Monday, May 30, 2016
"So every day,
exercise your heart
by taking in
That kind of exercise
will make your heart supple,
so that when it breaks
— which it surely will
— it will break not
into a fragment grenade,
but into a
greater capacity for love."
Parker J. Palmer
Sunday, May 29, 2016
Saturday, May 28, 2016
BECOMING QUESTIONS Number 5
Every week I am asking you a question - YOU
and as many as I can collide with.
THIS WEEK my Question was::
Will you ask me a question?
I have received these questions below and it has been a challenge for me to dig deep to try to articulate where I am with these deep realities of life.
So I had to dig back in time to understand my past journey - AND now - it all impacts on me now in my BECOMING.
I trust you will receive my stumbling as the best I could offer outside a personal dialogue with you.
I also hope that these questions and reflective answers will add to your reflective/learning process and Becoming - as we share together.
So here it is - thank you so much for taking the trouble to ask me a question.
What or who inspired you to start working with young people?
When I was 15 I was carpeted at my youth club and was told I was unmanageable and had to go. BUT they gave me another option - to become a leader and look after a group of boys - the disruptive ones. So I started when I was a YP. My leaders trusted me, undeservingly, to give me opportunities.That is why I believe in participation and sharing responsibility such as having young people on Boards and Senior Staff Team meetings. That was one of the most significant events in my life. Thank you for asking Jon. Keyword answer:: Trust Risk Participation Valuing.
Thank you for your Becoming Questions. We are all a work in progress and this is valuable stuff….. Question 5 is a big challenge! So many things I’d like to ask you, for you are a man of wisdom and experience…. However I’ve settled on this one: On a scale of one (lowest) to ten (highest) how beautiful do you feel right now, and what do you mean by ‘beautiful'?
(I’ve asked this because one of the most influential statements in my life, both for me and my own sense of self-worth, and for others in all my youth work / church work / life work has been the one you coined: ‘You are Beautiful’ - and I wondered how you’d feel when it’s directed to you…)
I am glad you ask about 'how do I FEEL right now’ because I believe I am beautiful - it took me until I was age 40 to be able to accept that and, the years following, struggling to actually say that !
I have traveled around the world asking people these questions:: i) Do you feel beautiful? ii) Do you believe you are beautiful? Everyone says NO to the first question. A few say 'YES but ..’ to the second.
Me? - Scale 1 to 10? I say (7) - I feel pretty positive uplifted encouraged (I am typing out my answer to you all and feel blessedI Me? - I have to accept I am beautiful because I believe that you are - and everyone is - so I must count myself in too. You may know one of my quotes “WE can see a person’s behaviour but we can’t see their journey” Behaviour can be beautiful or ugly. The soul, the core of each person is beautiful. Created as a beautiful innocent child & forever valuable, precious, special, unique …..Our beauty does not depend on what the scales say, what the mirror says, or what our feelings say sometimes …… So when I was working with gangs, on the edge, with my feelings in the gutter - I started to believe and say to each one, as I do still, YouAreBeautiful. I knew I could not work with young humans & violent behaviour, foul abuse and more, living, as we were, in a community with the highest crime in the country - with 80% local youth unemployment, unless I began to see through their behaviour into their beautiful souls.
You ask John, how do I feel when it is directed to me. I have had, and have, some of the toughest hardest biggest men in my life who tell me I am beautiful. AND it feels good that they are in a place where they are able to say that and I receive it warmly.
Two Questions from Two people here::
1) How (and maybe when – if that is not a 2nd question)
Did you reach the place where you can see everyone
As a Beautiful Human Person?
2) My question to you Pip BHP, which I'm asking because you appear to find good in everyone...
Have there been people in your life where you truly could not find the BHP inside?
If yes then what made you stop looking with this person, and if no, what gives you the compassion to find what others can't ?
Thank you Mark & Ian - some of what you ask is covered in the above answer. But going steps further - I have had many people in my life when I could not see/find/feel the BHP inside. I have trained myself, and still at it, to deal with these initial feelings by walking through a curtain of those feelings. Owning these feelings. Feeling these feelings - not suppressing. Once I realise I have that feeling (negative, Dislike, Distaste) I deliberately walk through my curtain of feelings, accepting & acknowledging those feelings, but going beyond them to connect with the beautiful who may be out of sight.
