“Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” JF Kennedy
Outside of the Bible, this is arguably one of the most famous lines ever.
At what age should we put down our tools and say, ‘I’ve done my bit for family and country?’ Some people don’t accept that there is an age. Some people’s indomitable spirit refuses limitation by age or physicality. Their courage and selflessness set new standards for us all to aspire to.
When ninety-nine-year-old ‘Captain Tom Moore’ raised £32 million for the NHS by walking around his garden one hundred times, he received approximately 150,000 birthday cards on 30th April 2020. He was presented with the honorary ‘Freeman of London’ award. He was also the oldest person to have a number one hit song, ‘You’ll never walk alone.’ He subsequently become an ‘Honorary Colonel of the Army Foundation College and knighted for his inspirational effect on the country.
Captain Tom was an examplar. Throughout the first lockdown, many Covid-19 stories inspired and lifted our hearts. He raised and challenged concerns for the elderly and the frail by breaking the mould of perception. His determination to raise £1000 for a local charity, had the nation urging him to succeed.
From what I understand, this gentleman made a remarkable contribution during wartime and thereafter. At the age of ninety-nine, he continued his contribution to society. One of his final ambitions was to read each birthday card.
The primary school children who drew NHS rainbows and put them in their windows had a morale-boosting impact, not just on NHS staff. It’s a beautiful gesture to show appreciation and support for people that you don’t know and who, likely, you’ll never meet.
Donating to charity through sponsorships and volunteering to assist charitable activities is an act of gratitude undertaken by millions of people every year. It takes 6000 volunteers to facilitate the London Marathon. Every volunteer needs some form of training induction and information pack with a logistical element, so there’s an army of volunteers at all levels.
Children in Need and Sports Relief have a dedicated background staff of telephonists and celebrities. One of the most popular features of the live TV events is the stories and case studies of the beneficiaries, their families or their communities. The stories are often poignant and help us connect with commissioned projects.
There is a high incidence of breast cancer in my wife’s family. Early in our relationship, I worked long hours and travelled extensively, and my wife had little company. To make new friends and practise her English, she volunteered to work at Cancer Research UK for the years leading up to our daughter’s birth. During that time, she worked with many inspirational women, several of whom had had cancer diagnoses. My wife describes those golden years as a ‘beautiful exchange of energy’. This simple act of gratitude left a profound impact on her in terms of meaning and purpose. It improved her confidence; she felt welcomed and accepted by ‘a new family’. No matter how large or small, our contribution to others says something meaningful to the soul.
‘As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter the words, but to live by them.’ – JF Kennedy
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