I certainly didn’t until I saw it trending on Twitter this morning. I mean after all, every day is pretty much men’s day. We’re not an endangered species, we don’t need protecting or any campaign groups to start crowdfunding for us. We’re doing pretty well. We hold nearly all the top jobs, we make up the majority of the boards of directors, we’re still much more likely to be paid more than a woman, even when doing the same job. We don’t have the same pressures to constantly look good, to be constantly judged on our appearances, we don’t have the same expectations when it comes to raising a family. To the women reading this, I sincerely apologise for not listing all the many, many ways in which it’s easier to be a man but that blog would take weeks! It is still very much a man’s world – love that song!

The fact that it is still a man’s world does come with it’s problems, not least of which we are a long, long way from having an equal society. Another issue comes with the expectations and labels we place on men and the roles that we expect them to play. Toxic masculinity is a huge problem.

Toxic Masculinity

Not every man is going to want to fit into stereotypes of what a “real man” is meant to be and yet the pressure to do so can be crushing. If we’re struggling there is an expectation to “man-up” (hate that phrase). Crying is seen as a sign of weakness but why give us tear glands if we’re not meant to use them? Asking for help and speaking about your feelings is still frowned upon, real men don’t do that – right? Is it any wonder male suicide is a massive problem, my home town of Middlesbrough has the highest suicide rate in the UK. Bottling up your feelings is never good, suppressing your emotions is going to cause problems eventually. Not asking for help – why would you do that? In every other part of your life, especially if you were struggling physically you would ask for help. (Man-flu)! Why should your mental health be any different? It takes strength to ask for help but help is out there, I know!

Thankfully the conversation around men’s mental health does seem to be slowly improving. The conversations on Twitter today are mostly positive and encouraging, lots of people offering help and support, encouraging fellow men to open up. You still get the odd doyle who is worried about any perceived attack on his masculinity, probably the same person who is scared of a woman boss, or who has never watched a romcom! We are getting better at talking but there also needs to be better mental health services for everyone so people don’t have to wait a long time to access help.

The other thing that comes to mind for me on International Men’s day is all the great men who have had a bearing on my life. The fantastic dad who raised me and is still there for me, the great teachers who educated me, who taught me music and encouraged me, the men who gave me opportunities, who advised me, who influenced me.

So maybe International Men’s day isn’t such a bad thing. After all, we need all the help we can get!

I give the final word to one of the greatest men in history.

Now for some Good News

Last week 2 news stories caught my attention, that were just…sickening. I’m struggling to truly put into words the emotions that were stirred by the events.

I’m not going to share any pictures or links to the events, I don’t want to give the perpetrators any notoriety.

So very briefly, on Monday a video was share which showed people burning an effigy of the Grenfell Tower with cut outs of people trapped inside their flats. Then on Friday I watched a news report which showed how a school for people with learning disabilities had been vandalised. The criminals had destroyed toys, the minibuses, graffitied offensive language across the playground – you get the picture.

Your moral compass is seriously off point if you carried out these crimes or thought them funny, especially to target a place where vulnerable children feel safe, secure and happy.

The world is struggling, hate crime is on the rise – especially towards disabled people, racists are more bold and confident to spread their disgusting ideologies, our democracy is under threat from foreign interference and in Britain it looks like we’re are about to voluntarily distance ourselves from our neighbours and make ourselves poorer.

It’s more important than ever to remind ourselves that the world is actually an amazing place and that we are amazing. The two stories I mentioned, 99.999% of people will have found it sickening (no scientific evidence to back this up so don’t quote me)! People were asking, “what can I do to help the school and the children”?As it turned out, a group of volunteers had already come together to repair the damage. When tragedies like Grenfell occur or terrorists attack our way of life people come together, people support each other, the vast majority of us turn to love and compassion not hate or ignorance. We are reminded just how heroic our emergency services are.

It’s so easy to find bad news, we are conditioned to live in fear. Fear sells newspapers, fear sells full stop. If we live in fear we are more likely to spend money on things that we don’t necessarily need but will make us feel a bit better about ourselves and the world.

Good news is harder to find, but it’s there, all around us. Every day millions of people will do something kind. Communities will come together, people will give up their time to help others, a stranger will have done something today to save somebody’s life – and they might not even realise it. You are amazing, always remember that. Never let fear or hate win. Share good news, carry out random acts of kindness, make somebody smile.

