Many years ago I was going through one of the worst periods of my life – both personally and professionally. Absolutely everything that could go wrong did and all at the same time. My marriage had ended, I was in debt, my job was under threat, I’d finally realised I would never have children and I was being investigated by the police for allegedly running over a baby in a car park (I hadn’t – it was a malicious insurance scam). I rang my father, sobbing and said ‘Dad, when is this ever going to get better?’. His response was very clever. He said, ‘Next Tuesday at 4 o’clock.’
Of course, it didn’t all get better on that Tuesday – but it did eventually. And that was the message he was giving me, that at some point the bad times do pass.
As we head into 2023 it’s hard not to feel pessimistic. We went into 2020 full of hope and we got a pandemic. We thought 2021 would be better and it wasn’t. Then we were hopeful about 2022, and we just hit crisis after crisis. Russia went to war on Ukraine, there’s a cost of living nightmare, strikes up and down the country, energy prices through the roof (as well as the heat from all our uninsulated homes) – all culminating with possibly one of the worst mental health crises we have ever experienced in this country. And we have less money in our beloved charities – and more people in desperate need of our help. And that’s just a few examples of the awfulness of the last few years (just in case anyone had forgotten!).
When I watch the young people in my life experiencing hardships for the first time – not being picked for the team, failing an exam, having their hearts broken, not getting that job, losing that friend – my heart breaks for them…but I also know from my own experience that they will survive. They will recover from the hurt. They will get a job. They will form new relationships. Over time we learn that life is not relentlessly awful all the time. It’s cyclical. Everything passes.
It’s one of the utterly bizarre and amazing things about human beings is that even when faced with awful situations we somehow or other find it hard to actually give up. When there are people suffering, other folk pop up to help.
Here’s the thing my beloved sector colleagues. Can you imagine what it would be like to go through all these stresses: the worry about money, the anxiety about health, the pressures at work – and be doing it all just to make someone else rich? We don’t do that. Despite all of the hard times we are experiencing ourselves, we are doing it in service of others. There is a point to it all.
As charity folk our job is to be purveyors of hope. We would never say to a human being in crisis, ‘Give up, there’s no point’. We would give them hope. We would remind them of the tools they have to survive, the support available, and the love around them. As we go into 2023 let’s give ourselves those same messages. It will get better – next Tuesday at 4 o’clock.