Maybe It’s Because Their Parents Didn’t Let Them Climb Trees

In an age of social media, and constant connectedness- we’re sadly becoming more and more disconnected from the wisdom and insight of the older generation. It’s no secret that life is a lot different compared to what it used to be. But what was it really like – and what can we learn?

The first man I had the pleasure of meeting, Jeff, having grown up amidst the German bombings in London, gives us a brilliant insight into how life has changed since the 1940s.

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It’s all changed now. People – you always see them walking around looking at their phones or sipping on plastic bottles of water. When I was a kid, we used to go on a cycle ride, about 20 to 30 miles long and we never took a drink. If we were thirsty we’d stop and knock on someone’s door and ask for a drink”.

 

His wife explained ‘People are in such a hurry to do things now. In the past, people would choose to be stay at home mums. Or you’d walk everywhere and know your neighbours really well. When everyone travels in cars, you don’t get the chance to see people. You’ll say hi if you see them, but it isn’t the same‘.

I ask them whether they think things are better now, or whether they preferred them back then.

Jeff promptly replies, ‘Oh if I had a time machine I would go back. Even though back in those days, when I was growing up in London, we had no water, no electricity, no flushing toilet’.

‘You wouldn’t go back’ his wife says in astonishment.

‘I would’ Jeff insists.

It seems that material wealth, safety or even health holds no match to the prospect of going back the good old days for Jeff. I’m intrigued to find out why.

‘Where I lived, it was like paradise. We had so much freedom back then. There were no cars and as kids we could play on the streets. If I took you back to my village I could show you a wall which we drew chalk on to play cricket. And I’d take you to a plantation with so many trees. We used to battle with each other with branches. And if you got hit you’d have to lie down and you’d wait 20 seconds and then carry on battling! We were out making dens and playing on railroads. If you saw kids doing that now you’d think they were bad kids, but we weren’t, we were just having fun.

And you know I learnt to swim in the river trent! My dad was a great dad he would always get involved and wouldn’t shy away from fun. With him I built a diving board and every day before school – I was so keen to swim – that I would dive off this diving board and swim in the river trent! Baring in mind I was only a kid – I was 9 years old. Kids were more free back then’.

It’s a romantic idea hearing all of Jeff’s stories, and I can’t help thinking all children’s childhoods should involve battles with branches on plantation fields. But is it possible now?

‘These days parents are with their kids all the time. It’s sad that schools put red tape around everything for fear of being sued. I know my granddaughters’ sports day got cancelled recently because it was pouring down with rain. So they rescheduled and the next week it was a beautiful scorching hot day. And the headmaster cancelled again because he was afraid of someone getting sunstroke. It wasn’t like that with us – we’d play football in all sorts of weather. Our referee used to wear a huge camouflage waterproof cape. Now the children would be told to go inside for fear of the parents complaining that their kids got wet’.

‘But my grandkids – they do the same things that we did. I think in part it’s due to the influence that we had on their parents. My kids were out climbing trees, but I know others who wouldn’t allow their kids to climb because they were afraid of them falling. Funnily enough those are the same kids who owe tens of thousands of pounds of debt and struggle with money. My kids don’t. I wonder if it’s because their parents wouldn’t let them climb trees’.

If there’s any thread to pick out from my conversation with Jeff, it’s the sense of freedom of the past that stands out most profoundly. In a society where we’re constantly bombarded with information that tells us we ought to bubble wrap ourselves with precaution, comfort and convenience- Jeff’s stories challenge us to wrestle with the more meaningful aspects of life – of pursuing adventure, having a free spirit and investing and journeying with others in meaningful ways.

It seems we’re not the first generation to have been seeking a ‘yolo’ culture then! While for people like Jeff, this may have been expressed through running through railroads and swimming in the river trent, for us – perhaps the desire for adventure and freedom is revealed through our generation’s notable desire for travel, and for going out and partying. It does make me think though – perhaps if we gave the children of today a little more freedom, a little more adventure – they might be a lot happier, fulfilled and less likely to go off the rails at the slightest taste of freedom and independence.

Comment below and let me know what YOU think! 🙂

 

Liz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pride in Achievements: Good or Bad?

My friend and I had been discussing a topic back and forth for a while recently before we came to a conclusive agreement. The topic was the issue of pride, and whether pride- and feeling proud- can ever be good.

I had initially set out with the mind set that no, pride in itself cannot ever be good, given that in itself it means that one is thinking of themselves as superior to others. My good friend however argued that- in the face of equal circumstances and situations as other people, it is reasonable to be proud of the hard work that one has put in in order to achieve one’s goals. I eventually relented and accepted that yes, this made sense, but we both agreed that ultimately there is a measure of grace for each of us that allows us to be successful in life. It would be crazy to think that every single achievement and factor enabling our achievements in life has always been under our control, and attributable to our own actions.

