Sunday, 4 September 2011

“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.

The above quote by Morrie Schwartz is captured in the book ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ by Mitch Albom.

For those who are unfamiliar with the title, ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ was published in 1997 and is the true story about the visits made by sports writer Mitch Albom, to his dying former professor. The book is thought provoking and the words of wisdom captured during these visits live on and will carry on inspiring readers for many years to come.

It’s precisely because Mitch Albom saw the need to capture and share Morrie’s thoughts on living and dying that the book will remain a ‘must read’ for those seeking deeper understanding. Readers may recognize that they too can create meaning and bring purpose to their lives, by taking time to consider what’s important and/or unimportant in their lives.

In a similar way to Mitch Albom, I was driven to capture the shared experiences of parents of child children with upper limb deficiency in my book ‘Shared Experiences’.

I knew that such a book would inform, reassure and comfort new parents facing the news that their child has a congenital limb deficiency or becomes limb deficient as a result of an accident or illness. It’s very nearly two years since ‘Shared Experiences’ was published and I’m still profoundly affected by the emails and letters I receive from parents from within the UK and around the world, but also the contact from limb deficient adults and adults facing battles with health and disability.

This was an unexpected consequence, but a consequence that has made me realise more and more what ‘meaning seeking’ creatures we are and that many of us seek our inspiration from a wide variety of sources. We consciously seek out ‘meaning of life’ accounts to inform our own understanding. We don’t have to be directly or personally affected by the issues to be touched or inspired by true life stories.

And of course, beyond being touched or affected we can make some quite positive choices and act accordingly. Going beyond being touched to be inspired to do more to help your fellow man or your community is where some real learning and enlightenment can be found. We can find ourselves in positive acts.

We can also learn more than we ever imagined. I was born with a shortened forearm and missing hand, so I felt I knew a lot about visible difference and particularly limb deficiency, but over the last few years my focus has widened. I have become so much more aware of wider disability and health issues.

"Disability is not a brave struggle or ‘courage in the face of adversity.’ Disability is an art. It’s an ingenious way to live." - Neil Marcus
"Not only do physically disabled people have experiences which are not available to the able-bodied, they are in a better position to transcend cultural mythologies about the body, because they cannot do things the able-bodied feel they must do in order to be happy, ‘normal,’ and sane….If disabled people were truly heard, an explosion of knowledge of the human body and psyche would take place." - Susan Wendell

Read more:

I have also learned a lot about rippling and the ripple effect and once you get hooked on ripples you start to very careful about the pebbles you throw into your pond!

‘Each choice we make causes a ripple effect in our lives. When things happen to us, it is the reaction we choose that can create the difference between the sorrows of our past and the joy in our future.’ –
Chelle Thompson

‘Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.’
Scott Adams

I am also completely sold on how important it is to develop my creative side and that in creating and then producing much can be achieved. For many years I didn’t consider myself to be particularly creative. It wasn’t a word that I readily assigned as personality trait.

I think I associated the word ‘creative’ too closely to 'art'. I thought being creative was the ability to draw, make flower arrangements, and design gardens. As I am spectacularly bad at anything that I consider remotely ‘arty farty’ creativity was like the ‘Turkish Delight’ chocolate in the box IE the one I left until last after the caramels had been enjoyed. I’m not arty - I still draw stick men for people! However I’ve learned to be creative and I’m constantly amazed at the outcomes. Think of the possibilities!

So how does developing creativity improve your life and the lives of others? Well it’s your own personal opportunity to develop and grow your ideas. If you have those ‘wouldn’t it be a good idea if’ ideas gathering dust at the back of your mind it’s your way of bringing them out for a brush down.

I apply most of my real creativity to innovative fundraising for Reach and the other charities I support. I enjoy dreaming up interesting fundraising schemes which will hopefully capture the imagination of others and encourage them to join in. Creativity and the ‘Ripple Effect’ are very close cousins.

‘Creative thinking is not a talent, it is a skill that can be learnt. It empowers people by adding strength to their natural abilities which improves teamwork, productivity and where appropriate profits.’
Edward de Bono

Where Edward writes profits I see it in terms of funds raised!

‘Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.’

Martin Luther King Jr

‘But out of limitations comes creativity’
Debbie Allen

And then trust in your creative self. Share your idea, work them up, modify them and put them into action

“Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts. And never hope more than you work.” -Rita Mae Brown

I was lucky enough to be awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours List on 31st December 2010. Let me be very quick in sharing with you, that such an award brings with it a whole gamut of emotions. For me the first stage was disbelief - that my pebbles, had created ripples worthy enough of such an award and then I became a little tongue tied on what I said about it or how I responded to the congratulations or comments of others.

I guess I didn’t want to appear to ‘Yippee, ’m going to meet the Queen’ as apart from making me look immodest, it it might appear that ‘I’m bigging myself up’ as anyone under 20 might say!

So here’s my acceptance quote;

‘I have always believed that the close collaborative efforts of teams and groups is key to bringing us together both in the work place and in the community; and more is achieved by working together than on your own. So whatever it is I’ve done to be nominated then I know it’s not my solo efforts and I want to thank those I’ve worked with for their part.

I’ve always tried to be a positive person and I firmly believe in John Wooden’s famous quote that "Things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out." I’m always telling my colleagues that one!’

Nine months on from the news and subsequent investiture I now realise it’s not something to wriggle and squirm about. I don’t have to explain or justify it.

It’s there and I can use it as a platform to continue raising awareness about issues relating to disability.

I can carry on doing after dinner talks, campaigning and fundraising. It doesn’t alter me as a person. I prefer to think about it as the very nice dress that you wouldn’t wear to do the house work in, but instead prefer to keep for special occasions!