Youth Work

2017 : Progress

2016 is done. Yes, it’s over. Where did it go? Wasn’t it one heck of a year too? What’s to come in 2017? Seems a year for progress…

I’ve been a fan of Foulsham’s Old Moore’s Almanac for some time. For the unfamiliar the books are readily available and give predictions for the year ahead, these having been written some time ago, and more often than not, their beliefs of what is on the horizon is spookily accurate.

They have dubbed 2017 as Onwards and Upwards, and although it seems we could expect some crisis early on to give us the necessary kick up the backside that we all need, it is a chance to ‘view the damage we did to ourselves and to begin to think about the changes we need to establish’ (Foulsham, Old Moore, 2016).

You can also purchase a book specifically for your own star sign and supposedly 2017 is my year. It would be good if that were true as 2016 wasn’t the best it could have been. I liken it to a sandwich. There was a terribly rough patch sandwiched between two better bits and it wasn’t until the latter half that the family realised that they needed to reconcile their differences, and as a result, we waved the new year in smiling.

There won’t have been smiles for everybody though. Christmas and New Year celebrations can be some of the most difficult times for young people, those with mental health issues, and especially so for those struggling with being in both categories. Young children tend to be hugely excited by this time of year, but it can also be a time when the teens are forgotten. Children wait anxiously for Santa to arrive and have all the focus centred on them, but the older ones slowly fade into the background and then try to seek out some attachment somewhere else, with people who will make Christmas a special and age-appropriate one for them too.

Youth clubs tend to close, and schools are too, so they trawl the streets, hanging around outside the shuttered shops, on the foggy playing field, or playing chicken on a quieter dual carriageway. The forgotten ones they seem to be, and it has been quite sad seeing many of them out and about this festive season, sat huddled together against the cold, no smiles, no laughter, just sitting, getting colder, and waiting for the happy week to end, willing the feeling of isolation to go. Some go out, never to return. According to the missing kids website, a child is reported missing every three minutes.

Let’s put that into perspective. By the time you finish this article, a child has vanished. Working on the three minute average, over the Christmas week, 3360 children could have disappeared without a trace. A phenomenal amount and even more disconcerting is where they have gone. Still on the streets? If so, what are they facing? Crisis, the national charity for homeless people, tell us that 1 in 3 homeless people have faced violence this year. Nobody should have to, whether homeless or not, whether a child or not.

A thought crossed my mind as Big Ben struck midnight on New Year’s Eve. Whilst the capital (and the rest of the world) watched in awe as £1.8 million (£1,800,000) exploded in a matter of minutes over the city’s skyline, how many people could have been helped with that money?

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for ringing in the changes and celebrating a bright new future, but for £22.32, a homeless person could have had a shower and clean clothes, three cooked meals, and a health check (Crisis). If my calculations are correct, that’s about 80,000 people we could have helped. At the very least, if we’d have spent half on the fireworks, 40,000 people is still a lot.

As each firework shot to the sky, it was tinged with sadness at the thought of all of these people on the streets, NHS staff who need the money, mental health services and youth services that are closing, and many more groups of people that urgently need financial assistance. In 11 minutes, we enjoyed the colours showing off our country well, but think what we really could have achieved. According to census figures, we could have helped the equivalent of half of Oxford’s population.

Nevertheless, 2017 has arrived, and time ticks on. We look towards this year with the uncertainty of a new US President, a new UK Prime Minister, Brexit, and a lot of conflict within communities due to how each of these was handled, and wonder how we will really get a year that is Onwards and Upwards…

Perhaps our focus should be on helping our fellow man, after all, everyone deserves happiness, safety, and security. I’ve been a believer for a while that you get back ten-fold of what you put in, and the more happiness we can spread, the better we ourselves should feel. Let this be a year to when we each realise our own significance in the world and how much we are all needed. Somebody out there loves each of us, and even in our darkest days, we perhaps just have to seek them out, which may take a little bit more effort.

Have an ambition this year, whether that be to take up an old hobby, start a new one, or simply to dance like nobody is watching you. Losing weight, joining a gym, and becoming healthier is all well and good, but does it make you truly feel great? For me, a walk in the countryside and getting back to nature does that, mentally at least, and the physical benefits are always a bonus. Best of all, it’s free.

Think positively, think kindly, think happily, and don’t forget to smile, have fun, and relax. 2017 is your year to shine.

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