To take a quick recent example, throughout this last year of working for my degree there have been so many instances when my achievements could have swung one way or another due to factors outside of my control. When I submitted a piece of coursework late for example, the result of 10 credits, and potentially the difference in my overall degree classification relied upon the grace of that lecturer. Similarly, there was another time when I had to (well I could have started earlier but that’s another story) write an essay in less than 6 hours (I started at midnight) which was due the same day as my dissertation. I had people praying for me and completely relied on God to get me through. There was no way when I found out that I got 65 (1,000 words short and with no reference section) that I feel I could take credit myself! For me it was nothing short of a miracle.

Therefore it seems that being proud is a difficult concept. For while it may be said that to feel good or proud that we have worked hard is a beneficial thing. On the other hand, it may be argued that feeling proud of our achievements can put as at risk of underestimating the contribution of favourable circumstances and situations around us, that have enabled us to succeed. In this way, it also makes us more likely to look down upon others who haven’t been so fortunate, whether due to their upbringing, circumstances or other influences. Thus, it seems to me that feelings of pride about one’s self must be taken with a large dose of thankfulness, and humility, recognising that it is by grace that we are who we are, and achieved what we have. Just think about all those little details that made your success possible that you never even considered.

That’s why for me- I’m thankful, and not proud, knowing that every good gift I have comes from the hand of God, and just as easily (although this is hard to say!) can be taken away.

Jeremiah 9:23 ‘Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches”.’

Proverbs 29:23 ‘One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor’.

Romans 12:16 ‘Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight’.

 

What is ‘The Hope Project’?

A series of short interviews finding what gives people hope in the midst of darkness. This project was set up in the wake of much suffering. The constant terror and negative news of June 2017 prompted me to question the fears that can so easily come to dominate our thoughts and minds. It challenged me to start a movement that instead of stirring up fear, stirs up hope. That is the aim of this project, to spread light in the midst of darkness and to unite us all in the knowledge that no matter how much darkness, there is always a light we can look to 🌟🙏🏻💛

If you’re interested please follow the project on Instagram: @hopeadvocate

Why Corbyn Makes A Great Leader: The Strength of Personal Conviction

I was on the train travelling back to Loughborough yesterday evening. I had to take a few unexpected changes due to delays, but I was grateful in the end that it resulted in some very chance and interesting meetings with others. The first person I met was a graduate student who studied in Manchester. We were sat at one of those table seats opposite each other. We all know how awkward it can get as you both negotiate trying to avoid eye contact so I decided I would speak to him.

“Excuse me what book are you reading?”

“Oh you like reading too?”

What started off as a discussion of books, soon turned into a discussion of all sorts of topics including politics, race, and religion. I could pick out all sorts of interesting sound-bytes from our conversation, but instead I want to expand on one issue in particular.

We had been discussing each other’s courses, when the topic turned to the question of morality, and how masses of ‘normal’ people can get involved in mass killings such as genocides. This was a topic I had written an essay about, and become aware of the many situational pressures that would push seemingly ‘normal’ people to rationalise and even moralise such evil behaviour.

“It’s usually the case that, because of the situation, people are put into situations where they cannot, or feel that they cannot escape. Then they’ll experience cognitive dissonance, an inconsistency, between their beliefs, and the behaviour they are carrying out. In this situation, people usually do one of two things, they either change their behaviour, or more likely, they’ll change their beliefs. For example they’ll dehumanise the victims and see them as sub-human in order to make their actions seem moral”.

“Yeah that’s so true, because no one wants to see themselves as the bad guy”.

“Exactly”.

I reasoned that it was quite a rare, and bold thing to do, to say to yourself “no – this is right, and this is wrong”. And to hold that as personally true, regardless of the situations. In fact, it represents functioning and thinking at a level of morality that the majority of the population usually don’t reach. This is according to research by Kohlberg (1958), who showed that for most of us, morality is judged on the bass of social approval, and the influence of authority, and not internal moral principles.

My new found friend agreed and started to tell me about his admiration of the actions of Nelson Mandela, a political activist and leader who showed just this type of moral thinking. His behaviour was strongly motivated by an internal moral principle of peace and justice, so much so that he was willing to face imprisonment for his opposition protests of minority white rule in South Africa. Even on his release and on achieving the role of presidency, he sought to reconcile and work with those who had imprisoned him. He even had dinner with those who had tried to have him killed in order to help bring about this healing peace-making process.

