Friday, 25 October 2013

On Gratitude

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity {Melody Beattie}

Gratitude means to be thankful that your eyes open each day, that you have health, food, water, shelter and the love of friends and family. It means acknowledging everything that you receive. Gratitude shifts your focus from lack to abundance, and turns what we have into not just enough, but with excess to share with others.
  
This week I am reminded of how much I had to feel grateful for; first and foremost for life. And this morning I received the sad news that my good friend Ian, who had been a constant and committed champion of my work with young people, had died. Although inevitable, and in Ian's case expected, death is still shocking and chastening. It is also a time to celebrate a life well lived. Blogpost http://amariblaize.blogspot.com/2012/12/when-life-chucks-googly.html?spref=tw recounts the discovery that Ian had an inoperable brain tumour. 

I heard of Ian’s death just as I sat to write today’s post which was initially called 'what a difference a life makes'. It touches on the life of Colin whom I have known for the last 15 years. During this period Colin and I have gleaned the odd snippets of information about each other’s lives but yesterday we swapped stories about growing up in children’s homes.

I had a much better time than he had. In fact Beechholme, an avenue of houses with 15-16 children in each was the best time of my childhood. When I have said that to people they look nonplussed, incredulous and there is stunned silence. This is not the norm for those brought up 'in care'. Just recently I discovered that the word ‘Jasmine’, the name of the house in which I lived, means ‘gift from God’.

Colin is one of those people who had a lucky escape, and with hindsight he can appreciate that. Colin remembers never bringing friends back to his family home without understanding quite why he did not do this. Much later he discovered that the reason why his father was frequently absent was that he was locked away in a psychiatric unit, having suffered a psychotic episode from his addiction to prescription drugs. One particular medication banned in this country was supplied to him by a rogue medic.

In his children's home Colin became part of a ‘band of brothers’ formed to protect each other from the ever present paedophile and other abusers lurking on the edges of daily life. This little group of six toughies from inner London became life long friends, but Colin is the only one who did not end up in prison; he is the only one still alive today. He is also a successful businessman and more than comfortably off, but holds on to his working class roots and eschews all airs and graces. He is one of those rare ‘true north’ people. One can count on Colin to do the right thing regardless of the cost to himself.

Yesterday Colin was telling me how he and his wife had recently fostered or became carers for Ben, a 10-year old mix-raced boy whose eyes had seen and ears had heard things that no child ever should. The little boy was struggling to stand in his new middle-class environment and get use to simple everyday things like sitting down at the table with family to have a meal. Colin has him playing rugby, football and squash to absorb the boy's fieriness, his protective shield. Ben has a ton of issues that could easily knock him into the abyss, not least his own family of origin, but he also has Colin. That will make a difference.

As I listened to Ben’s story, it brought tears to my eyes but also a silent thankfulness that there are people in the world like Colin. It reminded me to be grateful for the constant light which shines in the darkness. Since my own struggle with a critical illness and the need for constant vigilance around my health, I open my eyes each morning with words of gratitude.

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