As I started with bad news stories, it’s only fair that I redress that and share some stories of kindness and positivity. But first, I want to share a clip that always make me smile and cheers me up!

Guy Goma Interview

Now for the good news;

Acts of Kindness

and some more!

Let’s keep this going. Feel free to share your good news stories, your random acts of kindness.

Spread the love! x

How is it Bonfire Night already?!

man with fireworks
Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

Happy 5th November!

Is it just me or does this time of year go scarily fast? I get to the end of September and start getting constant reminders that Christmas is approaching and before you know it it’s a New Year! Every week seems to fly by and just merge into one. We set ourselves tasks and lists that we just have to get through before the end of the year.

So last week i took 2 days off and took the opportunity to have a breather to relax and to recharge. I spent some time at home watching some tv and movies that i have been meaning to watch for ages, I caught up with some reading and took the chance to go for some walks in the amazing Autumn sunshine and take in the colours that we are treated to at this time of year. It was amazing and made me appreciate what amazing scenery I have right on my doorstep.

There are some spaces and some views that have such a calming effect. There can be two people sat on a bench both taking in the scenery, one can be loaded and the other homeless but for that moment they are both equal. They both have the things that money can’t buy, tranquility, stillness, the beauty of natural surroundings, the chorus of birdsong, the sound of the leaves rustling, or the waves crashing. None of these things need to be bought, they’re out there for all for us and for free!

Next time you need to take a break and you feel that things are getting on top of you. Go and find your space, your view, your scenery. It doesn’t have to be far away and you don’t have to go for long to appreciate it but it’ll be worth it. I will wager you any money that you will still get through your list by Christmas!

The Power of Protest

This weekend I was sent a couple of reminders of the powers of protest, of taking a stand and taking action when something isn’t right.

On Sunday Dr Who’s episode focused on Rosa Parks and the action she took in refusing to give up her seat on a bus. It’s a programme I don’t normally watch and I haven’t even seen the episode yet but it has received wide critical acclaim and I will be watching it very soon.

I’ve always been deeply fascinated and inspired by the story of Rosa Parks. I really hope you all know her story. On 1st Dec 1955, travelling home from her job in Montgomery, Alabama she was already sitting in the part of the bus that was segregated off for black passengers when she was ordered by the driver to give up her seat to a white passenger as all the seats for whites at the front of the bus were taken. She refused, she said no. She was thrown off the bus and arrested even though she had not broken any law. The Jim Crow laws at the time which made segregation legal were applied very liberally.

The incident galvanised the civil rights movement in the area and they announced a bus boycott which lasted over a year and brought about a change in the law . The strike attracted wider attention and sparked other movements and also galvanised a young preacher by the name of Martin Luther King into becoming the figurehead and leader of the civil rights movement.

One woman, one action, one word – no, can change the world. Rosa died 13 years ago today – 24th Oct, but her legacy and her spirit will never die.

On Saturday, over half a million people gathered in central London to take part in a march calling for a People’s Vote on the outcome of negotiations regarding our decision leaving the EU. These were people from all parts of the country and all walks of life. It is a movement that I am proud to support and it is a cause that I have marched for previously.

There are so many arguments going backwards and forwards about Brexit but in this writers opinion Brexit is wrong, we made a very bad decision and I feel passionately enough about it to do what I can to persuade politicians to put the decision back to the public.

A decision was made to leave the EU that was based on lies, false promises and mis-information. It has been proven that the leave campaign cheated and broke the law. The decision means that we will make ourselves poorer and cut ourselves off from our friends and neighbours. Future generations will not have the right to live, travel, work or study freely in other European countries and we have put the lives of EU friends colleagues and neighbours into Limbo – it just isn’t right. No system is perfect and I would never pretend that the EU was. When there is no evidence at all to suggest that any deal will be better than what we already have then we need to take a deep breath, pause and ask ourselves “are we sure we want to go ahead with this”? It makes perfect sense and is very democratic!

Peaceful well organised and co-ordinated protests can be very effective. These images and reports from Saturday cannot fail to have made an impact even if the powers that be won’t admit it. Sometimes it takes thousands of people to come together but sometimes a single, simple action, a word can be the snowball that starts an avalanche.