|The view for breakfast|
|Helen briefs the group|
|Night time activities|
|As a fit helper, you have to do a lot of pushing people in wheelchairs!|
One of the mistakes we make is to make assumptions about people with disablities. One of our group, Katie, who has cerebal palsy, graduated last year. For her, she felt that passing a degree course was vital, as she believes that it is vital to prove that there is no reason why people in her situation should be overlooked from partaking in a full education. She is now far better educationally qualified than I am, so I think she's got nothing to prove.
|And we don't tuck people up early and then go to the pub!|
One of the best things for me was a week with limited access to social media. I didn't look at Twitter at all for most of the week. I was too busy and where we did have wireless access, I was desperately trying to read important emails. I'd recommend a social media detox for all!
I must also mention the food. As we were in France and the house team are French, the food was absolutely fantastic. As I don't do dairy, sadly I missed out on the cheeses and some amazing looking desserts. Lunch was two courses and dinner three. There was an ample supply of wine to be taken with dinner (sadly as I was on driving duty on occasion, I couldn't always partake as HCPT rules are no alcohol when driving).
A lot of table tennis was played as well, a lot of guitars were strummed, a lot of songs sung and a lot of fun was had. Our group has a tradition of a talent show on the last night. As ever it was hilarious. My contribution was to lead a group performing the Ewan MacColl. I was lucky enough to have Margaret singing and Fr Pat playing the tin whistle line one the recorder! I was determined that my song wouldn't suffer the same fate as the previous year, when Gordon, who has cerebal palsy, dismissed my rendition of Perfect Day by Lou Reed as "RUBBISH!". My son used his slot as a perfect opportunity to wind both myself and my friend Paul up as best he could, much to the amusement of the wider group.
You may wonder what sort of people volunteer? Our group had a fascinating mix of people, a couple of actresses, a former head of light entertainment at ITV (I think that was the role), a retired professional sportsman/commentator, a banker, some teachers and some retired teachers, a few teenagers at school/uni, a policeman, a trainee CofE vicar, a couple of C priests, a retired doctor and me (apologies if I missed anyone). As a group, I think we bonded pretty well. This was the 11th time I've been with the group, but I am still learning things. I always come back feeling recharged. This has been a difficult year for me personally. In January, regular readers will know I had a procedure to treat my Prostate cancer. One of the questions which one of me rather cynical mates asked was whether I was going "to get a miracle". For me, I'm not interested in miraculous cures. The thought never crossed my mind. Of all the disabled peopel I've spoken to, who have ever been with our group, only one ever went seeking a miracle cure. Sadly he was disappointed. For me, the people who really need the miracle are those of us who have got so obsessed with the goodies on offer in our materialistic world, that we miss the great things we get for free. These are love, friendship, the natural beauty in the world and the joy of sharing meals and a drink with friends. We are si obsessed with "stuff" that we overlook these. I consider the biggest blessing I have in life is that I appreciate this and my weeks in Lourdes, remind my of the gifts I do have.
As a little footnote, I got back to find the Olympics in full flow. We had no telly at all for a week, so it had largely passed me by for week one. An interesting thought occurred to me. Elite atheletes are bringing us huge pride and joy with there efforts, honed with years of training. The Olympics really are a truly wonderous celebration of human achievement. I do however think that the challenges some of my disabled friends have to surmount every day pale them into insignificance. Imagine if every single thing did, getting up, going to bed, eating, going to the toilet, washing and even cleaning your teeth, required a helper (or two). If every person you met assumed you were an idiot, because of the way you look. If every new person you met talked to you in a childish voice and asked you to repeat yourself six times as they didn't understand you. To put up with that and still be cheerful and good fun is perhaps a supreme achievement.
Please note that all comments/views expressed here are personal and in no way reflect the views/ethos of HCPT or anyone else apart from me. Some names have been changed for privacy.