Welcome to Edgbaston Old Church
I think we can all agree that 2016 was a turbulent 12 months. The chaos started in January with the death of David Bowie, swiftly followed by Alan Rickman, Victoria Wood and Prince and concluded with the shock of hearing of George Michael's death at Christmas. All of these deaths were shocking as none had reached their ‘three score years and ten’; people had expected to enjoy their work for many years to come. What was even more surprising was the fact that all these people had managed to keep their illnesses out of the media spotlight, meaning that their passing was so sudden to the rest of the world. By the time we had got to April the BBC were announcing that their obituary show for 2016 would have to be extended as so many, much loved celebrities had died.
We then got into the political chaos of 2016, which would take up an entire page of its own, so I am not even going to try and chronicle the events here. However I think it would not be beyond the bounds of possibility that we are all hoping for a more settled 2017. The question is: how do get a better 2017? We all know about New Year’s resolutions, don’t we? We want to lose weight, stop smoking, drink less, exercise more, etc. etc. How many of us actually achieve these things; apparently just 8% of us! The statistics tell us that the majority of people give up their resolutions by the end of February.
One of the problems seem to be that when we set off on our challenges alone we lose heart and motivation. Signing up to our 2017 challenges with others can give us the support we need to keep going when things get tricky. Another problem can be that our resolutions might apply to what we know we ought to do, rather than something we want to do. Should we look at things in a different light; if we want to lose weight perhaps we should take up ballroom dancing and achieve our goal à la Ed Balls?
A third hurdle to a better 2017 is the feeling of helplessness; when I look at the news each night I constantly think that there is nothing I can do to help. I can’t stop the fighting in Syria; I can't feed starving children in Yemen; I can’t house all the homeless in Birmingham. Hang on, let’s look at that last statement again, because whilst it is true I cannot cure the homeless problem there are still things I can do. You may remember in 2016 we enjoyed a Summer charity lunch and later in the year had a collection for St Basil’s charity, which works with young, homeless people. During the course of the year we held three collections for the Birmingham food bank.
What can we do to get a better 2017, maybe it is to focus on the smaller projects, closer to home which we feel able to tackle with confidence. I am reminded of a poster on the wall of a fellow teacher’s office. The poster had the story about masses of starfish that had been washed onto the shore by a freak tide and were in danger of dying as the sun got hotter. A boy was throwing starfish back into the sea as he walked along the beach but his father suggested that he was wasting his time as there were too many for him to save them all. The son replied that it mattered to the starfish he had in his hand as he continued in his ‘pointless’ task.
So may I wish you the best of resolutions for 2017; may they be something you want to achieve, something you can do with others and something manageable which will make a difference to you but better still, for others.