Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Happy birthday! or, Reasons to be Cheerful, part one.

I don't normally shout about the fact it's my birthday, but this time I will. Not the birthday bit, specifically, as I've written before about how the number associated with it seems less and less believable as the years go by, but this time the happy bit.

Lots of people reassess their lives on key dates - New Year's Day springs to mind - and for me that date is my birthday. Here are some of the reasons why I'm happy this year:

I have a wonderful family and superb friends. (I've already had some lovely presents and over 50 birthday wishes via Facebook.)

Notwithstanding the as-yet-unknown result of a recent blood test, I'm actually pretty healthy. I'm fitter than I've been for nearly forty years and I weigh less now than I have done for over twenty years.

My first novel, Moses in Chains, may not have won any prizes but it's out there and the first draft of the second novel is nearly finished.

I've found a new direction for my poetry that is still quite challenging but also satisfying.

I'm going to be doing some more directing next year. I've missed that!

I'm feeling brave enough to consider some more solo singing this year. (The supportive friends definitely help with this.)

I may have added some more destinations to my bucket list but I'm lucky enough that we can still attempt to work our way through it.

I have a job I enjoy; my dad always said the secret to happiness was to find something you enjoyed doing so much you'd do it for nothing, and then to do it so well that someone paid you to do it. Tick!

I recognise that the little irritations each day are just that - little, and irritations. Nothing more. The problems that some other people face, now they're problems!

I read somewhere recently that happy people focus on the positive things in their lives, whereas depressed people dwell on the negative. During the depths of winter, I certainly found it harder to find things to be happy about, but today the sun is shining, the daffodils are heavy on their stems and I'm off to sunnier/warmer climes shortly. I'm being positive!

How often do you make a list of your reasons to be cheerful?

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Giving for the right reason

There are so many charitable causes out there these days, how do you decide which one or ones to support? I suppose it depends on your beliefs initially. Some people would rather support the NSPCC rather than the RSPCA because 'people before animals', or vice versa, 'because they can't speak for themselves'. There's no denying that both charities and causes are worthy ones, but most of us have very finite resources and can't give to everyone who asks. So what's your reason for giving?

I am aware of at least one person who donates on a standing order because he wanted to talk to the pretty girl asking people in the street to sign up. Perhaps that was partly why she was picked for the job? Other donors might have more personal reasons; the vast majority of the runners doing the Race for Life for Cancer Research are doing it in part because they know someone affected by cancer.

Launton Village Players raise a lot of money each year with the pantomime; this year over £5000 will be donated to a variety of charities, some local, some national. Performers have a say in the recipients and can nominate their favourites. This year, in addition to our local schools, money will be sent to Diabetes UK, the Samaritans, Air Ambulance, ROSY and Bicester Food Bank, amongst others. (If you come to next year's pantomime, there will be a full list in the programme. And then you will be contributing to the next group. See how it works? ;-) ) All, I am sure you will agree, worthy causes, and all raised while at same time having fun. I suspect some people do the pantomime or attend it purely for the enjoyment factor...

Personally, I support a child in Guatemala through Plan UK via a monthly payment, in addition to donations to DEC appeals and the like. My reason for choosing Plan UK was partly to abate my empty nest syndrome once my own children had moved out, and Plan UK specifically had no religious affiliations. My donation supports not only a particular child but also her community, assisting with things like clean water and access to education. I'm very happy to support this worthy cause.

What I'm not happy to do, however, is be treated like some kind of cash-cow. We are all quite rightly scathing of the scammers who, having discovered a kindly soul prepared to send their cheque to unlock the winnings of the Nigerian lottery or similar, then sell the name and address on and inundate this poor (or soon-to-be poor) credulous person with other requests for money. A news story this morning mentioned an unfortunate gentleman who had lost £100,000 via this route. But are charities who inundate their supporters with requests for additional money so very different from these scammers? I gather from someone who has worked for a charity that the cost of these begging mailshots and phone calls yields enough money to be worth it. I wonder if they have considered the negative image that is generated, however. Is that worth it? Money given through guilt may buy the same benefits as money freely given but it's unlikely to be repeated often, I suspect. And at some point, the pool of potential donors will be exhausted.