Definition of Kindness

Just when you start to despair, a ray of hope shines through with simple stories of random acts of kindness.  I opened Facebook this evening and the first two posts I read were from people I knew who had experienced random acts of kindness from a stranger today.  How uplifting to know that there are still those in our midst whose first thought is to do good for others.

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I read recently a suggestion from someone that if you make an effort to perform an act of kindness for someone every day, just something small and random, then by the end of the year you will have brought a smile to 365 people.  Speaking of a smile brings to mind the lines of a poem attributed to Spike Milligan.

“Smiling is infectious. You catch it like the flu.

When someone smiled at me today I started to smile too.

I walked around the corner and someone saw me grin.

When he smiled I realised I had passed it on to him.

I thought about the smile and then realised its worth.

A single smile like mine could travel round the earth.

So if you feel a smile begin, don’t leave it undetected.

Start an epidemic and get the world infected.” 

That doesn’t mean we should all go around every day grinning like Cheshire cats but we can make the effort to smile at those we interact with.  Think of the dozens of people you interact with every day, your bus driver, the barista in the coffee shop, the guy behind the counter selling newspapers and bottled water, the receptionist in the office or the security guard on the door, your co-workers or your bosses.  It could be the girl who serves you lunch or the tired retail worker who checks out your purchases for dinner on the way home.  Think how much better you will feel if you greet them all with a smile.  Think of the knock-on effect on those you meet, for when you smile at them, they more than likely will smile back and be more inclined to pass on that smile to the next person they meet.

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So, today I have decided that in future I will make an effort to be more pleasant in my interaction with others, to be friendly and considerate in everything I do.  I think that effort will be rewarded with a more positive outlook for me and the knowledge that I may just have made someone smile and brought a little light into their day.

January

Now that New Year’s Eve is over and the month of January is underway, it might be a good time to think about the year ahead.  I love the idea that the year ahead has so many possibilities.  It may be good or bad but most likely it will bring a mixture of triumphs and tribulations.  We just need to figure out how we are going to deal with whatever 2019 has in store for us.

january

I had a look back at my resolutions for 2018 and I managed to keep some of them, like spending more time with my father, like reading two new novels per month, like establishing a writing schedule.  Okay, I didn’t lose the weight or learn the language but maybe those tasks are for this year.  What I did learn to do is to look for the positives in life.  So this year once again my virgin diary sits in front of me and the possibilities of 2019 beckon.

I don’t expect 2019 to be the best year ever.  There are trials and tribulations ahead but there is also the anticipation of happiness and joy.  I wrote last year that you won’t find joy unless you open your heart to it.  It is found in the most unusual places.  In the smile of a loved one as you listen to them attentively, in the taste of good food lovingly prepared, in losing yourself in the imagination of others, in the taste and smell of sea air as it blows the cobwebs from your brain and energises your soul, in the satisfaction of a job well done.

be-prepared-not-just-for-scouts

The old scouting motto springs to mind ‘be prepared’.  It is good advice, to be prepared for whatever life throws at you in the year ahead, prepare yourself to roll with the punches, prepare yourself to enjoy the here and now and above all to look for the positive aspects in life.

Happy New Year.

Your own front door

This time of year is a favourite of mine.  I love the colours of the leaves as they gradually fade from green to gold and russet.  I love the sound as they crinkle underfoot and the way they flutter in the breeze until they find their resting place in mounds that grow in the nooks and crannies.  My other half loves the splendour of the autumn leaves as they change colour.  He would just prefer if they stayed on the trees and not into our gutters and pathways and walked into the house.  Every year he wages battle with them, brushing them off the driveway and sweeping them away from the front door, where, in fairness, they tend to gather in huge numbers overnight.  Then eventually he gives in and bows to Mother Nature.  He points out that the blanket of leaves on the lawn will die back into the ground and offer nutrients to the grass, ensuring a vibrant green come next Spring.  It’s all part of the cycle of life, he says.  And we soak up the autumn colours and the last of summer sun and prepare ourselves for winter.  The chimney is cleaned and ready for the cold weather and the curtains are drawn each evening once darkness falls.

home cartoon

And my thoughts turn to those in our country who do not have their own front door to close.  Last week in our town we witnessed the allocation of newly built social housing to those that needed it.  It was a momentous occasion, a great day for the key holders and for the officials who oversaw the project.  Problem is, it just wasn’t enough.  The provision of these new units hardly made a dent in the numbers of people who are on the housing lists.

