A couple of teachers that I had over the years up to school-leaving age have left a very positive imprint on my heart and mind.
One was a guy who always seemed to look for ways to make us think and not just focus on sticking rigidly to the syllabus.
One day, he arrived in with a list of sayings and distributed one to each of us. I got: ‘Success breeds success.’ I can vividly remember fumbling around trying to explain what I thought it meant but knew I wasn’t being very coherent. He encouraged me to think through what it might mean.
All these years on, it has stayed with me and it springs to mind in relation to everything from the way seeding in tennis is a prime example as is managing to build confidence from attaining what may seem like a tiny goal to others – walking 2km consistently and getting the confidence to push on to participate in a 10km or 20km walk.
There was a scheme in our school where kids in their final year were paired with a teacher to help out with the younger kids.
I was paired with my Success breeds Success teacher. One of the assignments he set me was to give a 20 minute talk to a group of 12 year olds about how technology was likely to impact on all our lives in 50 years time.
I didn’t have Google to help me but tried to let my imagination run wild. Computers were the size of houses back then and we were still in the era of telephone operators and black and white televisions. Robots were central to my talk. I think Dr. Who was my inspiration there. I certainly didn’t foresee the massive impact of the internet and virtual world.
But, almost every day, something from the life lessons taught by this teacher flash into my head.
I hope you were fortunate to have at least one teacher who left a lasting, positive impression on you?
Irish eyes are smiling more than ever at the moment as we are learning to live with masks and face coverings.
Eyes can say so much. They undoubtedly are windows to the heart.
More than ever, we need to work at the coming together of gentle gazes, filled with empathy and kindness. Also, the gaze needs to be a collective one in which we all look at what we can do as individuals, families, communities, counties, countries … to help reduce the conditions in which Covid spreads and also the extent to which lives and livelihoods are impacted.
If ever there was a time when each individual’s every action counts, this is it.
It was extremely windy here recently and my pot of orange sunflowers, which, are just coming into bloom, was knocked over and rocked around unmercifully. The sunflowers are a good seven foot tall and are staked heavily.
I know now I should have gone for planting them in the ground in a super-sheltered spot but we live and learn (some less than others, though, as my Latin teacher wrote on my school report when I was eleven!)
The big news this calm morning is that they are standing proud again and looking sunward right outside our living room window.
What a joy to behold when I opened the curtains to greet the day!
I have a big issue with the suggestion that people who survive serious diseases or illnesses like cancer or Covid 19 are somehow better fighters than those who die.
That way of thinking suggests that the people who die are lesser beings in terms of their will to live.
All this hurts me deeply because some of the strongest, most life-embracing people I have ever known have been swept away by killer diseases. They did all the right things but they were up against the impossible.
Yes, it’s great if people survive but it’s crucial to remember that there is a huge amount of luck involved as well as other things like genes and access to health care.
We need to be extremely careful lest we intentionally or unintentionally cast those who die as ‘losers.’
In my experience, it is we who are the ‘losers’ as those who stand no chance may well be people with hearts of gold and oceans of talent, vision and creativity.
Derek Mahon, who has been one of my favourite poets over the years died this week, aged 78. He was born in Belfast and spent time at my alma mater, Trinity College, Dublin.
His poetry has depth and beauty as well as hope. This is among his most well-known. I hope you enjoy it:
Everything is Going to be All Right
How should I not be glad to contemplate the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window and a high tide reflected on the ceiling? There will be dying, there will be dying, but there is no need to go into that. The poems flow from the hand unbidden and the hidden source is the watchful heart. The sun rises in spite of everything and the far cities are beautiful and bright. I lie here in a riot of sunlight watching the day break and the clouds flying. Everything is going to be all right.
It was 2am our time in Ireland and I woke with a jolt as if there was an alarm clock going off.
The Trump v Biden debate was just starting and all these miles away I listened to the whole thing on BBC radio. So it was a bit of a triangle Ireland, UK and US.
It certainly kept me awake but then I am a political animal. Not seeing them, just hearing their points and interjections was an interesting way to do it but maybe the body language would have told me a lot more.
There was no commentary like you’d get with a boxing match on radio so I had no idea if blows were hitting home or one or other was clinging on to the ropes for a breather.
What struck me most was Biden’s slow delivery compared to Trump’s faster speech.
Also, in the dead of night miles away, I couldn’t but wonder about the fact that these are two men who in other spheres would be written off as old and vulnerable and candidates for cocooning.