Saturday, 24 August 2013

The best way to find yourself?

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Mohandas Ganghi

So many images were conjured up  for me this week I saw another piece of research about the benefits of volunteering and it made me reflect on my own experience of volunteering at different stages in my life. I have volunteered as a carer in hospital before I started my training, I have fundraised, I have volunteered as a safe-guarder for my church at that time, I have chaired playgroups and taken my turn at looking after the kids, I have been on school boards, I have supported family weekends for people with diabetes, I have given talks about health related things mainly and so on. But mostly now I’m asked to be a trustee for charities.
I suspect it’s a reflection of my cake making abilities. I will never be a food blogger. Now I’m sure it wasn’t my particular amateurish chocolate crispy cakes that were banned from the local fundraising group for Childline coffee mornings but I have long harboured suspicions it might have been. There was also the issue that as a local diabetes nurse in the practice at one stage, I was not good for profits when I was put in charge of selling the cakes at the coffee mornings. Move me to the books I cried, prospective buyers who know me ,see me there and put down the cakes with an apologetic smile. In spite of all of that I loved those days when I felt part of the community, focused on helping others in however small away and however tired we were by the end of the day we left with a smile and friendships deepened.
It was also a bit of a family joke that if I went along to an AGM of whatever group I was part of there was a risk I would end up as Chair. I can’t ever remember thinking this was my goal, mostly what  I knew was I wouldn’t want to be treasurer! I don’t doubt that those days of chairing playgroups etc helped me deal with any challenging situations as a leader. Fairness, clarity, focus on your mission and what’s important, listen and respond to all viewpoints and don’t take it personally (still hard I confess) were some of the things I learned. And seeing the outcome of your volunteering is so satisfying: the kids playing in the playgroup, secured for another year through your work; the families at the end of a weekend confidence boosted and friendships made to make life with diabetes a little easier in the future; a charity secure and meeting the people whose lives it has changed.
Yes volunteering has given me some of the greatest satisfaction over the years-and OK maybe the odd headache too but if you want to change your life and others too…go on give it a go. Think about what your good at and what makes your heart sing and find out what is needed and match the two. You won’t regret it I suspect and you will change someone’s life for the better too.

Reasons to be grateful:
I had a lovely lovely time with my daughter, the spa day was wonderful . She is home now with her family (see photo)to welcome her back. Today I’m off to the Festival of Politics at the Scottish Parliament. I guess it’s not everyone’s idea of fun but saddo that I am it is mine…honest! The Fringe finishes soon which perhaps is just as well my stamina and wallet are stretched by now. But we have seen some great things, including a young comedian from New York called Michael Che-one to watch I think. Brilliant!

Friday, 16 August 2013

Both Sides Now?

August is flying past with special family times and memorable experiences and inspiration from so many places. We have seen pregnant (maybe?) pandas, we have laughed and blushed at risqué comedies (they were supposed to be 12 and over!), we have been wowed by innovative theatre and mime, puppets have shocked and charmed us; singers, dancers and pipe bands have given us goosebumps and Edinburgh has been the beautiful and buzzing backdrop to it all. I have loved it all so far.

And on occasion it has made me think. The play of Anne Frank’s diary performed in the open air was no exception. The setting a garden of an old church and with the rain drizzling down, the actors told their story. Wrapped in warm clothes we watched engrossed as their drama unfolded. Still part of me hoping for a different ending, struck once again by the horror, sadness and impossibility of their plight. Such an intimate situation made me feel the guilt of not being able to help them. I wasn’t alone wiping away tears and rain from my face at the end.

The Man Who Planted Trees was told by puppeteers. They told us of how one man had changed the experience of many,  many people by planting a forest of trees himself. He transformed a barren part of the south of France into a lushly forested area. The dog puppet completely stole the show and made us laugh as we absorbed the powerful message of how just one man could make the world better for so many. A hugely important message for all of us gathered, young and old.

Unexpectedly a song by an a Cappella group also caught me. It was one of my favourites: Both Sides Now. Their version was simply beautiful and made me see the words afresh. All of the refection I have done in recent times came to me in that phrase “I really don’t know life at all”. Somehow its always seems to be at the time I have it all sussed that it all shifts on a sixpence. Here is Joni’s souful version of recent years , I love it and maybe there is a comfort in that message?

Reasons to be grateful. I had such a good time with the girls and now am looking forward to my daughter arriving for a few days. A spa day awaits! I leave you with the wonderful backdrop of Edinburgh castle lit up during the tattoo.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Affirming life....

It's August in Edinburgh. Cue crowds from all over the world, pockets full of flyers, crowded pavements and strangely attired performers. The festival season brings laughter, music, theatre, poetry and discussion to every venue all over the town. There is everything from grand venues hosting fine classical pieces to church halls with local theatre groups performing their hearts out. The streets are full of theatre and laughter, much to the chagrin of drivers around the city. There's even free shows for those with limited budgets but keen to feel part of the madness that is the fringe!

What amazes me is the talent and courage of all those involved. Yes careers are launched at the Edinburgh festival and fringe but for many it will not be their career, simply a way to explore their creativity, their talent and have experiences they will remember forever. I so admire them. In these times when people will work into their seventies, then having the things in their lives that balance work or that allow their talents to flourish within work will be ever more important. It's what builds resilience, helps engagement, fosters joy...we all need that.

It's not the only thing this week that has made me think of how much untapped potential their is out there. I saw this film of  the Landfilharmonic orchestra. its wonderful in its creativity and hopeful message. 
You can't fail to be moved by the story and how this chance to make music has lifted their lives, has shown them what they can do, has tapped into their potential. The message that stays with me is that we often hear messages about thinking more before we throw away waste but its even more important that we don't throw away people. Absolutely.

I would really like to live in a society where we think about how we can realise people's potential more, whether they are coping with things like illness or disability or if its about other kinds of challenges like poverty that affect all life choices. The message from this wonderful film and so many of the performances across Edinburgh this month, we all have so much to offer and if we get the chance it's not only life affirming, it's life changing.  

Reasons to be grateful.
 One of our friends died this week. He bravely dealt with three separate cancers in his life time. Even through that time he never lost sight of what mattered to him, his family, his friends, his community, his faith. All of us who knew him will remember his enthusiasm for life and be grateful that his passing was peaceful. I hope his family gain comfort knowing he will be missed and that he was loved.
Yet another reminder for me of how fortunate I have been by comparison and so I  will savour some wonderful family time ahead this week. My beautiful step-granddaughters are visiting for their first ever Edinburgh festival. We have lots planned and I am so looking forward to it. 
And the lovely Cara was one this week .Here she is in her Sunday collar!