Last December the number of households on Kildare County Council’s housing list was 7,319.

Yet according to the Census 2016 figures, there are 4,650 vacant properties in Kildare.

Not all of these properties may be habitable and they may be a mix of private and public ownership but surely some of these vacant properties could be brought into use to alleviate the housing list.  What is wrong with us as a nation that we have allowed our politicians to continue to pursue a housing policy which has failed nearly 10,000 people with many more due to join their ranks in the coming months?  What is wrong with our politicians that they can stand over these policies and defend them when it has been pointed out to them time and time again that their housing policy has failed totally?  Why don’t they just build houses?  People need a home to call their own.  The workers of this country need homes.  Build social and affordable housing.

Simple.

home cartoon

 

Balance

Autumn officially begins in a couple of hours, well in our part of the world anyway.  The autumn equinox heralds the beginning of Autumn or Fall as our American and Canadian friends like to call it.  The word equinox comes from the Latin words aequi, meaning equal and nox meaning night.  At the autumn equinox, on September 23rd, instead of the Earth being slightly tilted towards the sun, the Earth’s tilt is perpendicular to the Sun, making day and night of equal length.  In a nutshell, from tomorrow our nights will be longer and our days shorter.

autumn equinox

We knew it was coming.  The leaves on the trees are starting to change colour, the green giving way to russet and gold.  Autumnal colours are glorious.  What could be nicer than a walk through a park in the autumn, hearing the crinkle of leaves underfoot and the cosy feeling of a warm scarf when there is a nip in the air, a promise of the winter ahead.  The autumn equinox is celebrated by modern pagans as a time of thanksgiving for the fruits of the earth.  Known as Mabon, they give thanks, they meditate and they pray for peace and stability in a world out of balance.  Mabon is the second of three pagan harvest festivals, preceded by Lughnasadh and followed by Samhain.

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In West Asia, the equinox marks the start of the Persian Festival of Autumn, the festival of sharing or love.  In Korea, they celebrate their harvest festival, Chuseok, with a three day holiday.  In Japan, Autumnal Equinox Day is a public holiday.  Higan is a Buddhist holiday exclusively celebrated by Japanese sects.  The Jewish holiday of Sukkot celebrates the gathering of the harvest and lasts for seven days.  It begins at sundown on Sept 23rd and ends at nightfall on September 30th.

All over the world, there are people who poise, at this equinox, when day and night are perfectly balanced and they consider what has gone before and what is yet to come.  Maybe we should all consider taking some time out tomorrow and just meditate.  Just imagine the earth on an even keel, balanced, at peace and try to follow that into our own lives.  Take time to remember our past and to contemplate our future.  Take time to find balance in our lives.

work-life-balance

 

Growing human beings

Where did the year go?  Last week in August already.  And what a summer!  The best summer we have had in living memory.  Heat, sunshine and a distinct lack of our normal rain!  We flocked to our beaches to frolic in the waves.  We trailed our mountains and our forests enjoying their natural beauty in warm sunshine and minus the usual wet-gear and waterproof boots.  We had stay-cations and weekend breaks and bought record breaking numbers of ice-creams and beers.

summer-clip-art-2018-15Festival lovers enjoyed a season of outdoor music without the accompanying mud and miserable drizzle with some commenting on how much more enjoyable the whole experience was, with the addition of sunscreen and dry sandaled feet.  This coming weekend, for the young and the young at heart, the last festival of the year takes place in Stradbally, County Laois.  I hope that each and every one of those attending have a wonderful time and pray that the autumnal rain stays away until Monday.

Some of the secondary schools are already back and into their autumn term.  The majority of schools return next week with the colleges the following week.  Whatever stage you are at, enjoy it.

rekfoto - orangeAs you are watch your child skip through the school gates, try and remember to give thanks and treasure the memory.  The years fly!  Before you know it, you will be dropping a teenager into school, maybe a surly one, maybe not.  Some will kiss you goodbye, some will ask to be dropped a mile away so that they don’t suffer the embarrassment of their parents dropping them at the school gates.  Either way is completely different from the eagerness of the national school child.  And as for college students, well, they’re adults.  They only need their mammy and daddy for washing and a good meal.  And that’s the way it should be.

