A new year means a new start, almost like a new life. We all make resolutions. But all my friends and me (and possibly you too) have often seen them crumble after a couple of days.
I’m going to stop smoking, drink less, go on a diet – we’ve all been there. I heard of this guy who never even got around to his resolution about starting a watercolour painting hobby. Always too busy. My pal Joey wanted to try to get up earlier to walk the dog. Always overslept. No doubt these things needed extra effort. Yes, success needs effort, but also time and patience is required. Richard Branson didn’t become rich overnight, Madonna didn’t leap to fame in one performance. For success, we’ve got to make it happen.
2016 is a leap year, with 366 days including February 29th. It’s almost as if we were given an extra day to live. What would you do if you were given an extra day to live? Something important, I imagine ! February 29th is an extra day with 24 hours of “free” time. Now, 24 hours of “free” time amounts to about two hours free time per month to devote to your personal resolution, or target. How will you be using your “free” time?
Many of us make resolutions with good but vague intentions. We do much better with specific targets, no matter what our intentions are. In 2016 you could start individual personal development activities like learning Spanish, walking the dog daily, reading more, or taking up yoga lessons. These are all good, and the time adds up amazingly. For example, if you read a book for only half an hour per day you can get through twenty books a year. You might read more about local history and get involved with enthusiasts in local societies. Try this one for starters www.facebook.com/consett.and.district.heritage.initiative/info/?tab=page_info
But why not do something helping other people, something beneficial to a wider social group? What’s to stop you doing the washing-up one day every week for your wife or mam/grandma? Why not visit an old person every week and make him a cuppa or play cards with him? Or you could help out at Willow Burn Hospice Lanchester http://www.willow-burn.co.uk/volunteer Certainly, these types of activities are often already catered for by existing Consett organizations such as Derwentside Council for Voluntary Services. However, it may be possible to assist these existing organizations to do their valuable work. They always need help and they welcome volunteers. Useful tips to get you kick-started, can be found at www.cvs.derwentside.org.uk/ and www.cvs.derwentside.org.uk/how_to_volunteer.html
Everybody has a general interest in improving the local environment. But you might find more satisfaction if you focused on specific targets. Get together with some friends, some volunteers, with an actual timetable to clean up (let’s say) litter in the local park or along a riverbank walk. One group member is selected to get gloves and big plastic bags to handle the trash. Volunteers could also do some replanting, or weed removal, improving footpaths, open spaces, and local amenities like seats/benches, litter bins. If you want to plant new bushes along a riverbank walk, you will often find that businesses such as garden centres/nurseries will give items free so they can then advertise their role in the community project. Who cares if the council already has a service, or other groups are doing similar work? Why not simply do something for free for your own community? And not just adults, but also school students – in groups led by teachers to help coordinate activities. If you want to see what a group of volunteers can achieve, look no further than the Shotley Bridge Village Trust, which is well-established by reputation – and their site reveals the kinds of activities which are possible www.litteraction.org.uk/shotley-bridge-village-trust. Other excellent sites are www.sbvt.wordpress.com/category/litter/page/2/ www.derwentvalleylife.org.uk/your-area
Here’s an idea – have your group of volunteer friends collect up discarded soft drink/beer cans (or glass) and get them to a recycling centre (HWRC) such as at Morrison Busty Industrial Estate, Annfield Plain (open from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm seven days a week). Another HWRC is at Tudhoe Industrial Estate, Spennymoor, and another at Brooms Dene, Stony Heap, Leadgate. Other recycling points are found at supermarkets and other locations in the district. For details, look up site www.derwentside.gov.uk Maybe you can make a small cash profit which can be spent paying for some further environmental improvements. Maybe you can spend the profit buying some paint to put a coat of colour on some unsightly concrete wall or area of graffiti. The local paint shops may offer the paint and brushes at considerable discount for this kind of community project. When I was teaching school I got the kids to collect old beer cans, and we sold them, making enough cash to purchase new sports equipment for the school.
When we are involved with a group it is less likely that we will slack off and gradually abandon our target. And we can make the project more fun by spending a morning working at our target, then stopping for a picnic or a game of football with the group – out there in the area where we are working…field, park, riverbank. It is great for socializing when we get involved in a group project for some community benefit. Members of the group not only end up at picnics after their work, but at annual get-togethers and christmas parties. The group can even award its really outstanding members with fun ‘diplomas’. It is often the case that local organizations like fire brigade, hospital, civic trust, district council, etc., may also decide that the group’s voluntary work was good enough to merit a similar award.
With or without awards, whether our resolution has a group target or a personal development ambition, let’s make sure that we make it happen. Good luck in 2016 !