Tuesday found me on a mission that bore no relation to 40Acts and left little time to even contemplate. But I was being called upon to consider the impact of the volume of plastic we use and abuse through our daily life. I have been well versed in the rigours of recycling for some years – having purchased a four compartment recycling bin for our fitted kitchen well before the councils started asking us to separate our discarded goods into categories for recycling. I am ready with my righteous anger when ever I see over packaged goods. I carry the reduce, reuse, recycle mantra in my head. I feel a pang of conscience every time I confine something to the land fill section of the rubbish collection.
It was, however, without a great deal of conviction that I entered into the plastic challenge for that day. I did start to note items of plastic that I came across for which alternatives might be found but that didn’t get beyond three items with the level of thinking I was able to apply. As I rushed to catch a bus for a hospital visit, I grabbed the pack of sandwiches that had been sent home with my Dad the previous evening upon his hospital discharge, and hastily attempted to liven up the contents with some tomato slices. This, I knew, was going to be my best chance of getting any refreshment during the day. Having consumed the less than appetising hospital fare, and not having yet had a chance to seek out a bin, the packaging was carried around with me for the rest of the day. Later on, at the nursing home to which my mother had now been delivered, some rather more tasty looking sandwiches sat untouched on her tea time plate. Rather more for the amusement of re-using the sandwich package than anything else, I was able to refill it with the superior offering and return it back to the fridge whence it had been taken at the start of the day. Voila! Dad now had ready-made supper – which with one arm completely out of action would be a blessing to him – and I had managed to pay lip service to the day’s challenge.
Wednesday, now back to my normal home/work routine, came the opportunity to respond to the nudge of generosity, whatever that was going to look like. In fact, I knew what it was that I was being nudged about even as I was showering in the morning. I can no longer remember how it came about that I spent the early minutes of my morning considering my general attitude to sponsorship requests, and being challenged to be more generous and less negative in my reaction.
I have never seen much point in sponsorship as a form of fundraising. I remember as a painfully shy child being asked to collect sponsorship from friends and neighbours for activities – memories of which have long since faded into insignificance. I would squirm as I squeamishly requested a penny per step, or skip, or word spell or whatever else the over zealous leader of the village’s latest uniformed organisation had happened to dream up. I would have given my every last penny had I had any to give, in order to avoid having to ask. As an adult, I have never really understood why donning a heavy sweat inducing animal costume to undertake some pointless activity should bear any relation to what constitutes a cause worthy of my giving; nor have I felt that kindly disposed to funding someone’s holiday adventure in disguise.
But for some reason, I got to thinking about the one time I voluntarily raised funds for the Neuro Foundation. You see, everything changes when you have a personal connection. When you see the value of a charity through your own personal experience, when you start to imagine what could be done if there were enough funds. Then you just want to do your bit, whatever it takes. That is how I came to fleece all my friends and relations as I climbed Ben Nevis many years ago. On Wednesday, I remembered the encouragement of their generosity which I had valued just as much as a message of support to the family as to the charity in their financial gain and exposure. So, my act became a resolution to go back over the past few months and reconsider my initial responses, with a somewhat more generous heart. My bank account is now somewhat lighter.
By Thursday, I felt ready to take on the next challenge. The task “mind the gap” was about learning from and giving to different generations. In a fit of enthusiasm and jumping directly to the ‘feeling inspired’ option, I was tasked with either looking at mentoring a young person or making regular visits to a care home. The latter caused a decidedly audible kind of huffy response as I consider myself to be spending rather more time in a care home of late than is good for me. Taking on extra visiting of this nature in order to fulfil this Lenten adventure – NO.
But, I did feel challenged to look again at why I find relationships with the younger generation so difficult. I am not comfortable with teenagers or young adults (with the sometimes exception of my own!) and I never seem to keep a conversation going without sounding like an inquisitor. Becoming a mentor seemed a step too far, and yet I do have three god-daughters between 17 and 23 and so thoughts about the task remained with me through the day. Carrying these thoughts with me, along with a work related motivation and a persistently ignored nagging that started pretty much with my new job near the town centre, I therefore decided that today was the day that I would venture into The Fountain YMCA Coffee shop in the Bus station.
Sitting down with the café manager I hope I managed to offer a bit of interest, encouragement or support over an excellent coffee. It wasn’t quite what I expected, but it did break the ice and I am sure I will be back. Maybe one day, I will be in the position to offer a helping hand or word to one of the young people who frequent the coffee shop and spend much of the day there without daring to hope for much of a future, and if not, and with the quality and cost of the coffee, nothing lost if I don’t.