It was never a formal mentoring relationship but over many years I learned so much from Bernard. He was the experienced minister and I was the young gun with lots of ideas and enthusiasm but lacking in knowledge, understanding and diplomatic skills!
However, my abiding memory of Bernard will always be two words. They would come at the end of yet another evening spent with good friends and lots of enjoyable conversation. With a gentle and warm Yorkshire accent he would say…
Looking back I think it was the most important thing he ever said to me.
We use the word happy all the time but it doesn’t crop up all that regularly in everyday conversation as an adjective so it has got me thinking.
As a teenager I spent some great afternoons in Happy Valley! To those not in the know this was a park on the side of the Great Orme in Llandudno with a pitch and putt course where I passed many a summer’s day convincing myself I’d be the next Jack Nicklaus.
Later in life as a parent and now as a grandparent I have spent a great deal of time and money on the wonder of Happy Meals. I have even, although not quite so often, enjoyed a beverage during Happy Hour! However, even with the inclusion of the little plastic toy, I discover that the positive impact of both experiences is rather limited…
Presently being bombarded by the adverts for the new year sales it is obvious that we live in a culture that constantly promotes the message that happiness lies in the next thing or the next experience.
All those years ago Bernard was equating the experience of being happy with the idea of relationship. Being content, feeling blessed and knowing joy was, at least in part for him, not about “me” but about “us.” As a practising Christian he would also gently suggest that an inner spiritual peace was foundational to everything else in life. This was something else he modelled to me in abundance.
I will always be glad for this reminder from a special friend that who we are and who we have is far more important than what we have and that our connections to other people matter so much more than our connections to material things.
I read recently that “happiness is not an individual pursuit but a social one.” But while we know these things and they are not rocket science, we tend to forget them as we get caught up in the routine stuff of life. And the truth is, of course, that at any time we can find ourselves struggling with material and relational pressures that mean our home isn’t a happy place.
So as another new year begins I am glad to be associated with an organisation like The Bridge which offers to reach out a helping hand when people are not having a very happy day. And for all the people who make up the “us” in my life I am truly grateful.
Ken Brown – Chair of Trustees