Saturday, 17 September 2011

The milk of human kindness.

I have been watching the news the last few days about the miners who were killed in Wales. Any untimely death is a tragic one. For me, having grown up in a mining area with my father being in mine safety it was especially poignant. The scenes of that mine seemed to take us back in time. It remains such a dangerous way to make a living. The reason the Chilean rescue was so memorable was because it was rare to save so many lives in such an incident.

My father always said that he would prefer to see a time when people did not need to earn their living down mines. The impact of the miners strike was huge in our community and my father-like many- had no respect for Margaret Thatcher or Arthur Scargill, believing neither of them to have the real interest of the miners and their families in mind. Perhaps mines like the one in Wales are most likely to survive in times of economic hardship but safety must always be paramount. I lived through a local tragedy that although did not affect our family directly, I still recall vividly because of the stories and the impact on my Dad. He lost friends and colleagues and it affected him deeply for the rest of his life. And I remember our fear if he was late home-it was always there.  My thoughts are with the families for the difficult months and years ahead. The mining communities in South Wales will I am sure act as a support to those grieving families as such communities have done for centuries-their dignity has been remarked on by many.

It’s been a week of impacts. I attended the Long Term Conditions Alliance conference on Social care and long-term conditions. We know that when people become ill it affects all aspects of their lives. I heard loneliness described as a key issue. As we live longer and also have more one-person households loneliness becomes increasingly common. If that is combined with illness its not hard to see how it may compound the issue. As one elderly woman said to me-“I was told I had breast cancer then returned to the house and closed the door and there was no one there to comfort me.” She then went on to say that the support group had become a very important source of support and indeed the milk of human kindness.

Depression is a common consequence of a cancer diagnosis. And its frequently after treatment has ended that the impact of the diagnosis is felt most acutely. I shared my experience of hitting a wall of fatigue and “oh my goodness that really happened” first time round and to some extent more recently too, with a friend this week. She too has felt that impact and really was helped by a charity that provided counselling.

 Towards the end of the week I attended a meeting where we discussed what kind of communities we want to see and what will create that, given our current challenges. I do believe its fostering that milk of human kindness that provides the kind of support I have spoken of-both of which was made possible through a mixture of public and voluntary funding. Supporting our natural resources whether it’s as individuals, communities or nations can help us thrive better in the future. We need more policies and behaviours that support this.

In Breakthrough Breast Cancer we see the power of the volunteer daily, whether its doing the Great North Run to raise much need funds for us tomorrow (thank you all!), whether its our great volunteers who come into the office and do vital work on our behalf, whether its service pledge volunteers across Scotland using their experience to help others in the future- we could not do our work without them. And they inspire and humble us. I also see that spirit in many of our employees at Breakthrough who go beyond the extra mile for all those we represent. A job in a charity won’t make you rich ever but you will get up each day knowing you are making a difference. And they all are, all of those who contribute to the work paid or unpaid.

So its important to say thanks. We host events for volunteers to do that but this week it was one for team Breakthrough in Scotland. It also gave them an opportunity to see the new kitchen that has contributed to my grey hairs of late! I was busy cooking up a storm when a photographer arrived to take a photo of me for a article about my blog in a newspaper on Sunday this week. The dash to do the hair and make up and change out of the jeans and into a dress was impressive. I gave a swan like performance calm but paddling furiously while he took the photos. Koshka got in on the act too-sitting on his favourite cushion beside me. Amazingly it all came together on time despite the distraction. The photos seemed good too but I don’t know where he found those wrinkles to paint on ;-)!  It was a great evening and it also allowed my family to meet them all. There was much laughter and chat and my daughter summed it up at the end of the night, saying what lovely people I work with. Indeed they are!

Reasons to be cheerful are of course the great evening I have just described. I coped at work for a full week
( woo hoo!)and plan to travel to London to see my colleagues there next week. I am looking forward to that. Tomorrow its time with friends, chewing the fat and if weather permits a walk on the beach too, fingers crossed. 

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