Life is a succession of moments.
To live each one is to succeed. (Corita Kent)
Inspired by my gran, Nancy (pictured above), and the time we spent together in her final years, I now have the privilege of working on projects inspired by that quality time together.
But how did I get from pottering about with Gran to the work I do today? As Gran got older, I started to tune in to how other people spoke to her. For no reason that I could work out, sometimes people spoke down to her. She was a little hearing impaired, but there was no need for that. At the time I was working as a Discourse Analyst (which sounds fancy, but just means I worked with big brands to help them see the way they were using language). This helped me to tune in to the language around ageing. I’ve always loved to study, and applied to take a PhD exploring the language of ageing. But just at the point of starting my studies, I realised I didn’t want to study ageing and older people. Instead, I wanted to spend time with people, and where possible, to be a help to them.
Vocation is the place where our deep gladness
meets the world’s deep need’ (Frederick Buechner)
So in 2012, I started working in Adult Social Care, first as a Support Worker for family and informal carers, and later as a Care Manager. Almost straightaway I started meeting people who were living with dementia, and their carers. For so many people, either living with dementia or caring for someone living with dementia is the most difficult - and unexpected - chapter of their lives. What a huge privilege to help people through such a difficult time. As well as offering practical support within my job, without specifically asking, people would often tell me some of their story, and the things that mattered most in their lives. I realised that the more I knew about what mattered to someone, the better placed I would be to help.
I completed an apprenticeship to become an accredited Reminiscence Facilitator, and a little at a time, I started working on dementia-related projects with families and organisations. I also took a Masters in Bibliotherapy (Reading for Life), which is a fancy way of describing reading, literature or words for wellbeing.
In April 2017 I set up Story Chaplain, a collection of projects encouraging everyday creativity and quality time with people living with dementia, carers, and everyone. Why focus on quality time? Because quality time allows and encourages people to make connections both with themselves and others, and help people to tell their story or parts of their story and what matters most in their lives.
Having run workshops around the country for a few years, the global pandemic has brought into sharp focus the need for each of us to be able to find daily connections and practices that nourish and encourage us, and I'm excited for the next chapter of what being Story Chaplain looks like.
Oh, and in case you are wondering what a Story Chaplain is, it's really the idea that we are all made of stories, and my belief that a good chaplain really listens. In the words of Mary Lou Casey, 'What most people really need is a good listening to.'
With hope, faith and love,
Do the best you can until you know better.
Then when you know better, do better. (Maya Angelou)