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Have a ‘Marvellous’ Christmas

The season of goodwill is upon us and as with every Christmas season there will be a multitude of movies focussing on people who are usually wicked, miserly and generally mean (read Scrooge), turning over a new leaf to become key community members and be redeemed by supporting others.

All year we struggle to keep up, to finally breathe out and settle into a Christmas period where goodwill to all is the aim of the game. The question is why do we see and laud this change , once a year. Is being good community members and living in a community rich in networks  not what we all want, all year round?

Last weekend, I watched a film, Marvellous (have a look on YouTube), the story of a man, Neil Baldwin (a man labelled disabled) who through the various relationships he strikes up, builds himself a large circle of support to live the life he wants to live (his circle includes everyone from Gary Lineker to the Archbishop of Canterbury). And one of the striking themes of the movie is that without the kindness of strangers, Neil would be a long way from living his dream. The one phase in the film where he loses his mum and job in a  few days, and then lets the other people drift out of his life,  is the one moment when Neil is moving away from his dream. Living the life he wants to live.

But overall,  Neil through other people’s  community spirit, he gets the supports he requires and he lives his self determined life. Neil benefits and the people who support  Neil clearly benefit as well.

When we look around at the services for people with disability in Ireland, how do services try to capture this essential resource, community spirit; or put another way, how do services support the people they support to capture this community spirit and build their own circles of support? And how do services try to deal with the loneliness of the service users? How much of the day to day bureaucracy and activities are focussed on dealing with what David Pityonak says is the key issue in services;  the people who are in services are lonely, very lonely? How do the regulatory authorities and key agencies deliver and measure this outcome? In planning increased monitoring through cameras or ‘secret shoppers’ will these monitors just be observing lonely people living lonely lives?

So this season and into the new year maybe add a resolution that focuses on adding to the community. See if you can support someone live their self determined life. It is one gift that benefits both the giver and the receiver(s).

Merry Christmas from the Open Training College.

Have a 'Marvellous' Christmas

Neil Baldwin, waving to his beloved football crowd.