It was the middle of summer and we were off on a family day out. The school holidays were stretching out ahead of us, so Mum and her partner Harry bundled me into the car and set off in the direction of the Yorkshire Dales, with a first stop at Pateley Bridge. As we made our way over the rolling green landscape, it soon became clear that we’d lost our way, but when Mum saw a sign for Brimham Rocks she thought it would be a good idea to give it a go, so we changed our plans and headed there instead.
If there’s a point in each of our lives that we can look back on and wonder how and if things might have turned out differently – the ‘Sliding Doors’ moment, if you like – then that is mine. My Mum had an accident at Brimham Rocks that day which resulted in her becoming paralysed from the neck down. I can play the scene back like an inerasable film – Mum losing her footing, Harry gripping her hand and then that grip slowly loosening before she disappeared from view. It was 1st August 1984 and I was six years old.
Needless to say, the accident changed my Mum’s life as well as the lives of those around her. To say she’d been a force of nature before that is an understatement (and, as you’ll see shortly, is exactly the spirit in which she continued). At the time, she was holding down three jobs to keep me fed and watered, loved and looked after. This obviously couldn’t continue in the immediate aftermath of her accident; I went into foster care for a while before being reunited with her again at the age of nine.
Harry had since departed the scene, leaving her a single mother again, and I was thrust into the role of ‘the man of the house’. In preparation for this, I was sent to Pinderfields Hospital where the Occupational Therapy team taught me to cook, clean, wash, iron and carry out all the tasks required to look after a paraplegic. Then the roles were reversed, and I spent much of my childhood caring for her, as she once had for me.
Her commitment to hard work must have rubbed off on me at a young age, as while still caring for her I managed to win a scholarship and assisted place at a local grammar school. From there, I went on to university and now, here I am, happy to be using my education in a job I love.
My Mum passed away, rather aptly, on Remembrance Day – 11th November 2014, when she was 77. She had lived for more than 30 years after she had her accident, which was an achievement that defied all probability and was a triumph of her determination and positive outlook. It is something I’ll be eternally thankful for and she is certainly my hero who I’ll never forget.
Asking Also Why the Good Stuff Happens
It’s common in these situations for people to wonder why these things happen to them. But often they only do this in reference and response to the bad things. The ‘why me?’ mindset. It’s human nature to take for granted and accept unquestioningly when the nice things happen to us, then throw our arms up in exasperation with the gods when things don’t turn out according to plan. I always think it’s worth remembering that the ‘why me?’ mindset works both ways and to take some time to wonder why the good stuff happens to us too.
Look at my example. I was helped by a foster family while my Mum recovered from her accident sufficiently to become part of the family again. She instilled in me the importance of hard work. This led me to receiving a scholarship, which a benevolent individual somewhere along the line had set up in my local grammar school. My grammar school gave me an education which propelled me into higher education, and higher education in turn led me to a senior role within Progeny. There’s plenty of good stuff there.
My theory is that good things happen because good people make them happen. Now, whenever I’m in a position to be able to contribute to making good things happen for other people, I make sure I take it. I benefitted from charity an awful lot in my earlier years, so I’m happy to do what I can to provide others with a helping hand now that I have a decent income and work for a company that has a strong sense of social responsibility.
Leeds Community Foundation
Last week I and a number of my Progeny colleagues attended the Leeds Community Foundation (LCF) Dinner. We were the main sponsors of the event and I was proud to say a few words about why we have chosen to work closely with the Foundation.
The LCF invests in charities and voluntary groups across the city who work tirelessly to address inequality and help their communities. We have chosen, as a business, to support their tremendous work because they are a catalyst for positive change and aim to make Leeds a city of opportunity for everyone.
Our Commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility
The responsibility to help those in need around us is one Progeny takes seriously. We have recently chosen the four charities we will be working with throughout 2018. (In fact, we’ve already literally hit the ground running on the fundraising front with our plans for the Tough Mudder event in May). Our chosen charities are a selection of national and regional charities – located within the communities where our four offices are based – that we believe are particularly deserving of our support. It will be a privilege to make some contribution to the excellent work they do.
At a national level, Dreams Come True are a UK children’s charity. Their mission is quite simply to enrich the lives of children and young people with serious and life-limiting conditions across the country by making their dreams come true. Over the last 25 years they have fulfilled dreams for more than 5,000 children and young people as well as their friends, family and carers.
Based in Boston Spa, north-east of Leeds, Martin House Hospice provides family-led care for children with life-shortening conditions. Their mission is to help children and young people with a life-limiting condition, along with their families, to live well and fully, offering the best possible end-of-life care and support to the family in bereavement.
St Luke’s Hospice is the local hospice for Harrow and Brent. They care for people whose illnesses are no longer curable, enabling them to achieve the best possible quality of life during the final stages of their illness. Staff and volunteers provide a friendly and supportive environment in which everyone feels welcome. All of their services are offered free of charge.
Horatio’s Garden in Salisbury is a charity that creates and cares for beautiful accessible gardens in NHS spinal injury centres. Leading garden designers develop the stunning sanctuaries for patients and their family and friends, creating an environment which becomes an integral part of their lives and care whilst spending many months in hospital. We will be supporting the garden at Salisbury District Hospital.
I’m sure you’ll agree we have settled on some worthy causes, and everyone at Progeny is looking forward to working with them through 2018.
When I tell people about my early life I’m flattered when they say it’s ‘inspiring’ or ‘impressive’ but, for me, it’s just my life. The only one I know, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. So, the next time something good happens, maybe it’s worth us all thinking about why and how it came about. Being thankful for the opportunities that come our way and working hard at making them into something positive. Then we in turn can make sure we’re doing everything we can to bring a positive influence and create a life of opportunities for those around us.