2016. Why was it such a bad year for me personally?
Here’s the easy answer:
The Refugee Crisis, Syria, Celebrity Deaths, Palestine, Donald Trump, Homelessness, Brexit, Car Insurance,TXFM, Rent and whatever else…
And if I continue to accept that as my answer. If all of these things caused me to have a bad year… Then I better get ready for a bad 2017, and a bad 2018,19,20,21….
Having said that, it would take somebody made of stone, not to be affected by some of the atrocities that happened in the last year. And I am not suggesting that we should try not to let them affect us. However, try not to let it engulf you with grief and worry like it did to so many of us in 2016. Instead, let’s look at the images, listen to news, read the stories and try to let them inspire us to make our contribution for positive change in 2017. Do what we can do, don’t worry about what we cannot do.
I’ve lost count of the times in 2016 that I read something on Twitter or heard something on the radio and I let it ruin my day. I would be with my friends or family thinking “how can I be sitting here enjoying myself when I know that right now in Damascus there are bombs dropping on innocent people.” And what help was I by thinking like this? Absolutely no help! So this piece that I am writing is primarily for me, to challenge myself in 2017. But I hope that you read it too, and that it challenges some of your own views and behaviours going into this new year.
I recently spent time on a wonderful Youth Work training course by Erasmus+ called Game of Wellness in Brno, Czech Republic. I was one of 3 Irish participants. While discussing the topic of mental health with the group, it was pointed out to us (the Irish), that we talked a lot about guilt. And, how participants from other countries have heard of and used the term ‘Irish Guilt’… It was the first I heard of it, but it got me thinking “shit, we always feel guilty of something.” Maybe it is in our upbringing, “Eat your peas!! There’s starving children in Africa!!” But it is true, think about it. As an Irish person, if I won the lotto, I would be delighted, ecstatic, joyous… but also guilt ridden… “Here’s me going off on my yacht, while my third cousin Barry can’t even afford car insurance. I better try to have less fun for his sake.”
So maybe 2017 is a year for us to leave the guilt behind. Maybe 2017 we start to create change because we have something to offer, not because we feel guilty if we don’t. Like, is donating 2 pounds a month to Trocaire because you saw an ad on telly the most effective way for you to challenge starvation in the world? Is it? Is it really? If it is, then ok. But for me anyway, there are definitely better ways.
How We Can Create Positive Change
Volunteer more in 2017. It’s probably unrealistic to think that we can just leave our jobs and start a new career working for an amazing NGO. However, it is not unrealistic to think that we can all find the time to give something back. Give our time for the positivity it can bring, not just because we’re getting paid. Whether it is sharing your financial expertise with a local charity at a board meeting once a month, or even just lending a helping hand to your kids sports club on a Saturday, not only will it make you feel better, but your contribution will be highly valued and appreciated. Look up the volunteering opportunities for you local area on http://www.volunteer.ie/ for some ideas on how you can contribute more this year.
Meaningful Donating. Throwing money at things and hoping that they go away is definitely not the answer. However, it can still be helpful to the right causes. If you have got extra cash, that you don’t particularly need or want, you can donate. There are still many trustworthy charities out there that are in need of our support, (The Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontiéres, The White Helmets, Home Sweet Home, Frontline Defenders) just to name a few. But please don’t take my word for it. Look them up, find the charity that YOU trust and that YOU want to donate to before you give anything away.
Or better still, invest in education. Educate yourself on the issues that affect you in order to educate your friends, families and our future generations. It is my opinion that our formal education system has failed global and development education. This is through no fault of the professionals that work within it. It is to do with the society in which educators now need to prepare our young people for. Finance, economic growth and consumerism are of a greater perceived value than peace, love and health. We need to help change this. We need to produce more Michael D’s in this world, not Michael O’Leary’s, more Bernie Sander’s not Donald Trump’s. And it is up to us as parents, anties, uncles, role models and teachers to set a proper example for the young people of Ireland.
I feel less guilty already…
My hope is, that if I stick to this game plan for 2017, then at least I will have a better year. I cannot control whether or not there will be a world war 3. I cannot control what way Ireland will vote on a referendum. I cannot even control my favourite radio station of all time being taken off air. But I can control my own behaviours and actions as I try to contribute to making positive changes around me in 2017.
Thank you for reading and happy new year,
(Below are 3 links that I will be clicking on a lot more in this coming year)