I agreed in amazement that this was a man with real conviction and courage.

Like Mandela, I have come to believe that Corbyn is a man of great moral conviction, courage, and personal integrity. Once returning back into my university halls, I was prompted by our conversation to follow some of the debates and look up the manifestos (rather than founding my political opinion on bits and pieces from my Facebook feed – which I admit is easy to do but perhaps not the most responsible way). I watched many different interviews with both Corbyn, and May, representing the Labour and Conservative parties respectively. I was impressed by Corbyn’s answers, and his confidence – even pride in defending and explaining his manifesto and plans. And, furthermore, the moral basis on which his manifesto was built. But I was also impressed by something else.

It may be no surprise to many of you reading, but it has been known and publicised that many of Theresa May’s promises and ‘priorities’ clash against her voting history and apparent convictions. One key example of this can be seen in her speech at Birmingham in July 2016, in which she stated that high-earning global companies, such as Amazon and Google, have a duty to pay their taxes. And yet – just months before, she had voted against implementing proposals intended to reduce tax avoidance and evasion. Jeremy Corbyn, however, appears to have great integrity, and has been quoted as such by many colleagues and acquaintances.

He has a track record of standing by the same socialist principles and convictions, even when the pressure to change his opinion gets tough. This can be demonstrated not least through his involvement in many campaigns over the years. He has served on the National Executive of the Anti-Apartheid Movement (which also resulted in being arrested in 1984 for protesting outside South Africa House), chaired the ‘Stop War’ coalition in protest of the Iraq War, and campaigned regularly against the conflict in Gaza. By his actions he has been shown to consistently promote the values of justice, peace, equality, and solidarity. Further to this, he appears to do this unashamedly, and without pride. It is noted for example that Corbyn usually has the lowest expenses of any MP.

The integrity of Corbyn really hit home for me when I heard his response in a Question Time episode by the BBC. Supporters of the Conservative party questioned him about his apparent reluctance to use nuclear weapons as defence. In response he replied, ‘look I don’t want to be responsible for the deaths of millions of people, and neither do you’. And it’s true – that even since being a school boy in 1966, Corbyn has been all for campaigning against nuclear disarmament. Rather than finding this act of determination and defiance worrying however, as others might, it filled me with trust and admiration. For it’s clear to me that, like a real leader should be, Jeremy is leading out of a strong sense of moral conviction. For his political behaviour evidently is not just a matter of politics, but of true, personal deep conviction.

A man of courage, integrity, and convicted on the grounds of equality, peace, and justice. That’s the kind of person I trust to lead me, and to shape the future of this country.

Who will you trust?

Escape: A Poem

Often my mind – it tempts me to think,

that all of my needs should be found in a blink.

the warmth of the sand, a forgiving new land,

might just be what I need to escape.

 

But what if escape is not a place to find,

but rather a powerful, true contentment of mind,

a place that can be found wherever-

in the depths of one’s heart.

 

See so often I am reminded-

there’s this truth that I know,

That when it comes to escaping,

we rarely have so far to go.

 

For the presence of God, it moves in waves,

it ebbs and flows and carries yearning hearts away-

into new places, my spirit soars free,

In the love of the Father,

I find escape and wonder in me.

‘Equality is the Best Therapy’

Recently during a lecture, the idea was raised that ‘equality is the best therapy’. I can relate to this at least on an interpersonal level, as I know I feel most at peace when I have no need to compare myself with others, either through downward or upward comparison. However, unlike the lecture, for me, the benefits of equality stem from the psychological impacts of feeling like you belong and are part of a community, as opposed to any perceived necessity of possessing certain resources or attributes. I think this is especially the case in developed countries such as the UK, where arguably basic physiological and safety needs are met in a far greater capacity than in the past, and compared to other less developed countries (Maslow, 1943, 1954; Batholomew, 2015).

In the case of poverty, it’s interesting that more financially equal countries have higher levels of social health (Wilkinson, & Pickett, 2011). For example, the USA while one of the richest countries in the world also has some of the highest rates and homicide and mental illness. On the other hand, as I have experienced, in poorer but more equal countries like Denmark, crime levels are so low most residents leave their bicycles in the street with no bike lock! This suggests that there is a much greater level of trust within more equal societies. This then suggests that the knock-on effects on communities and interpersonal relationships may have greater significance to social health rankings than the access to wealth or resources in themselves (Wilkinson, & Pickett, 2011)

This only seems more likely when one considers the poor families living in past Britain, or less developed countries, who would arguably not recognise our definition of poverty today in modern Britain (Bartholomew, 2015). Indeed, it could be argued that if all members of society lived in line with what currently we consider as ‘poor’, there would be no sense of shame, isolation or perhaps deficits in social health problems, as the whole society would be united in any perceived struggle or wealth (Tajfel, 1979). It may be argued that overall well-being may even increase, despite a decrease in wealth, due to the value that belonging to an in-group holds.