There is always a reason, a purpose in violence, aggression - all behaviour - But I believe. I am attracted to people with obnoxious behaviour. (An obnoxious person is a hurting person - I believe). I am still scared of violence - I hate it. I have lived with it so much I have felt it in my blood stream. I still sit with my back to the wall in a cafe etc.
My question to you is 'do you regret anything'. My answer would be yes, I regret never having children of my own. I am at that age when it is terribly lonely knowing that as I get older I don't really have anyone to care for me.
Thank you Sue for sharing your own regret/fear. A privilege when anyone can do that. I regret lots of things looking back on my life. I always tried my best but I feel bad about who I was as a human over many years. The worst regret is my failure to LOVE. I have always been a man on a mission and many times my mission has not been about loving as the number one. I wanted to change people - not love people into feeling safe enough, confident enough - to take steps and risks for their own development. I like the Mandela quote:: "I don’t win or lose - I win or learn"
With all of your vast experience why, when asked for advice, do you rarely give it but instead ask another question?
A great question Nic. This reminds me of the story when a man saw a butterfly was struggling to release itself from it’s chrysalis. He helped by cutting away the chrysalis to fee the butterfly and it flopped - unable to fly. The struggle to release itself was also to strengthen it’s wings …..
I never give advice. It is one of my ingrained values. I have a saying “I am responsible to people - not for people’
I have worked with people over the years who have been self harming, drug taking, suicidal and to give advice could make me responsible for a suicide. So - I ask questions to assist a person in their becoming. Suggesting they consider all options themselves. I tell stories of what I have encountered in the past. Encourage self determination which will build confidence and self esteem. I believe in 'self determination' as much as I believe in God.
What's the advice you're most glad you heeded?
Jim Punton RIP, who I would say has had the greatest influence on my life, was for years my Non-Managerial Youth Work Supervisor during my worst years - which were the best of learning years. He was the one who I shared my work, life and Mission with regularly. The role was a supportive one like Counselling but re Youth Work and Personal/Professional Development.
One day on one of my visits I said to him as a battered Inner City Youth Worker::
“I don’t feel spiritual anymore”. (I had not lost faith but feelings-wise - I was empty spiritually)
His answer/response was - “I am glad”
In following dialogue he told me that it was like moving from solid ground to take a boat in rough seas. It was a journey of becoming and when I reach solid ground again I will have experienced change. I was midst change and I was feeling it. Feeling rough. He didn’t ever give advice. He told a story. I have never forgot those moments.
Later on in my life I wrote a quote I use often:: ‘Growth does not reside in a place called comfortable’
How did you balance work life /your passion (living on the job/hostels etc) with your home life?
Were there any challenges and if so how did you work it out with your family?
Yes - we lived on the job for many years - a Young Offenders Unit as Houseparents, A backstreet Youth Club, A 87 bed Hostel, an Inner City Community & Youth Work Project etc.. AND I have got it wrong many times in terms of family life. I always remember David Shepherd, he was the Captain of England at Cricket and ended up as Bishop of Liverpool, who lived in the same community before we did, saying much about keeping family time DAILY. Another regret. I tried. I was torn between working with young humans with the greatest of needs and spending quality time with my precious family - two young girls and MrsBeautiful.I tried, failed, had some great family times - great memories, but also some major regrets. Balance? NO!
Did hurt and pain in your own life set you on your “beautiful” pathway or was it pain of others or both?
I instantly think - BOTH. I remember hitting the buffers when working with young humans - so violent - so bound up in crime - so hard-to-reach - so hard even to make contact with, begin a relationship with ….. I could see their behaviour but couldn’t see their journey - their inner being - I only saw the ugly stuff - lived in fear at times, and then ….. I clocked it that God loved these teens/twenties - and I didn’t. I failed to LOVE…… SO, due to my own growing awareness of feelings within, and empathy with their feelings and their NUMBING of their feelings to survive - I began to see their ‘beautiful' beyond their behaviour. And started to say it each one. NOW to everyone.
How do you get to be an (obviously) terrific grandparent? And i have asked you this...... as one of my offspring is in labour right now.......so i'm about to be a grandparent.....yet again! ....and....i'm not sure that i've got it right yet...........
Got another other grandchildren.....but….I need hints and tips!
IN YOUR OPINION......what makes a GOOD Grandparent?
