Sometimes, it’s a matter of perspective

I am not going to write one of those inspirational blogs posts telling you to be positive before adding life is what you make of it and that positive thoughts conquer all.

You know those posts that I mean.  Those posts based around those little play on words to convince you that a great attitude will change your life for the better.  Something like there being a mile in each smile…anything like that.

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My printer problems were due to first the orange followed by the red segments of the pie chart.  Hmm, pie…

I don’t think that life can be improved by telling yourself to look on the bright side of anything.

But, please don’t get me wrong.  I do believe that you should try to have a positive attitude because, if my own experience proves to be typical for everyone, you will find life a little more bearable and a little bit more enjoyable.

A better perspective on life certainly reduces your stress level.

This week, a number of things seemed to be going wrong for me.

It has been a great week to look at my World Vision calendar by my bed and read the month’s thank you message from one of the children my contributions have helped.

This month, eleven year old Ayesha is thanking me and all the other Raw Hope contributors for her school equipment.

I imagine for one moment the life that she leads and then realise how insignificant my own problems are.  How thankful to God I should be that my life is so free of trials that I have the luxury to waste time feeling aggravated by my printer playing up or the apparent fault with my mobile telephone SIM card.

So, thank you Ayesha, I have been able to face my problems with more serenity and a better perspective of how unimportant these niggles in my life really are.

Positive thoughts have not improved my life this week.  Little things have kept on happening, a new issue shrieks at me every day it has seemed.

Thinking positive thoughts has led me to feeling a lot less stressed, instead.  Thinking positive thoughts has led to my being an easier person to live with over the last week or so and left me better able to enjoy the next week when things go well for me.

The Arms of Sorrow

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got – Henry Ford

I was amazed (probably, I shouldn’t have been) that on the Internet this quote is attributed to other people besides Henry Ford. One business website attributes the quote to Albert Einstein, for instance.

Anyway, I digress.

I think last year I mentioned that February and March is a sad time for me and I end up taking time off work with illness.  In February 2015 I was absent from work with sickness for four days and the same thing happened again in March last year.

March 2009 was when my father passed away, whilst I lost contact with someone special to me during March 2014.  February is connected to that same person for a special reason which I won’t go into right now.

In November last year, I planned ahead and booked some time off.  My leave started Thursday last week and I returned to work yesterday.  It meant that I would be home on my own to grasp time for myself to think about the two people I mentioned in the previous paragraph.

I was pretty ineffectual as a human being last weekend.  Sunday saw me biting Gloria’s head off at the slightest thing.

During my week of leave from work, I had chance to sort a few things out around the house; those DIY (Do It Yourself) items that I have been putting off for a number of months.

One thing was to sort out a box of paperwork that I kept ignoring week after week for…I don’t know how many months.  Some of the post in the box was my late father’s which dated back as far as 1984.  That box is no longer making the place look untidy, so I scored a success there.

Seeing that post and realising how quick each task I completed was, I lamented how I have been putting things off.  If I keep on putting things off, I will never get to finish my studying for that IT exam, for example.

This week – and every week – I have a choice.  If I carry on as before, I know what will happen.  I will die without making an impression on the world.

For all of the anger in my heart at the evil out there, I will have helped to change nothing.  At present, my ideals are not resulting in enough action.

The realisation came to me of how scared I am to be bold.

I am sure that if I were to die today, there are people that will remember me as someone with a kind heart.  I’m not mocking that, that is fantastic.

However, I want to look down from heaven and be able to see at least one person living a better life because of something that I have done whilst still alive.  I want to admire myself.  I hope that expression isn’t too clumsy.

 

The Hardest Thing To Accept

The Serenity Prayer – Reinhold Niebuhr

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.

Have you ever witnessed someone you love or care deeply about continually do something that even they acknowledge as stupid?  They continue no matter how much you try to reason with them.

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Reinhold Niebuhr

Most of you know what I’m talking about before I even spell it out, I reckon.

My twenty five year old daughter (no longer my stepdaughter – Yasmin calls me Dad, nowadays) has a professional occupation, her own car, rents her own place, is very attractive, has a good figure…well, she’d have no problem finding a new man if she wanted to.

So why is Yasmin still keeping with her boyfriend who even she describes as very immature.  None of her friends have good words to say about him but there he still is in her life.

I won’t tell her how to live her life.  I don’t believe that controlling another person’s life is an act of love.  I have gently advised her that she is possibly wasting a big chunk of her life as she would not be confident that he would have sufficient empathy to help one of their children suffering an emotional crisis at, say, thirteen years old.  I won’t tell her what to do but let her consider whether she is just wasting her time.

Yes, it is so hard to give others the latitude to live their own lives.  However, this is what decent human beings do for the ones that they love and care about.

I was thinking of The Serenity Prayer penned by Reinhold Niebuhr this week.

With Yasmin, I can sleep easy knowing that she isn’t the victim of domestic violence or some other barbaric practice, but is only putting herself through unnecessary mental pain.

But what of those who cannot help themselves?  What of those school aged girls who are first raped and then forced to marry their rapists under pressure from their families?  What of the child soldiers forced to shoot their own parents?  What of the innocent civilians maimed by previously unexploded cluster bombs?  What of those victims of the modern slave trade?

