yoloOn Thursday night I had a session with some young people who were aged 11-15. I encouraged the group to draw pictures of things they thought were ‘cool’, and 12 yr old Max drew the above.

I also asked the group what words they think are ‘cool’ and important, and they decided that COURAGE was the most important word, followed by TRUTH, INSPIRE, and PERSPIRATION (Apparently without perspiration you cannot get to where you want to be in life).

Feeling pretty overwhelmed by this still, these young people are our future leaders. This is the most exciting thing ever!


Manchester Riots

In August 2011 I was a a participant on a project run by Blue Sky youth organisation in Macedonia, called ‘The Road to Gender Equality’, which explored issues of gender affecting those in the EU, and there were other participants from Macedonia, Albania, and Holland. I spent a week learning, laughing, loving talking about my nationality and culture and what it means to me.

On the train home from Luton Airport on Tuesday late afternoon, we got word via mobiles/mobile internet that the rioting had spread and Manchester, my city, was about to suffer. I live very centrally in Manchester, so arrived back very concerned and scared.

Throughout that fateful eveing we saw many people, mostly young, on bikes come past outside, hoods over their heads and weapons/stolen items in their hands. The huge music shop Dawsons in Piccadilly Gardens (the dead centre of Manchester) had been smashed in and items stolen, and we watched many young people pass our pub holding guitars as well as stolen alcohol, clothes and shoes etc.

At one point, the riot was pushing right past our front door by mounted police, which was really scary for me, however I felt protected as there were some big tough people in my home and nearby ready to defend themselves! I was definitely concerned for the safety of my home at various points that night, and I have never felt in that way before.

The next morning I woke early after a bad nights sleep, and made it to the centre of Manchester by 8:30am wearing a tshirt and hoodie from Youth Discovery Ventures, and armed with a dustpan and brush, and my facepaints! While I was on the Momentum Leadership Course a few weeks ago I discovered my ability and enthusiasm for using facepaint as a way of connecting with people, so I saw an opportunity to see if it worked.

I looked around my city and cried at what I saw.

I felt a strong sense of loyalty for not only my Manchester but also my country against what I would describe as an internal threat. I walked around the city and cleared up a bit of glass, however Manchester City Council had been amazing during the night and managed to sweep away most mess from the streets. Shop workers were dazed and crying in their shops, trying to make sense of their half stolen stock, their broken windows, their damaged property.

Throughout that day I estimate that I painted over 75 faces, with messages such as ‘I LOVE MCR’, English flags and other symbols of pride, and to almost every person I painted I spoke about the sadness of what had happened, but also the amazing morale and community spirit that was crackling in the air. My intention was to remind people that these young people rioting were a minority, and many more young people were present during the day with brooms and rubbish bags to help clean up. I refused to paint any negative or confrontational messages even though I was asked a few times.

I’m no matyr, and I’m not writing this to boast or to seek approval or praise. I was among almost 1,000 other citizens who turned up for the same reason, to try and claw back our city.

In light of these events, it’s more important than ever to be proud of your city, your country, or even other people in the world making a stand for all that is right. There are so many news reports on tv, in newspapers etc at the moment focusing on the negativity of this generation we are losing to disillusionment, laziness and greed, so I wrote this article as positive force to counteract this. I’m now reposting this on Casting a Hero, because it is still as important and relevant now as it is then.

Youth Discovery Ventures, the organisation I am a Director of, is all about creating, learning, understanding and growing, and it’s a cause I believe in. We need more organisations to get involved in positively tackling the issues that affect young people or things are very bleak for the future of our communities. I feel too unequipped and unresearched to comment on the influence other complicated issues such as criminal justice, discipline, and poverty has had on recent events, but I think these are also important factors to consider in an attempt to understand – not excuse, what has happened, and to learn from it.

In my opinion, people are inherently good, but there are various reasons that cause them to do things that are not so good. We need provision for young people in deprived areas. We need focus on bringing citizenship, access to work and lifeskills into the curriculum in a innovative and interactive way. We need faith and respect in our young generation as they are the leaders of the future, and we will one day be putting not only our future, but the entire future of humanity in their hands. This shouldn’t be scary, this should be exciting. The only way we can do this is through being less apathetic and finding out what part we can play, however big, in making our world more beautiful.

What do you think?

Everyday hero

What is an Everyday Hero? It’s a Japanese video game, a fundraising website (similar to Just Giving) and a phrase that may be used for someone who exhibits heroism on a day to day basis.

What is a Haveago Hero? It’s the phrase you see plastered all over newspapers when a person steps out of the ordinary to do something spectacular for the benefit of others.

I think looking at heroes is the perfect place to begin this blog, because they make up a huge part of WHYTHEWORLDISBEAUTIFUL. This is just a written transcript of some things I’ve been mulling over recently, so it may not be a very well formed argument as I’m not really too sure where I stand on this myself!

So, what is a hero? Well, the word originated from Greek mythology and was used then to describe characters who ‘In the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self-sacrifice – that is, heroism – for some greater good of all humanity.’ (Thanks Wikipedia…)

So what is better, someone who tries doing heroic things on a day to day basis or someone that steps up to the mark should the situation call for it? And can these two different ideologies merge and overlap? I think they’re both worthy of respect for different reasons.

For example, the other night I was flicking channels (probably trying to find a middle ground between Keeping Up With The Kardashians and the latest Speedway meet, to try and find a compromise with my unimpressed fiance) and there was a programme on TV called ‘World’s Greatest Heroes’. It showed real footage of life-of-death situations and where Joe (or Joanne) Bloggs has stepped in valiantly to change destiny. For example, two men were in the middle of a street beating another man to within an inch of his life. When the beaten man was on the floor bleeding and the two men continued to lay into him, a young woman marched over between traffic and broke the fight off, and scared the men away. Effectively taking her life into her hands.

And it got me thinking, what motivations do people have for heroic acts? I imagine the most dominant motivation is a fight or flee instinct, but did some of these people do these things to look ‘good’ in the eyes of society, their friends, their God? And does their motivation really matter anyway if they did a ‘good’ deed?

So the people interviewed on ‘World’s Greatest Heroes’ were living examples of the Haveago Hero in their element.

As for the Everyday Hero, I think back to the time I was waiting on the pavement for a car to pass so I could cross the road. An elderly couple began crossing the road, clinging to each other and their sticks. The car did not slow down and the couple were not going to make it to the other side of the road in time. A young man in officewear appeared from nowhere and in the blink of an eye had darted across the road and ushered the couple quickly out of harms way. The car passed with its horn blaring. He disappeared before I could get anywhere near him, but in reterospect – what would I have said to him anyway? ‘Hello brave stranger, thank you for saving the lives of those other two strangers? ‘

I see this as an example of an Everyday Hero. Someone that sees something happen in their everyday life, which may not be a big deal for them, and responds to it. This is a dramatic example, but it is in a similar vein to those that offer their seats to the disabled, open the door to those behind them, manners and curtosey which, when accumulated, can be seen as heroic.

So these two people, the young woman in the fight, and the man in the office wear.  Which is braver than the other? Which is more deserving of their praise, their thanks, their place in Heaven?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently, and I’ve come to the conclusion that neither is more deserving than the other. Trying to be heroic on a day to day basis is something admirable of course, and some people go through life without ever being in a situation where they have had the choice to be a Hero, or not.

I wish I was someone’s Hero. I try really hard to be an Everyday Hero, and I hope that one day should I ever need to be a a Haveago Hero, I’ll suck up my courage and do what needs doing. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and I know who my heroes are. But that’s a whole new blog post.

Are you someone’s hero?