As the nights now draw in and the the colder, darker and wetter weather kicks up another notch, it’s perhaps rather timely that the next Charity I wanted to add to the list on this site, and one that I had a leaflet to hand about, was HARP.
HARP is an action-based charity that is located and works in the town where I live, Southend. It aims to help the local homeless by providing essential services and emergency housing and works with people on a long-term basis so that they can hopefully get off the streets and rebuild their lives. They have two charity shops, offer emergency services including a drop-in centre for advice, hot meals and washing facilities and also offer supported accommodation. When someone is feeling hungry, alone, vulnerable… when they have no home and no shelter… when they feel lost and have no hope… HARP is there to help.
From their website, the services they offer:
Emergency Services at the Bradbury Centre: advice, support, a hot meal, help in finding emergency accommodation
Acorn Housing – a supported housing scheme for single people;
HARP Restart – supports ex-offenders who are receiving treatment for substance misuse with not just hostel accommodation but rehabilition programmes;
Learning for Life – provides accommodation and life skills to support those who have difficulty maintaining a tenancy, including support for the long-term homeless who often have very complex needs.
They do amazing, and staggering, work. From their website, the following facts:
HARP provided 3,900 food parcels and night packs in 2013, and over 4,500 in 2014/2015;
HARP’s volunteers are crucial to keeping the charity afloat. We have approximately 60 volunteers across our sites including our charity retail shops in London Road and Hamlet Court Road (both in Westcliff), including kitchens which are all run by volunteers,
All food donated to HARP is used in food parcels, night packs and for meals at The Bradbury Centre, the emergency hostel and our other specialist hostel;
As with any charity, help from the general public is vital to their ongoing work. There are many ways to help, from donating money, donating goods, fundraising and volunteering by donating time.
And for those runners who visit here, please note that they also have a local annual run… Harp24! This is a 24 hour race for either relay teams or solo runners, of 4.2 mile cross-country loops , and which raises a lot of money for the charity… so the more entrants, the more money it generates to help the charity provide the above services within the Community. The first of these races was in 2012 and it has grown in size every year since… over 300 runners for 2015! I had the pleasure of participating last year as a solo runner, one of only two idiots who ran with a weighted pack… and what a fantastic party atmosphere it had… friendly competition, camping, friends, families, children playing… unfortunately it clashed with my 8in8 marathon challenge this year so I couldn’t go.
Fab race reports available online from a variety of clubs, including one from Flyers Southend which can be read here and one from Rochford Running Club which can be found here, you might even spot me in one of their 2014 photos!
So for those of you who fancy a challenge, why not keep an eye out for next year’s event… enter a team or go solo, run for fun or use it as training for an ultra or stage race… and for the seriously crazy (or normal, depending upon your perspective 😉 ), how about going for a 100+ mileage and becoming a centurion?
And so to the last part of this post’s title…
It’s a little while off, but at the beginning of December, HARP will hopefully be kicking off their yearly Christmas Meals campaign/appeal again, which I participated in last year. I know that there are many appeals at this time of year, but imagine being on the streets with absolutely nothing, which is awful enough during any day… but at Christmas when homes light up with their decorations, trees and families gathering… when wherever you go, you hear about people’s plans for eating, drinking, having fun… belonging, being cared about, being loved, being wanted… what about those who don’t have food or a roof over their heads, those who don’t have any of this, have no-one? HARP aims to provide all who turn up a christmas meal at their Centre and these are funded entirely by donation. A donation doesn’t just provide a meal though… it also gives people access to the Charity’s full range of services which in turn can then ripple out to create new beginnings for them. So, for those who are interested, this is a heads up to please keep an eye out for when that appeal happens.
And lastly, for those that would like to help this fantastic Charity in any of the ways listed above, please click here for their website and here for their Facebook page, where you can find further information on doing just that.