I never give advice - see my answer to a question above. So no advice from me but what I believe in, and try to do, is - When our daughters left home I decided I would never give advice. Respond warmly to any questions, talk about what I/we have done in the past - both mistakes AND positive outcomes. (Don’t we all learn from mistakes!)
Being active and supportive is special for everyone. Mutual support is given - which is a beautiful experience. We never interfere and only respond when asked. The Grandchildren, parents, grandparents - we all need support at different times.
AND love - we love our own children and grandchildren to aching % - yet this, even this, must never become oppressive.
The question I have for you is has your spiritual beliefs changed since the Mayflower (Youth Work Project) ie do you still believe in Jesus as the saviour or have you taken a broader view, the reason I ask is that I am interested in people's inspiration and what they believe and the values they live by, also having known you from old, it seems as of you have changed quite a lot and I am interested to find, I love talking about these things.
What a challenging question - I love it that you love talking about these things. I HAVE CHANGED MASSIVELY and continue daily. It has been 31 years since I left that work/mission/life. I have been changing all these years through many experiences alongside many different people. I guess you have changed - I would love to know those significant events where you remember change? Since the age of 21 when faith kicked into my life, it has been - and still is, my principle driver, motivation, foundation and I wouldn’t have been the person I am (the journey, joys, hurts, learning and scars) without that initial decision. (At 21 I decided to Love not Hate because Love does a better job)
Over the years I have worked in 5 Projects between my working in a factory years and my present Freelance years. All 5 were faith based projects and I was employed as a Christian Leader. Now I mainly work as a Trainer / Facilitator in a range of non-faith based projects. Nowadays I don’t talk about my faith journey until someone asks. I will never knock someone’s faith, whatever it is, or no faith. (see my words about ‘self-determination’ above). I am always willing to say where I am at but never what others ’should' be (I never speak the word ’should’ as I believe it is oppressive! ) My two biographies - journey through life spell that out in more depth.
I will ask you a question because I am an RE teacher and I love to know people's beliefs. It is so important to share our worldviews even though we may disagree: What are your religious views and how do they influence the way you think and act? What is the key religious (or non religious, if you don't have one) teaching that you live your life by?
Thank you Zam for that question. I hope most of what you ask is answered in the answer above. I don’t have a good education and not a good/or any religious education but I believe in it. I don’t even like the word ‘Religion’ - or use the word in relation to myself. My faith is not easy to articulate and I don’t want to tag or use labels to describe it = me! I think what I do is take as many values and principles from the Christian Bible and transpose them in to todays context - my context and beyond because I want to take some responsibility for the world too - not just MY world.
About two years ago you mentioned unfriending me on Facebook, which shocked me at the time and has remained with me always. Did you mean it?
A good tough question Ian, I can remember doing that but I can’t remember why I said that. I guess I meant it, otherwise I wouldn’t have mentioned it. I have never unfriended anyone yet even though many posts are offensive to my values.
How do you know that you are truly loved?
I don’t KNOW - I believe. I feel love from many people - I believe they love me. Some say so. So do many men too - I love that. Our family - 6 of us are so full-on loving - and our two daughters' men. I feel it - I believe it. I have others in my life who don’t love me. I feel it. Others, I feel, don’t even like me. I feel it. I don’t like that ! But Love has NO OFF switch. I am determined to love deliberately those who struggle to show/express/articulate love. The biggest struggle I have had is to love myself. I was 40 before I managed it and it is still a management priority ! I am on a mission to love.
If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, which song would it be and why?
I ask this because music is often the key to unlocking something about the other person's soul!! It is also a way of describing what inspires/refreshes/comforts you!!
Tough one because I love music - listening to it whenever wherever I can. Walking, Trains & Planes, Car, Commute ,Working at home & with headphone when MrsBeautiful is watching Football on TV. I will end-up by choosing ONE by U2. I have built a Game/Exercise around it which I have used with groups in Armenia ,Bulgaria, South Africa, Norway, Sweden ,Switzerland and on home ground. I have used it with groups as small as 10 & as large as 25,000. As the music track is being played on repeat, with everyone standing in groups of about 10 - one person lies down in the centre of their circle with eyes closed - and group 'slowly' lift the person horizontally as high as they can reach - and slowly down to be then replaced by other group members in turn. It is a spiritual, experiential, physical, communal experience. Wondrous feelings. One line in the lyrics stands out - gets to me…… “We get to carry each other, carry each other -ONE” It does NOT say ‘we have GOT to carry each other ..’ ….. It does say “we are ONE and we get to carry each other ….”