Thus, it may be argued that for the UK, addressing equality is of great importance if we are to achieve greater measures of health and well-being among communities. It seems that rather than assuming that the low well-being of the poorest communities is a result of material possessions or resources alone, we ought to examine the deeply personal psychological effects of having much greater or lesser than your neighbour… Whether you are a high-earner and feel great pride over your wealth, or are unemployed and perhaps feel bitter that you are just working to put food on the table… Perhaps we all ought to start to question, whatever we earn, how we can grow in empathy and understanding, how can we lend a hand to our neighbours, and how can we start to bridge the divide and interpersonal barriers created by inequality.

Bodies

Bodies. The flesh, the muscles, the bodies that both fuel us and pain us. The bodies that drive us to conquer amazing feats, yet need days tucked up in bed to recover from flu and illness. Can we ever be free?

I was thinking about this recently and concluded that, while we’re on this earth, we are trapped in these bodies. Perhaps not a particularly remarkable conclusion you might say, but notable that I would perhaps be asking the question in the first place.

I was asking these questions because, so often I have felt the burden of my body being judged. I’m not blaming anyone else, I know the judgement is largely self-directed most of the time, and happens inside my own head. To an extent, it reflects the culture we are absorbed in, in which our knowledge of people is informed overwhelmingly through visuals in social media.

But how far can we really judge someone by their body?

A friend of mine recently gave a talk about body image. Something she said really related to me, related to the struggle that we can often feel when we identify with our bodies. When we ‘feel fat’ we feel sensations of sadness, and when we feel fit and toned, we feel happy. Generally speaking. But thoughts like this end up directing your emotions along a mad rollercoaster at every ‘fat’ and ‘toned’ day. So where do these thoughts come from, and should we be entertaining them?

I think I could probably sit here, as we all could, and point fingers all day… at the media, at people in our past, at ourselves perhaps. One of the biggest contributors perhaps in this age is social media. So often we see the skinny toned figure, the countless likes and followers, and we make the connection. Body = social acceptance/ favour/ love (perhaps even happiness). And before you know it, we’re on the way to seeing bodies as means of gaging how much one is loved, or deserving of love and happiness.

This is so so wrong! Anyone who has tried to live their life keeping a certain figure for the purposes of gaining approval and love will know the disappointment and even the anxiety that this kind of thinking can cause. The constant comparison always leads to disappointment and at it’s worse self-hate, and the constant fear of coming up short can lead to stints of anxiety and panic. And surely this isn’t the type of life that we want to live… right?

So how can we bring change here?

I think it all starts with you – with me – with each one of us.

Because the way we think about ourselves will often shape the way we think about others.

Two major principles that Jesus lived by were grace and love. He met for dinner with the hated tax-collectors, he showed favour and love to prostitutes, he healed the outcast and the diseased. He saw beyond the outward appearance, and into people’s hearts. He saw beyond what the religious leaders of the time saw (the way people dressed, the rituals they followed, their reputation, upbringing, health, or promiscuity) and saw into the core of who people were, loving them through God’s eyes, and seeing past their faults and failures.

What would it look like if we treated ourselves, and our bodies, with this kind of radical love and grace?

If we understood that the core of who we are is far beyond appearances. If we understood that a loving, godly heart is of far more value than can ever be gaged through a number of likes. And that a toned, slim body is a temporary state, that many might pass into and out of, and that ultimately will fall beyond the reach of us all with time.

It’s so easy to let our bodies take over our thinking when the messages are all around us, telling us that they are to define who we are, now for guys as much as girls I’m sure. But how amazing is it that we can seek peace and rest from these worries and concerns through taking a further look at what Jesus taught. A man, a leader, a son of God, who showed the value of the human heart, over the temporary and fading value or appearances, rituals, and reputation.

God’s grace and love extends to each one of us.

And I find, that when you accept, and meditate on God’s love for you, it frees you to love others and see the beauty in everyone else too.

So I would encourage you (as much as I am encouraging myself!) to be strong, KNOW that God’s love and grace covers you in spite of what is visible on the surface, and allow this knowledge to empower you to change the lens through which you see and understand bodies… for yourself, and for others.

Romans 12:2 ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect’.

A special thank you to Hannah Fox for being a radiant beautiful beam of love, inspiration and hope in this area (and in many other ways too!)