Wishing you all a wonderful Friday and week ahead 🙂
Health has been at the forefront of my mind these past few weeks as I’ve unfortunately been laid low over the entire Christmas period with a bad flu virus and sinusitis. It also reminded me of how I felt a few years ago when I had to take a long time off work to recuperate.
I am, and was, very lucky. Some years ago I had extensive, cutting-edge hip surgery and although my surgeon was one of the few that deals with hip arthroscopy, unfortunately I had to have the whole “open you up” kinda thing and be pinned back together, which then meant a further op to get them out. This, of course, meant some months off work and on crutches and it’s amazing how much your self-awareness can grow at times like this… well I know mine did.
When you’re ill, you have expectations, not just of how it would any illness (or surgery) may go, but how you will manage, how physically capable you will be, how you think people will react to whatever situation you’re in at that time, and you’ll definitely find out what your “support” system is like! And of course there’s the emotional expectations… are you a cup full type of person, or a half-empty one? What “safe” routines do you fall into, where do you feel most comfortable… how much do your perceptions of self change? After all, times of healing can also very often show us where we most need to change our attitudes, if we are open to it.
In my opinion, positivity and focus are key to regaining optimum health… as are the words *Yes I can* (hmmmm, that may be meat for a later affirmation). I definitely felt my positivity slip both at times during recovery from surgery (I won’t bore you with the details since it’s so long ago) and yes, during this latest flu episode. Christmas especially is a time of being with loved ones, and this year I spent Boxing Day alone for the first time ever, ill in bed… though I did have the offer of dinner being brought round to me… meals on wheels express service *grin*.
Yet this affirmation isn’t just to be used by those who’ve undergone surgery or even anyone who needs *healing* of any kind. I think it’s the kind of affirmation that reinforces our soul each and every day. It helps to change our outlook… our focus… it helps to bring positivity into our lives… which then ripples out to help our physical health yes… and also our emotional and our spiritual health, because really, aren’t these all inter-linked?
It can also remind us to look at everything good we have in our lives, to be grateful for those things, or people… and even opportunities… we then find happiness and contentment within… and one of the physical benefits of this I think… is that we then radiate this outwards with our behaviour and attitudes towards others.
I am happy and healthy… (the remainder of flu notwithstanding)… I am… I have a great life, great friends and great support… no my life is not *perfect*… yes I’m still (and always will be) on a path of learning and self-awareness… yes I’m sure there will always be obstacles somewhere… but overall, I have excellent health for where I am in life, and a hellavu lot of happiness… which I try to remember daily and be grateful for.
Affirmation questions to consider for this week are:
How healthy do you feel?
How happy do you feel?
What obstacles to health and/or happiness do you think you have?
What can you do about such obstacles (even if it’s just a shift in attitude)?
What one change can you make right now to improve your health?
What one change can you make right now to improve your happiness?
Christmas is for love. It is for joy, for giving and sharing, for laughter, for reuniting with family and friends, for tinsel and brightly decorated packages. But mostly, Christmas is for love. I had not believed this until a small elf-like student with wide-eyed innocent eyes and soft rosy cheeks gave me a wondrous gift one Christmas.
Mark was an 11-year-old orphan who lived with his aunt, a bitter middle-aged woman greatly annoyed with the burden of caring for her dead sister’s son. She never failed to remind young Mark, if it hadn’t been for her generosity, he would be a vagrant, homeless waif. Still, with all the scolding and chilliness at home, he was a sweet and gentle child.
I had not noticed Mark particularly until he began staying after class each day (at the risk of arousing his aunt’s anger, I later found) to help me straighten up the room. We did this quietly and comfortably, not speaking much, but enjoying the solitude of that hour of the day. When we did talk, Mark spoke mostly of his mother. Though he was quite small when she died, he remembered a kind, gentle, loving woman, who always spent much time with him.
