Back in the Summer of 2021, I sat on a bench in Bournemouth, my 82 year Dad, was sat nearby watching the world go by and my heart broke as I could see the loneliness in his eyes and him remembering and reflecting on how time had flown. My Dad still works hard and is a Blacksmith, he works hard for two reasons, one because he loves it and two because it connects him to his customers however at the end of the day he goes home alone. He sat watching his Great Grandson play in the sea and yet it only seemed liked yesterday that he had been watching me and my brother, Clive.
I sat reflecting and as the sun came out, I removed my outer layer when a gentleman to my left said “it’s suddenly got hot hasn’t it?” I turned to speak to him and we struck up a beautiful conversation about love, life and the universe. This gentleman is called Malcolm and he explained that all the elderly men to his left, had all met during the 2020 lockdown, they had all lost their wife’s / partners and lived alone. He introduced me to them all and we chatted and laughed for a few moments before I asked if I could please introduce my Dad to them, who was also living alone and often felt isolated especially during the Government restrictions.
Dad got chatting to these gentlemen and a few hours later, they were still chatting and laughing and building deep friendships. Nearly a year later and Dad and his friends meet weekly; go for coffee, walks, lunch, spend time together and it has completely changed my Dad’s life - he is now loving life again, exercising, laughing, sharing what matters with like minded people and has found peace of mind and meaning to his existence once more. The group has since gown in number. This situation has also given my brother and I a deep feeling of relief as we live two hours from Dad and have to work and share our time between other family members.
Whilst all this was happening, in West Yorkshire I had encouraged my elderly 86 year old step-father to look at volunteering opportunities as he too was struggling since Mum had passed away. He called me up and said he had volunteered two mornings a week for the local hospice’s furniture shop - my step father was a top sales man and manager for a well known furniture company in the UK and he was good!
His first shift was a little apprehensive however he called me later that evening shouting with excitement down the phone as he had sold £1,500 worth of secondhand furniture in 4 hours and was excited because in his words “he’d still got it! I can still do it. I can make a difference!” and a year on, he goes twice weekly to the shop which he loves, local people come in for a chat and he recently accepted an award on behalf of the Queen for the work the hospice does. This little job has changed his life, changed his outlook and his belief, his health has improved as has his love of life again and has found the courage and determination to travel abroad once more.
Fast forward to Dec 2021 and I had been out walking as I do each day and had spoken to lots of elderly gentlemen also out walking who stopped to share with me their life stories. Some very sad and fearful stories were told in confidence to me whilst we stopped to chat, never having spoken before that moment.
I saw the same look in their eyes as I did my own Dad’s and heard the despair in their voice as I had my own step-fathers and the heart felt feeling that would not leave me was that I needed to do something to connect people in my community.
Here is the birth of ‘Exploring what matters community group’. The first group is being offered to gentlemen over the age of 65 in honour of all fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers who may feel alone and isolated. I ask you to come and join me, no matter your circumstances.
This is not a reflection or judgement of any family, this is unfortunately how it is these days as families live apart and the children now working long hours in order to bring up their own families whilst their parents as often left alone or don’t hear from anyone for days at a time. Sometimes they are scared to venture out in to the community and don’t know who to trust - personally I think it’s a poor inditement of our society.
Debbie from the Jovial Monk public house had never met me before, however when I explained that I wanted to bring people together, she kindly offered for us to use the sunny conservatory attached to the main pub and is supplying refreshments as her way of bringing people together too. I am so touched by her kindness. I am personally running this group, not for profit and I’m not asking for payment, if people wish to donate then that would be appreciated however it is not the reason why this group is being offered.
This is my way of helping to connect those we love, bring purpose back to someone life. It is not a group of moaning elderly people, this is a structured group with a weekly theme discussed, for I want us to connect, learn from each other and then help more people if we can. Let us come together to be the change we wish to see in the world.
This is going to be a happy, positive and loving connection with no agenda other than for me to facilitate connection in my community.
Please join me or encourage someone you know to join me and others starting Thursday 24th March 2022 at 10am to 12 noon. If you wish to stay and have lunch together in the conservatory then Debbie and her team will provide a menu. This will however have to be paid for, unless we have other lovely people that would like to sponsor someones meal.
There is nothing to fear except having fun, connecting and allowing your life to have meaning once more.
I look forward to hearing from you and meeting you on Thursday 24th March at 10am as the Jovial Monk Conservatory.
With love, compassion and appreciation, always