Our children are on loan to us.  Our job is to bring them up to be self-sufficient adults who make a positive contribution to society.  The schools they attend will teach them the academic subjects they need, the Maths, the English the Sciences, the Languages.  Our job as parents is to teach them the values they need to be the best human being that they can be.  Our goal should be to teach our children the value of family, the value of hard work, the value of community and of respect for themselves and for their fellow human beings.  We should aspire for our children to have compassion for those less fortunate, to always lend a hand to those who need it.  We should aspire for our offspring to always stand up for themselves, to be confident in their abilities and their place in the world.  We should teach them the skills to make their own informed decisions, and how to change course if those decisions turn out to be the wrong ones for them.  Our goals for our children should be that, first and foremost, they become good human beings who will love life, love themselves and those around them and who will experience true happiness.

children good people

 

 

Social, to be or not to be

To me, the biggest advantage of social media, and Facebook, in particular, is the contact with old friends and far-flung family.  Thanks to Facebook I am in contact with people from my childhood, from my school days, friends, acquaintances and family from around the globe.

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While now and again people rant on Facebook and Instagram, most of the posts are happy and uplifting, imparting good news and holiday snaps and photos from birthday parties and weddings.  We post our best photos and share our joy in the world around us on Facebook.  We want our Facebook friends to share in our uplifting moments, our happy days.

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

Anyway, it is good to keep in touch, even if it is only through social media.  It reminds you that life goes on around you with or without your participation.  It reinforces the indisputable fact that your life impinges on others, and their lives impinge on yours,  ever-widening circles of human interaction.

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But social media also reminds you that we humans are sociable creatures.  We need interaction, we need to talk to each other, we crave human contact.  It is when we become isolated that we encounter problems.  It is very easy to isolate yourself without planning to.  To take a back seat, and not contribute.  We have to try not to fall into that trap.  We have to interact with our fellow human beings and in a positive way.

Use social media as a force for good.  Join groups that educate, that entertain, that encourage you to engage with others.  Use social media to keep in touch with friends and family in far-flung places.   Enjoy those ‘likes,’ those comments on your posts, and the interaction with your Facebook friends.

Photo by Nobo Xious on Unsplash

But don’t depend on social media for your only human interaction.  Lift your phone and instead of scrolling through your newsfeed, call that friend you promised to meet for coffee.  Walk down your street and smile at the first person you meet and see that smile returned.  As Spike Milligan once wrote in a poem, ‘smiling is infectious.  You catch it like the flu.’  Google it!  It’s a great poem.  There is nothing more uplifting than a smile, or a poem about a smile.

 

 

(Wo)man’s Best Friend

Our lovely lab ‘Bernie’ died last Saturday.  I know, strange name for a dog, but that was her name when she came to live with us twelve years ago, and we kept it because we thought she was traumatised enough.  She was a rescue dog, 6 months old, beaten, starved of affection and terrified of all adults.  The only person she would go to was our youngest boy, who was eight at the time.  It took her a while to trust the rest of the family but when she did, oh boy, she was the most affectionate slobber of a dog.

bernie 4

She craved human contact up to the day she died.  She loved to be stroked and seemed to believe that if any of her humans were sitting still then they should be stroking her.  If she was ignored she pushed her snout under your arm repeatedly until you petted her.  She was permanently wagging her tail especially when any of her humans came into her line of sight or scent.  She was greedy like most labs and we had to watch her diet.  She loved to swim, and she loved to play, particularly with our other dog, Louie the terrier.  He is lost without her.  She was one of us, a member of our family.  Any of you who have dogs in your life will understand and if you don’t own a dog, I would urge you to get one.

Dogs are great.  Every home is enriched by the addition of a family pet, and there is no pet like a dog.  Who else is always happy to see you and always eager to welcome you home.  Your dog gives love and affection with joyful abandonment and is a great companion.  All they ask in return is to be loved, fed and watered.  40% of us share our homes with our canine friends and reap the rewards on a daily basis.

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Dogs are funny creatures.  Their sense of smell is a million times stronger than ours and their hearing is ten times more accurate.  They guard us and see themselves as our protector but will be submissive to whoever they perceive to be the natural leader of our own little pack.  Humans have kept dogs as pets for over 12,000 years and for good reason.  They have earned the title of Man’s best friend, or Woman’s!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Information overload

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with my brother about information.  He made a comment about how much easier it is for today’s kids to access information.  Every little detail they need to know is available on their phone.  If they want to know anything they google it.  When most of us have a question, we google it.  Who scored the winning goal in the All Ireland Final in 1989, how many times has France won the World Cup, what is gnocchi?  Google has helped with homework, provided valuable research material and settled numerous heated debates.  But, as he pointed out, how good is the quality of that information?