As Christmas drew near however, Mark failed to stay after school each day. I looked forward to his coming, and when the days passed and he continued to scamper hurriedly from the room after class, I stopped him one afternoon and asked why he no longer helped me in the room. I told him how I had missed him, and his large gray eyes lit up eagerly as he replied, “Did you really miss me?”
I explained how he had been my best helper. “I was making you a surprise,” he whispered confidentially. “It’s for Christmas.” With that, he became embarrassed and dashed from the room. He didn’t stay after school any more after that.
Finally came the last school day before Christmas. Mark crept slowly into the room late that afternoon with his hands concealing something behind his back. “I have your present,” he said timidly when I looked up. “I hope you like it.” He held out his hands, and there lying in his small palms was a tiny wooden box.
“Its beautiful, Mark. Is there something in it?” I asked opening the top to look inside. ”
“Oh you can’t see what’s in it,” he replied, “and you can’t touch it, or taste it or feel it, but mother always said it makes you feel good all the time, warm on cold nights, and safe when you’re all alone.”
I gazed into the empty box. “What is it Mark,” I asked gently, “that will make me feel so good?” “It’s love,” he whispered softly, “and mother always said it’s best when you give it away.” And he turned and quietly left the room.
So now I keep a small box crudely made of scraps of wood on the piano in my living room and only smile as inquiring friends raise quizzical eyebrows when I explain to them that there is love in it.
Yes, Christmas is for gaiety, mirth and song, for good and wondrous gifts. But mostly, Christmas is for love.
Image origin: unknown, found circulating on Facebook
And so we’re in our Christmas week… only a couple of days to go! Have you got all your cards written and sent, all your presents bought and wrapped up? And let’s not forget all the food that’ll be eaten as well… always a highlight… must admit it’s the one time of year I actually get time to do some baking, even if it’s only the Pavlova that gets requested for Christmas Day and my favourite oatmeal & raisin cookies (yeah I know, not expected given my chocolate consumption…)!
Christmas means many things to many people… and given the diversity of beliefs and opinions (to which we are all entitled) that may read this post, I am not going to wax lyrical about any specific one. Suffice it to say, that from my (very small) awareness and perspective, all religions and spiritual organisations appear to have the same fundamental aspects at their very core, those of:
Treating others as you wish to be treated
And we all know, in our hearts, that just because someone may not agree with us, doesn’t necessarily make them wrong, it just means they have life experiences, societal/cultural learning and awareness differences to our own. Perhaps then, the most important thing we can do for ourselves and others that will benefit us all is to open our hearts and share “Christmas” spirit, not just today when you’re reading this, nor just on Christmas Day, but try to embody and incorporate those aspects into our very being, each day of our lives.
Please have a wonderful Christmas week… and a special Christmas Day with your loved ones. Send loving energy and thoughts to those who can’t be with you, healing to those who need it… and hope for those who have none. I wish that you all have a Christmas that is filled with love, joy, laughter and hugs 🙂
Affirmation questions for this week are:
What does Christmas mean to you?
How is your Christmas spirit/energy coping?
What Christmas message can you give to others
What Christmas present can you give to yourself?
How can you keep your Christmas energy going?
And since it’s that time of year, I thought I’d share that Band Aid song, which was released way back in 1986!
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!
“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.
His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”
A few years ago there was an Oprah Winfrey programme on called “The Big Give” that I happened to catch a couple of the last few episodes, including the final. The premise of the show was 10 contestants, given a certain amount of cash each week and they had to give big by raising more money, putting on shows, helping people… and I think it was a different city each week. Then each week one person would be sent home until the end… you get the picture.
Given how close it is to Christmas, I thought how appropriate that kind of attitude is to have not only at this time of year (though, really, shouldn’t that be a daily thing we try to absorb, embrace and exemplify?) but to also use it for this week’s affirmation!
I’m not suggesting we all go out and raise money and achieve what these contestants did… although, if we could (or did), wouldn’t that be wonderful… generally though we can’t afford to give up our daily lives to do something like that. Instead, I thought about what if each and every one of us considers how we give to others… and to ourselves.
