Looking Beyond …

thoughts and deliberations .. a theme is too restrictive


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To friendships – long and strong

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A thank you note to a special friend:

Four couples embarking on a new journey of parenthood sit on scattered cushions around the front room of a National Childbirth Trust enthusiast and teacher. They are wondering just what on earth they have signed up for. As the first group exercise unfurls and the earthy, left leaning tuition in all things maternal begins, they eye each other up suspiciously.   Right now, it isn’t parenthood they are worried about, as much as the unfolding nature of the forthcoming classes and instruction.

It is 23 years later, and we have lived to tell the tale. Having quickly identified each other’s reservations on that day, we dealt with them by meeting socially outside of the classes in order to assure ourselves that we hadn’t joined some kind of weird sect.   What some of us unknowingly had embarked on, was the beginning of a journey of lifelong friendship and support; the sharing of trials, tribulations and landmarks way beyond the birthing of those most special children that brought us together.

It was you, who sat at the helm of these developing friendships, bringing us together, spurring us on, challenging us and showing us over and over again with your energy, zest and enthusiasm that all situations in life are to be tackled head on and positively. With your generous nature, your optimism and perceptiveness, you were there at every turn and difficulty, as those of us new to parenthood stumbled our way through sleepless nights, weaning, teething and tantrums. You mopped up the tears, took our children off us for respite, gathered us together, and were constantly available. Even after we became separated as families geographically, you were the one that ensured that the friendships continued and thrived.

More than all of this, your friendship has been so special to me because you never once entertained the notion that my youngster, in his continual series of illizerof frames, hip spikas, plaster casts and splints, was anything other than one of the group, and you never once made me feel that our friendship through these times was an inconvenience. You gave this family total acceptance in our troubled journey and showed a generosity of heart beyond that of anyone else around us. I am not sure that you will ever know the significance of the times you took our two young lads to stay with you and give us a break, taking on the daily cleaning of wounds and medical care as if it were all part of the standard child-sitting duties. We will always be indebted to the love, acceptance and practical help that you gave to us during those years.

As the years went by, and our circumstances changed, it was you that fed our excitement at getting together for new year celebrations, and more latterly the infamous folk festival summer rendez-vous. Thank you. You ensured that we had many happy times together and we are still hopeful for many more.

Accompanying your generosity of spirit and your ability to organise and cajole, many other attributes – a sense of adventure, a continual striving to reach your full potential in life, to experience new and deeper things and to grow your identity – have brought many successes, adventures, joys and challenges along the way. When I look back to some of those conversations we had twenty years ago, who could possibly have imagined the journey on which your life has taken you since then? I am in awe of both what you have achieved and what you have survived.

Strong woman, not only have your nurturing, caring and loving characteristics ensured that each of your own children developed into wonderfully vibrant individuals who are able to offer and enjoy so much in their worlds, but you have enriched, inspired and encouraged other lives around you.

Long may you continue to give, and I pray that you will also receive abundantly, as you enter life’s next adventure.


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Simply Thank You

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Saying thank you is easy, costs nothing, requires no philosophical or emotional angst and quite simply doesn’t happen enough.

As children we were taught to say “please” and “thank you” as a matter of course.  These were the basic standards of politeness to be uttered regardless of the levels of appreciation truly felt.  They were also considered to be the first (and perhaps only)words learned in any new language in preparation for communication on holidays abroad. Whilst I continue to hear parents here in the UK cajoling their young children into saying “thank you” whenever they are offered something, I have also come to realise that the obsession with the word is not universal, and we can often misinterpret our friends from other cultures where saying “thank you” is not the basic or required expression of appreciation.

Well yesterday, the 40acts team suggested that we focus on being thankful.  And so for the majority of the day, I made sure that I took every opportunity possible to say thank you.  Inevitably, this was most appreciated when accompanied by some sign that the word came not on its own, but together with some evidence of an underlying thankfulness.  I was reminded what good and very different habits both saying thank you and being thankful are.

One of the suggestions for the day was to write letters of thanks to people in responsibility or authority. Now I am someone who has had a grand training and upbringing in writing letters of complaint to those in authority, and I don’t generally have difficulty in finding causes for this. This aspect of the task remained undone therefore, what with being away from home and it being a busy day.  In any case, my own children will be the first to tell me that writing “thank you” letters is an outdated form of appreciation and that no-one writes them anymore.

Strangely though,  whilst sitting and unwinding at the end of the day with a whiskey in one hand and chocolate in the other, laughing with a group of leaders over tales of letters of complaint they had received over the years, there was a moment when I saw through the funny side  to the  pain of continual discouragement through such letters of complaint. There were good reasons to be thankful to my new friends, and in this moment I knew to whom my 40Acts thank you letter should be written.