Describe in three words a person that embodies the exact opposite of you?
WHY? I experience, that people who are similar to me or the opposite/different provoke/tease me the most. Ether they mirror me and make me angry, seeing my own behavior. Opposite people I can’t understand their thinking, acting … make me angry because I feel, see, think the world different.
I want to be warm in relationships. As a Youth Worker one of the major skills is making contact - a hurdle which must happen before a relationship can be established. Can you possibly establish a relationship without warmth?
I am striving always to understand my complex self - being an open book with myself and with others. NOT Padlocked.
Vulnerability can be often thrust upon us and we have to learn how to cope. We can chose to be vulnerable too. I believe in that - it’s part of being an open book.
ALL the above answers are inadequate - a dialogue is always best.
I would love to meet one-on-one with a coffee/tea between us - asking questions of each other.
That is the best
That is life !
Thank you for being there - asking and answering Becoming - Questions.
Please keep going - I love it
Please keep-on Becoming …..
A new Question will be coming at you on Sunday.
Friday, May 27, 2016
"We become fully conscious only
of what we are able to express
to someone else.
We may already have had a certain inner intuition about it,
but it must remain vague so long as it is unformulated"
from "The Meaning of Persons"
Thursday, May 26, 2016
This is highly disturbing video ......
In English with French subtitles.
It takes you into benefits claim office ....
I am in tears as I type this .......
EVERY 2 MINUTE IN THE UK
THIS HAPPENS TO A YOUNG PERSON EVERY DAY.
I came from a BROKEN HOME
by Gil Scott-Heron
I want to make this a special tribute
to a family that contradicts the concepts
heard the rules but wouldn't accept
and women-folk raised me
and i was full grown before i knew
I came from a broken home
sent to live with my grandma down south
when my uncles was leaving
and my grandfather had just left for heaven
they said and as every-ologist would certainly note
i had no strong male figure right?
But lily Scott was absolutely not your mail order room service type cast black grandmother
i was moved in with her; temporarily, just until things were patched,
til this was patched and til that was patched
until i became at 3, 4, 5,6 ,7, 8, 9 and 10
the patch that held lily Scott who held me and like them
i become one more and I loved her from the absolute marrow of my bones
and we was holdin on,
i come from a broken home
She had more then the 5 senses
she knew more then books could teach
and raised everyone she touched just a little bit higher
and all around her there was a natural sense
as though she sensed what the stars say what the birds say
what the wind and the clouds say
a sensual soul and self that African sense
and she raised me like she raised 4 of her own
and i was hurt and scared and shocked when lily Scott left suddenly one night
and they sent a limousine from heaven to take her to god, if there is one.
So i knew she had gone; and
i came from a broken home
"I came from a broken home."
I am quoting Gil Scott-Heron
poet, recording artiste, campaigner.
Remembering his death
I once saw a gig.
I missed him face-to-face
when he failed to turn up at
The Greenbelt Festival.
BUT his band turned
and I enjoyed talking with them ..
I came from a broken home .....
My work - MISSION::
I worked with a group of
wounded young humans some time ago.
Everyone of them had
come from a broken home.
All had either been forced to leave
or chosen to leave because they were
~being physically battered
~made to feel they were not wanted
Another young man I know
was pushed away to live with grandmother
no place for him 'at home'.
In his twenties he still feels rejected
and has little confidence.
To feel unwanted
must be absolutely terrible.
Another tells me,
and it still rings in my ears,
that he was moved out
to nothing because
he was caught up in endless fights
between his parents.
He was cared for by the state
He mental health was cared for
He talks about feeling like a stray cat.
The stray cat lived on the street
no food for days
no clean clothes
feeling not good enough
feeling not enough.
He talks of walking into school
nobody knew him
feeling all alone
without a family
without a base
He heard screaming in the night
He was full of such nightmares
He felt lost emotionally
At home he never been acknowledged
even doing well at school -
it was ignored.
He did good things, NO PRAISE
He joined a gang did bad things and
he was PRAISED BY HIS PEERS.
So many I know and work with,
and such a privilege to know them,
explode - violence
Implode - self harm.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
I was about to run a session called Donut
where we start the session with eating donuts whilst
dipping them in a fondue filled with warm chocolate ..........
