May I wish you all a very Happy New Year. I have said it before and I will say it again I am slowly turning into my mother, when I say where has the time gone ?
In our household 2019 was a memorable, thought provoking, year. In 2018 my husband’s life was saved because of the incredible skills and care within our National Health Service.
His brush with death changed both our attitudes for the better.
Life is indeed for living. And we will never take it for granted again. There are many who were not so lucky.
And so, after months of recovery, 2019 began with a journey to two countries we had never visited before. And in a way all we discovered in Vietnam and Cambodia, set the tone for the year ahead. I will never forget it.
Both countries are still suffering from the ravages of war in which millions of people died. But the people we met, every single one of them, were humble, hard working and more importantly positive. Their ethos, their faith in the goodness of people, was a lesson that will live with me for ever. I doubt there is a word for cynicism in either language.
Our whole journey reminded me so much of a little book I read many years ago called The Secret. I had forgotten it’s message, temporarily. I consider myself a very black and white person.
I believe we are all in charge of our own destinies and I don’t normally do self help books.
But The Secret was spiritually uplifting. For those who haven’t read it, it is based on the laws of attraction. Put it another way, you get back what you give. Or as someone once said smile and the world smiles with you.
I gave that little book to a friend of mine many years ago. I thought it perfectly summed up her attitude to living. This friend had been ill, seriously ill for many years. So ill in fact that we feared for her future.
She must have done too but she never let it dictate her life, or her zest for it. Even though she had been on dialysis for several years and had been told after two failed kidney transplants a perfect match would be a miracle, she woke up every morning ready to live that day to the full.
And against the odds a miracle did happen in the year that has now past. And so we look forward to many more years of friendship. But more importantly to many more years of positive thoughts and kind deeds.
The last group of people who so perfectly sum up all I am trying to say, I met towards the back end of 2019.
I had presented them with an accolade at the Yorkshire Choice Awards the year before.
It was on a freezing cold rainy November night that I joined the Homeless Street Angels on their rounds delivering so much more than just a hot meal and warm clothing to those living on the streets of Leeds. They, and many other organisations like them, also offer hope and a knowledge to the most vulnerable in our society that they are not alone.
I wrote about them in this column and once again the goodness of our readers shone through.
Over the past few weeks I have travelled the length and breadth of this great county of ours picking up donations of coats and hats, sleeping bags and toiletries following your incredible response. It matters.
And you are all Angels. I have seen for myself the gratitude and joy on the faces of those who through such simple actions realise that people really do care. And for some that is enough to have put them on a better path. More than one family or rough sleeper will spend 2020 under their own roof thanks to the Angels who believe giving is more important than receiving.
There are many who believe it is entirely the role of government to support the most vulnerable in society and yes I would agree they have a vital role to play. But so do we. And we always have done.
The Salvation Army, the NSPCC, Barnardo’s, Shelter and so many more were charities were born out of need and have continued under governments of all political persuasions. And they survive because people get off their sofas and do something to make a difference.
To all those who give their time I say thank you and long may you continue to make a difference in the year ahead. You are appreciated.
Next year I hope to visit more organisations and spread the word. That is the joy of semi retirement and the gift of this column.
Yes we can all hold the new government to account if they don’t fulfill their promises, but we can also count our blessings and do our bit too to ensure it really is a happy new year for others too.
That is the secret of a better life for us all.