Faith

Over the last couple of months, I have been losing my faith. I don’t have a religious faith, but I believe in good people; in the ability of good people to change things. Due to various things that have been going on in my life, I have been struggling to keep believing this. I’ve had a lot to work through and it’s taken my head away from always being where it needs to be.

The moment I realised how bad this had got was when I was stood in a room with a bunch of amazing young people doing awesome things in their communities and I just couldn’t feel ‘it’. Don’t ask me what ‘it’ is, because I don’t know. But I didn’t have it.

Volunteering is something I have built my life and my identity up around. It has been such a major part of my teenage years, the time I’ve been developing who I am, what I’m doing, what’s made me, ‘me’. Cue, a bit of an identity crisis!

Long story short, after a lot of fumbling around in the dark, trying to work out what on earth is going on, I’m still not entirely sure. However, I have realised that it is down to me to make my way in life. It is up to me to work these things out and there is as much time as I need. Nothing and nobody is going to ‘save me’ or ‘fix’ anything. It is not their responsibility, it is mine. Yes, I can use all my resources but at the end of the day, I have to work this thing out, whatever it is. I will keep volunteering, I will keep studying and working and I will get out of this.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been child minding again; one four year old, one five year old. They are gorgeous children, very well behaved. They have cheeky smiles and giggle at silly things. They hold my hand when we cross the road and bury their heads in me when they’re scared.

Today, the four year old handed me a daisy which was ‘for me’. For now, that’s all I need

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A Brief Part Of Life.

Last week, the young boy who inspired me to start Escape The Frame (https://www.facebook.com/EscapeTheFrame) left my Beaver group to move to Cubs. It’s a necessary, but difficult transition. I think I found it more difficult then he did!

Looking back, it’s touching to see how much he’s grown and developed in the last year. A boy who used to hide under tables and refuse to join in, looked up at me with excited eyes and told me how much he was looking forward to going to Cubs. He then assured me that he had enjoyed Beavers and said thank you he’d had a good time. He looked me in the eyes as he said this.

I’ve loved working with him for the last year. It’s been challenging at times, there have been good evenings and bad evenings, but it’s great, now, to see him being so confident. I’ll miss him asking me for my camera every week and coming to sit on my knee but he’s growing up and moving on to bigger things now. (I have been informed that his uncle bought him a camera for Christmas, so I’m expecting to be invited to one of his showcases one day!)

He’s been a major part of my life for the past year or so. If I’ve been feeling rubbish, sometimes he’ll come out with something that’ll brighten me up. I’ve felt needed and wanted and have known that I’ve been making a difference. I hope he’s felt comfortable in my presence and I hope he will continue to grow and thrive. I don’t think that I will ever forget him or his smile. I doubt he’ll remember me in a few years, but you never know.

It’s amazing how people’s paths can cross for the briefest amount of time, yet they can make such an impact on each others lives… I think that’s a really big part of what volunteering’s all about.

But you don’t get paid?

There is one question I get asked a lot. Especially by those who are younger than me.

‘But why do you do it when you don’t get paid?’

I try to explain in terms of money. I explain how normally when volunteering, my travel expenses are covered, as well as any other expenses incurred throughout the day. I try to explain how it doesn’t matter whether or not I get paid because I’m living at home and don’t have many expenses. I try to explain how in some cases, volunteering can lead to a grant which is sort of a payment.

It occurred to me tonight, though, that maybe I’m getting this all wrong. Maybe I’ve got the wrong end of the stick.

When they say ‘getting paid’, we all know they mean money. But does payment have to be in money?

Volunteering has given me so much more than a lot of other things ever could. No, I don’t get money for it. However, I do get experiences and chances that money can’t buy. I have met some amazing people and through volunteering, I have been able to network and link up with like-minded people, which has, in some cases, resulted with me being invited to new places and new opportunities. It has given me confidence and self belief. It has given me happiness, laughter, joyfulness.  It has given me the chance to give something back to a society that has given so much to me. To try out lots of different things and find out where my skills, strengths (and weaknesses!) lie. It’s given me friendship, companionship and a sense of belonging.

The most important thing it has given me, is hope. Hope for my generation. Hope for our future. Hope for myself.

So next time they ask me why I do it when I don’t get paid. I won’t try and explain the money side of things. Instead, I’ll try to explain how I’m paid in smiles, thank yous, experiences, laughter, a sense of satisfaction, friendship, opportunities, happiness and gratitude.

I only hope they understand.

Smiles Are More Important Than Suits.

I absolutely love working with young children. I know it’s not for everyone. We all know about ‘jam hands’. But for me, it brightens my days and helps me to smile.

I’ve been looking after some twins recently. They’re 19 months old. Their Mum was poorly last week and I went round to look after them while she slept. When I got there, the vicar was there. She was a bit flustered. She said that she thought they were hungry because they kept saying ‘nomnomnom’ but they didn’t eat the food she gave them. I listened for a moment before realising that they were actually saying my name! They can’t say Naomi so pronounce it as Nomi and she must have got confused!

I love looking after the girls. It’s just wonderful to see how they grow and learn every day. It’s also great to see what sort of effect you have on them, teaching them new words and helping them to discover new things in the world. It’s heartwarming to see how amazed they are by such simple things in life. It helps me to take a step back, look at my own life and appreciate the little things.

Life can be so simple. I think we overcomplicate it, often, and in doing so, we lose some of it’s beauty.

Looking after the twins last week while their Mum was ill, it made me think. What do you do if you’ve got young children and you’re too unwell to look after them? What if your parents live too far away to come immediately and your friends all work or have children of their own? Where do you turn? It must be an absoutely horrible situation for the Mum. She must feel so hopeless and helpless. It’s potentially quite a dangerous situation, an unwell Mum, some young children and no-one to look after them. I would hope that everyone had someone to turn to, but maybe they don’t…

It makes you realise how vulnerable life can be. How quickly things can go downhill. How quickly you can lose things that are so important to you.

I think that we all need to slow down, take a breath and look at the world around us. When you look back on your life, will it be the figures, letters, emails, phonecalls, promotions, bank statements and bills that you remember? Or will it be the crunch of the autumn leaves and the soft kiss of a toddler?

I think it’s time we all took a breath, opened our eyes to the world around us, and showed our loved ones how much we appreciate them.

After all, smiles are more important than suits.