We are all better informed and better educated than our parents were, and they were better educated than their parents before them.  It is part of the human spirit to want more for our children than we ever had, to give them a better education, better opportunities in life.  All parents can relate to that.  As children, our information came primarily from books and television.  When my eldest son was a toddler we invested in a set of Encyclopaedia Britannica books.  They cost so much that we had to buy them on HP, but we thought we were investing in his future.  The information age quickly overtook us, and the books became redundant before he ever got to use them.  Nowadays our children gather their information primarily from the internet, through their phones, through their laptops, through the family desktop.  As parents, we have a duty to ensure that the information they are accessing is age-appropriate, accurate, and educational.  We need to understand that not every article published on the internet is truthful or accurate.  We need to educate our children to this indisputable fact.

It’s nothing new.  History has always been written by the winner.  The viewpoint of the writer will always have a certain bias no matter how hard that writer attempts to tell both sides of the story.  That is human nature.  And there is nothing wrong with it.  As long as we are aware of that.

We are extremely fortunate to live in the information age.  We just need to learn how to disseminate the information available to us.  Read widely.  Discuss.  Debate.  Particularly with our children.  They are our future.  We want them to be well-educated, smart, compassionate but most of all, we want them to be good people.  And they won’t get that from the internet, or from a book.

 

Google it!

My youngest turns 20 in June.  I can’t remember life without him in it, but I feel like those twenty years have gone by in a flash.  They say as you get older the years go quicker.  Take my word for it, that is very true.  The Ireland of 20 years ago bears no reflection to the one we live in now.

mobile phone cartoon

In 1998 I didn’t have a mobile phone, neither did any of my friends or family.  For entertainment, we watched TV, usually the home stations RTE1, RTE2 and TG4.  In September 1998 they got a new rival.  TV3, an independent, commercial alternative.  For English channels, we were dependent on cable television provider Chorus, but in October digital satellite television came to Ireland, operated by Sky Digital and opened up a whole new world to us.

1998

We flocked to the cinemas, we still do, but in 1998 our cinemas were mainly single screens and locally owned.  We went there to watch Armageddon, Saving Private Ryan, Godzilla, There’s something about Mary, Deep Impact and Shakespeare in Love.  We brought the kids to see A Bug’s life and Mulan.

Mary McAleese was our president and Bertie Ahern was our Taoiseach with Mary Harney as Tánaiste.  The Celtic Tiger hadn’t yet been born but the twinkle was there in Bernie’s eye.  As a nation, we were sure about our future in Europe and our place in the world, due in no small measure to the Good Friday Agreement, the most significant event of 1998 for the people of Ireland, north and south.  It was the promise of peace, the building blocks for a new era.  The people of Ireland endorsed it by referendum a month later with the majority on both parts of this island voting in favour and Ireland looked forward instead of back with a new confidence in ourselves.

On Saturday 29th August that confidence was shaken by the dreadful news of a massive bomb in Omagh.  29 people died that morning and hundreds were injured.  It was a day which will scar our memories for years to come.  But perseverance and hard work on all sides kept the agreement on track.  Bill Clinton came to visit in September and we gave him a hero’s welcome, along with Tony Blair, when they spoke to the people of Omagh and to the whole island.  Then in October 1998, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to John Hume and David Trimble.  The Norwegian Nobel Committee expresses the hope that the foundations which have now been laid will not only lead to lasting peace in Northern Ireland, but also serve to inspire peaceful solutions to other religious, ethnic and national conflicts around the world.’ 

nobel peace prize

Yes, 1998 was a momentous year for the island of Ireland culminating with the demise of the punt on 31st December and the launch of the Euro on the first day of the new year.

But on the world stage, the most momentous event of 1998, was the formation in California of ‘Google Inc.’  It is hard to believe that 20 years ago we had never heard of Google.  It is now listed in the Oxford dictionary as a verb, i.e., ‘search for information about someone or something on the internet using the search engine Google.’ I googled that information!  How else would you access information on practically anything in this universe and beyond it?  It is an amazing resource, utilised by millions of people every day.  Google’s European headquarters is in Dublin, employing over 7,000 people.  Don’t know about you, but twenty years ago I wouldn’t have thought it possible that any internet company could employ that number of people, especially not in little old Dublin.

google-clip-art-2018-2

Immediate access to information has changed the world we live in.  If we want to know something, instead of weeks of research at the library or other research centres, we now ‘google’ our query and get immediate answers and thousands more questions.  The trick is to decipher which information is relevant and correct.

