Last Sunday my children went to see Father Christmas in his grotto at the Raglan Road Preschool Playgroup Christmas Fair. Edward was very impressed by it all, whilst David was unfortunately a bit overcome by the whole experience! The following day we watched my all time favourite Christmas film “Santa Claus the Movie”. If that doesn’t fill you with the magic of Christmas I don’t know what will. We all thrilled as Santa launched his sleigh into the sky, trailing magic dust as the reindeer galloped on.
It’s a magical time of the year.
It is so easy as adults to push aside those feelings of wonder. We are wary of feeling impressed. We are wary of putting our faith into people or ideas in case they turn out to be less than we thought they were. We desperately don’t want to appear foolish. Yet we are also desperate to believe. Back in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected US President, broadcasters Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were in tears watching the result. Many others felt hugely moved by the election of the country’s first black president and a man who exuded such promise. Seven years on, and of course he has been unable to wave a magic wand and fix his country’s problems. Magic dust is in short supply in the White House. But he has done a lot of good.
In our own country a huge amount of people registered to vote in the Labour leadership elections because they felt strongly that Jeremy Corbyn had something to offer. Something that they wanted to see for the United Kingdom. His words were shared on social media with enthusiasm and hope. And then? Well of course his views were challenged, his actions questioned, his every move scrutinised and his fitness for office placed in doubt. The enthusiasm is a little dampened. What if he isn’t the voice of hope? What if his message isn’t as genuine as it seems? What if he’s wrong? What if I’m wrong? I don’t want to look a fool.
If we are hoping for perfect people to stand up and offer perfect solutions that we can clap and cheer and for whom our support will never seem foolish then we are wishing for the dreams of childhood. Yet we can still allow ourselves the hope and thrill of a new message, a new movement, a new idea, a new beginning. For just as not everything is all good, not everything is all bad either. Leigh Kendall reminded us in this blog post that we must pan for the gold.
When we see reports of rising social problems, families struggling and austerity measures hitting hard it is difficult to see what there is to feel wondrous about. Yet there is still magic in the world. For every group that is struggling there are people working hard to help that group, to fight for their needs and to give them a voice. I have spent this year on social media and in person meeting an enormous amount of dedicated people slogging away every day to bring about change. As part of the #MatExp campaign I have seen the difference that individuals can make. JennytheM explaining the importance of skin-to-skin in all settings. Hannah Tizard and Amanda Burleigh changing practice with regards to optimal cord clamping. Florence Wilcock and Gill Phillips inspiring us every day with more ideas for the campaign and renewed enthusiasm. Individual people making a real difference simply by believing in themselves and the importance of what they do.
I joined #MatExp filled with frustration at what I felt was “wrong” with maternity care. But as I got to know the dedicated people involved I was filled with wonder at how much passion there is for change. How hard people work, against the odds, to improve experiences for families. And there are so many other campaigns, charities, groups and organisations who are working just as hard for the people they support. For the things they believe in. Every day for me social media is filled with ordinary people making a difference. Are those people perfect and infallible? Of course not. Do they make mistakes? Do I? Inevitably – no one is superhuman. But is their compassion and dedication real? It is. Don’t be fooled by the media. There is so much good in this world.
On Tuesday the first official UK astronaut, Tim Peake, was blasted into space, heading for the international space station. Space travel may not be magical, I’m pretty sure NASA doesn’t use magic dust (although what do I know?) but it’s pretty darn wondrous all the same.
In September 2013 my baby boy was born with only half of his heart working, and he had to have two open heart surgeries before he was 6 months old. This week, on the same day that Tim Peake shot up into the atmosphere from Kazakhstan, my little lad was a reindeer in his Playgroup Christmas show. That to me is more magical than any Christmas film, than any campaign success, than any scientific advancement. David Calvert stood up and waved to the audience proudly wearing his Rudolph outfit. I was lost in wonder.
Then sadly, tragically, heartbreakingly, some friends of ours lost their little girl on Tuesday evening to the same condition as David has. A new star lit up the sky on Tuesday night. Perhaps Tim Peake saw it from the space station. How can we feel wonder when a child has died? We cannot. But I can feel wonder at the outpouring of support for her family, at the hundreds of people trying desperately to hold her family in their arms, even if only via social media in a virtual way. The media likes to try to persuade us we are a fragmented society. We are not.
Yet it isn’t magic that has kept David with us or that gave Emily 18 months of life. It was the incredible skill and hard work of their surgical team and their medical team and so many people at St Mary’s Hospital and Alder Hey. At the start of this month I shared the Facebook status of one of their surgeons. Another example of selfless dedication to humanity.
This year has not been easy, there have been tragedies and hardships and downright crappy times. But in the words of Gareth Presch of the World Health Innovation Summit, Together We Inspire. I am looking forward to collaborating with the wonderful Emma Jane Sasaru, Vanessa Aparicio-Hancox and Elena Abell in 2016. We are bringing together some amazing people for a project that I cannot wait to reveal.
To list everyone who has inspired me this year would be an impossible task. But I do want to mention another six people who are bright lights in this world. Susanne Remic, another fab #MatExp colleague. Kylie Hodges, fighter and survivor. Alison Cameron, campaigner. Anne Davies, working for the most vulnerable. Rosey Adams, campaigner. And the person who started me on this journey as she has for so many: Kath Evans.
So many projects and plans from so many people will make a difference next year. And the year after. And the year after that. Because people believe in each other and in our ability to make a difference, however small. To me that is magical. It is time to rediscover wonder.