There are millions of girls, boys, women and men who are living through everyday hell with no means to save themselves.  This has always been true of this World.  However, I find it more the stuff of nightmares nowadays as we are living in the twenty first century.

All I can do is to change the things that I can change and accept that I cannot rescue the World.  If my actions can relieve the suffering of just one person, then my life will have been worth a great deal.

If half of the population of the United Kingdom joined me in this then the lives of 30 million people around the World will have been improved forever.  And what if half the inhabitants of each relatively rich and free western country improved the life of one other person?  How much better the world would be.

On my own I cannot change the world  A multitude of willing if meagre efforts from the millions also living in the same society as me can save the oppressed in this World.

On the plus side for Yasmin, her boyfriend did spoil her with several gifts for her birthday.  If he can be a bit more considerate of other people’s feelings then he too will be improving the world around him.

There is hope for this.  He isn’t a vindictive or bad person.  Hopefully, he’ll wake up one morning and just curse himself for acting before thinking of other people’s feelings.  I do actually think he is capable of that.

(Sittin’ on) the dock of a bay, or running the London Marathon

I mentioned in my post last week that my nephew Otis would be running the London Marathon that Sunday for Charity.  Hence the title of this blog as his father named him after the singer Otis Redding – a singer who, sadly, passed away in his twenties.

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The London Marathon progress tracking map during the event

On Friday evening, Otis set off from my Mum’s bungalow to London as he has a friend who lives in London.

Saturday was St George’s Day which means a number of fish and chips themed promotions in England.  On Saturday evening, Gloria and I joined my Mum at a Fish and Chips supper with accompanying quiz night at Mum’s local Church.

We were on team nine which included a seventeen year old boy coincidentally named George along his mother.  Being a typical teenager, he was a little short with his mother.  Those two took over round one which was deciphering the names of phobias.  George mentioned a few times that he was sure of the definition of this phobia and of that phobia although he had failed Latin.  That highlighted the difference in the education that he and I had both received.  It was good to have him on the team or round one would have been very embarrassing for team nine.  He was useless with the songs lyrics round, however, and embarrassedly watched his older team mates right down answers even to songs that were released within the last two years.  I say songs in the last two years but I really mean ‘song’ as I recognised the lyric from “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.

George was good company, as were the whole team.  I’d happily go for a drink with any of my team members from that evening.  But we finished fourth – we were cheated! (Joking)

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Otis’s progress page on the London Marathon website

Anyway, Sunday was the London Marathon.  I didn’t see Otis on television as the BBC seemed interested in following the professional athletes.  I was able to follow his progress online so my excitement remained high.  Otis slowed down dramatically after the first fifteen kilometres which is not too surprising.  From the photos on the London Marathon website, I can see that the pain started to hit him half-way through the course.

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Otis after successfully raising over £500!

He completed the London Marathon at 3:30pm having set off at 10:09am.  I had been texting updates to his mother all through the afternoon and then I telephoned my Mum at 3:45pm with the news that he had completed the course.

He stayed dans chez friend in London with his friend after the race and is due back at my Mum’s bungalow tomorrow.

You’ll notice that I wrote ‘dans chez friend’ – mixing French and English.  ‘Franglais’ is the nearest most British people come to speaking a foreign language!  As last weekend was St George’s Day I’m showing off my national heritage. (lol!)

Otis inspired me with his efforts on Sunday.  He raised more money offline than he did on his page on the London Marathon website.  Several hundred pounds for charity for five and a half hours of pushing his body through a big pain barrier.  Wow!

Otis, you’re “the man” this week.  For now, I’m relegated to “Harry…a man”!

More good news about the Write For Rights campaign

Due to being ill, it took me a few days to notice an email that I received.

It was an update on another of the cases that I wrote about during the Amnesty Write For Rights campaign.  I am quite sure that I mentioned that this was the first case for which I wrote a couple of letters in December last year.

The email is an update of good progress but more still needs to be done.

I hope that this can give us all hope that we can all do just a little bit to contribute to making the World just a little better than before.

It’s also nice for me to find out what happens after I sent those letters.

Here is an excerpt from the email:

Dear Harry,

Maria* was 13 years old when her father forced her to marry a 70-year-old man, a common practice in Burkina Faso.

Her father threatened her saying, “If you don’t go to join your husband, I will kill you.”

Amnesty is working to end child marriage once and for all…With your help, we are making strides.

In response to pressure from letters and actions from activists around the world, the Ministry of Justice, Human Rights and Civic Promotion in Burkina Faso has recently committed to raise the legal age of marriage for girls to 18 years and to ensure that forced marriage is clearly defined in Burkina Faso’s criminal code.

While these promises are a step in the right direction, we need your help to ensure these plans turn into real action.

Maria escaped after spending three days with her husband and his five other wives. She walked 105 miles over three days to get to a shelter.

When her father learned that she had fled, he threatened to attack the priest who helped her escape if she didn’t return home.

When she did return, she was beaten by her father and sent back to live with her husband. She again fled the house on foot and sought refuge at the nearest police station.

Amnesty is advocating for girls like Maria, who have suffered the injustice of early and forced marriage. We are telling their stories and we are holding governments accountable for their safety and well-being.

*Maria is not her real name