Seriously… what do you give to yourself? What do you give to others? How do you do this? If you don’t give… why not? If you do… what do you think the benefits are?
What do you consider to be “giving”?
One reaction to that could be of presents (well it is Christmas time)… gifts… material stuff… another could be the thought about how giving it is to smile at a stranger and what that might actually bring to their day. What about opening a door for someone… apart from having manners of course… what about letting that car out in front of you even if it delays you by 30 seconds? What about texting someone just to say hello if you haven’t heard from them for a while? Saying I love you, I missed you… or thank you for being there for me?
What then of giving to your self? Do you give your self a hug when you need it? How about a pat on the back and congratulations for something achieved or well done? What about a word or two of encouragement when you feel down and it’s hard to get motivated again? Don’t most people find that they can give to others but then treat themselves the harshest? Self love and self care are also part and parcel of our innate self-respect and self-worth, and very often a lot of people forget that they too deserve these things!
What are you and those closest to you in need of right now? And how can you give those gifts to them all (your self included)?
There are many many benefits to giving… not least the sense that we have helped to make someone else happy, have maybe lightened their burden… there’s also the fact that it can also obviously make us feel good about ourselves as well, but to me this is about unconditional giving… not expecting something in return, because we are giving because we want to, we choose to and because, hopefully, that will bring about a positive moment in a person’s life (be that another or our own)!
We do not remember days we remember moments ~~ Cesare Pavese ~~
Photograph: Sasha Willmott, taken in India, August 2012
“I APPRECIATE WHAT I ALREADY HAVE”
They are wise people who do not grieve
for the things which they have not,
but rejoice for those which they have.
~~ Epictetus ~~
This week’s affirmation isn’t just about material things… the new shiny car, the bigger house, the latest must-have fashions, designer accessories etc even if we could afford them on a regular basis (I’m betting nearly all of us can’t :D)… how many of us think or have thought, we will be happy when we’ve pleased our partners, our parents, our families… when we’ve finished updating or renovating our homes (note, this is coming from someone who lives in a kind of semi-permanent renovation zone!)… when we can afford to do, or to be,or to have… when we have time? On a financial level, on a material level, on a physical level? This can be related to time… looking forward to that one holiday per year, a two week break out of 365 days a year when everything else seems like a hard slog. Yes, it’s wonderful to have a holiday, and yes it is great that it provides motivation and a light at the end of a tunnel so to speak, but to put all that hope into just 14 days out of 365?
The media obviously plays heavily into this with advertising… especially where kids are concerned (and with Christmas coming up soon (yeah yeah I know, but it’s September in less than a week and you know the shops are going to be stocking up, if they haven’t already – watch out for the Christmas ads too) that pester power will come no doubt be coming into its own!!). Giving examples of so-called perfect idylls… yet all it seems to do is reinforce the idea that what we already have isn’t enough, doesn’t come up to scratch… we need more of… well… everything I guess.
For me, this affirmation is a reminder… to stop. Come to a halt. To look around… like I’m sure I’ve said before with these affirmations (and if not, definitely on the Facebook page or Twitter feed), perception is in the eye of the beholder. To change my perception, to look at what already surrounds me, what I have… with new eyes, fresh eyes… and to really appreciate what I see… from the loud and yelling kids (how much better they be loud, laugh and yell than be quiet and withdrawn and unhappy)… to peace and quiet alone time, for the food that we eat, for the roof over our heads, for the fact that we have someone to talk to, even if it’s only via email… for friends to spend time with, for partners who cuddle us… for someone being there… for our health, for the chance to live on this plane, on this planet, to learn… for our senses of sight, smell, touch, hearing, our bodies… for being our own person… for the choices that we can and do make… and everything else that you can think of!
To live, to laugh… to LOVE… what wonderful gifts we already have… if we but choose to see them 🙂