The day/evening previously only two Hostel Residents turned up for the Donut group work session.
I am working in a Hostel and the aim is to
build a sense of belonging amongst special humans with special needs.
Sometimes I am on my own.
it was 10 minutes past starting time and I only had two turn up.
Then came ::
Here I was with a strange climate to conduct group work.
- new ones were sitting with arms folded.
- It is difficult to eat donuts, strawberries and chocolate with your arms folded!
We realxed as we dunked together and had a cup of tea ......
Then I did an exercise I had never done before.
I used a big box of matches.
I used a line of matches – I will walk through what I did and you can see the photo here.
1 the first match was placed down in full red headedness - an unused match.
2 the second I struck alight and blew out immediately.
3 the third I let burn half way before extinguishing.
4 the fifth was burned out completely.
5 the sixth was simply kept redheaded but broken almost in two
6 this one I split down the middle with my thumb nail.
Then I asked all to my question - ”which match is you?”
I started first.
I believe I must start with self revelation -
otherwise it is unfair to ask them to do something
which may open up their vulnerability.
I always want to share my own vulnerability first.
Model the level of sharing ……..
I started sharing how I had been battered in life,
the half burned one was me,
and yet that was a quality because
I had been hurt and damaged by life –
and have learned from the burning – the dark side of me.
Everyone joined in - everyone did it.
Each took their turn.
Even though a number were first timers to a group-work session.
And - there was a fantastic climate of 'listening'.
Tony said something special.
He said he was two matches.
One the used one before being extinguished,
and the other because he feels sometimes/often – broken.
Good for him to ‘own’ that – and great for others
who were not finding it that easy to reach out and touch their reality.
All was going well when ……..
Big Brian and Big Jeff stumbled in
and joined us around the circle of comfy chairs.
Tattoos and all.
They were both big, in their thirties, straight from the pub …..
The vibe changed.
(Afterwards a few group members said they felt scared -
they are big mature men).
They came in when I was conducting the next phase.
I gave everyone a new match and asked everyone
to say how they wanted their match to be in the future.
I said to Big Brian, as I threw him a match,
“You can do what you want with it
as long as you don’t burn the Hostel down”
He scowled and asked did I know his 'previous’.
A tense moment***.
Some deep and powerful answers then flowed
as humans made flowers from their matches.
Bent and twisted their match - formed a smile with it.
Big Jeff fell asleep. Alcohol does that to you sometimes.
Imagination was rife – with a struggle.
Big Brian said, as he removed the red bit from his match,
”this is a cornerstone”.
This is the cornerstone for the future.
He then asked (directed us all in real terms!)
to all to stay as he left to go to his Hostel room…………………….
He returned in a few minutes with a most beautiful
hand crafted picture frame with a photograph of his daughter in it.
Looking closer at the picture frame –
it was compiled completely out of many matches glued together.
He had made this work of art and beauty in Prison.
An object of no real value but valuable beyond measure to him…..
...... and to me with a depth of emotion.
The group stilled.
Time and Donut Group was finished.
The group lingered on and talked more - on and on.
Others came and hung out.
Two more regulars strolled in late as usual.
Big Brian started trying to organise a session for the next day for eager humans.
To be creative with matches. To teach us all how to be practice and create art.
He wanted to be the corner stone for them.
He wanted to help us with his skill.
He wanted to be, not just a Community Taker,
but a COMMUNITY MAKER.
It was well gone midnight and we were still playing music
and drifting in and out of significant conversations.
Being and becoming.
Reflecting on this ::
It had been a poor start - few in number.
It had grown and become a wondrous developmental climate.
The group, having formed, was disrupted by outsiders - big and aggressive.
I had been threatened in it.
I had felt the aggression.
(I was visibly aggressively threatened when I took a photo of him.
I still have the photo of him pointing an aggressive finger at me -
but I asked him to trust me - I settled him down ……)
I had never ever done this match group exercise before.
Big Brian had never ever been to the group before.
That evening he came to the Donut Group – and
we used used the matches exercise on that very evening.
Big Brian and me recon it was God doing his stuff.
A miracle of small or large proportions – depending on your inclinations.
A positive step for individuals.
A positive step in terms of group, community, understanding,
development, belonging and experiential extreme.
** Big Brian, in passing, told me afterwards
that he had once burned his former school down -
that is why he became threatening
when I mentioned burning down the Hostel!
Two names have been changed.