We have hundreds of television channels yet watch only a select few.  Currently one of the most popular programs is one which stars ordinary people watching television, (if you haven’t yet experienced the humanity of Gogglebox, indulge, it is unique).

We have the highest mobile phone ownership in Europe so we can keep in constant contact with each other, yet how often have you seen groups of teenagers starring into their phones and forgetting to communicate with each other.  In our hurry to explore new methods of communication, have we forgotten the joy of human interaction?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Google it!

My youngest turns 20 in June.  I can’t remember life without him in it, but I feel like those twenty years have gone by in a flash.  They say as you get older the years go quicker.  Take my word for it, that is very true.  The Ireland of 20 years ago bears no reflection to the one we live in now.

mobile phone cartoon

In 1998 I didn’t have a mobile phone, neither did any of my friends or family.  For entertainment, we watched TV, usually the home stations RTE1, RTE2 and TG4.  In September 1998 they got a new rival.  TV3, an independent, commercial alternative.  For English channels, we were dependent on cable television provider Chorus, but in October digital satellite television came to Ireland, operated by Sky Digital and opened up a whole new world to us.

1998

We flocked to the cinemas, we still do, but in 1998 our cinemas were mainly single screens and locally owned.  We went there to watch Armageddon, Saving Private Ryan, Godzilla, There’s something about Mary, Deep Impact and Shakespeare in Love.  We brought the kids to see A Bug’s life and Mulan.

Mary McAleese was our president and Bertie Ahern was our Taoiseach with Mary Harney as Tánaiste.  The Celtic Tiger hadn’t yet been born but the twinkle was there in Bernie’s eye.  As a nation, we were sure about our future in Europe and our place in the world, due in no small measure to the Good Friday Agreement, the most significant event of 1998 for the people of Ireland, north and south.  It was the promise of peace, the building blocks for a new era.  The people of Ireland endorsed it by referendum a month later with the majority on both parts of this island voting in favour and Ireland looked forward instead of back with a new confidence in ourselves.

On Saturday 29th August that confidence was shaken by the dreadful news of a massive bomb in Omagh.  29 people died that morning and hundreds were injured.  It was a day which will scar our memories for years to come.  But perseverance and hard work on all sides kept the agreement on track.  Bill Clinton came to visit in September and we gave him a hero’s welcome, along with Tony Blair, when they spoke to the people of Omagh and to the whole island.  Then in October 1998, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to John Hume and David Trimble.  The Norwegian Nobel Committee expresses the hope that the foundations which have now been laid will not only lead to lasting peace in Northern Ireland, but also serve to inspire peaceful solutions to other religious, ethnic and national conflicts around the world.’ 

nobel peace prize

Yes, 1998 was a momentous year for the island of Ireland culminating with the demise of the punt on 31st December and the launch of the Euro on the first day of the new year.

But on the world stage, the most momentous event of 1998, was the formation in California of ‘Google Inc.’  It is hard to believe that 20 years ago we had never heard of Google.  It is now listed in the Oxford dictionary as a verb, i.e., ‘search for information about someone or something on the internet using the search engine Google.’ I googled that information!  How else would you access information on practically anything in this universe and beyond it?  It is an amazing resource, utilised by millions of people every day.  Google’s European headquarters is in Dublin, employing over 7,000 people.  Don’t know about you, but twenty years ago I wouldn’t have thought it possible that any internet company could employ that number of people, especially not in little old Dublin.

google-clip-art-2018-2

Immediate access to information has changed the world we live in.  If we want to know something, instead of weeks of research at the library or other research centres, we now ‘google’ our query and get immediate answers and thousands more questions.  The trick is to decipher which information is relevant and correct.

We have hundreds of television channels yet watch only a select few.  Currently one of the most popular programs is one which stars ordinary people watching television, (if you haven’t yet experienced the humanity of Gogglebox, indulge, it is unique).

We have the highest mobile phone ownership in Europe so we can keep in constant contact with each other, yet how often have you seen groups of teenagers starring into their phones and forgetting to communicate with each other.  In our hurry to explore new methods of communication, have we forgotten the joy of human interaction?