Wednesday, 25 January 2012

When Paths Cross

People come into, and out of, your life for all sorts of reasons. Today I caught up with Caroline Williams who I have known for a good few years. We hadn't seen each other for a couple of years, at least, but have come back around into each others circle again through a mutual friend. Being in touch with Caroline again has reminded me of all the reasons that we met in the first place. We had a mutual client who reckoned we had such similar interests and outlooks that she told us to just get on and meet one another! I cant remember who contacted who first, but that's exactly what we did! I was so glad we had. Caroline is very upbeat, passionate about what she does, loves the outdoors, loves mountains and keeps putting herself way out of her comfort zone! My kind of gal!

Her business is called the Good Therapist, and let me assure you that Caroline has goodness knitted through her in the finest gold thread from top to toe.

Caroline also set up "When Paths Cross" in 2010 "to enable good things to come out of chance meetings". The story of how this came about has so inspired me. Please allow me to share it with you.....

Caroline leads treks in, amongst other places, India. In 2000 she met a kid working in the streets of Delhi. Despite everything she logically knew telling her to not engage in conversation with him, that he was out to con or rob her, something he said made her laugh and she couldn't help but be taken by him. They talked and walked and Champu, as he was called, told her about a festival that he could take her to that evening. Caroline agreed, was skeptical, but intrigued and felt somehow that she should take a trust in life. That trust led to a very true friendship being formed. Champu never once asked for anything from Caroline, and instead he proudly paid at least his own way when they had tea or shared a rickshaw, despite his obvious poverty. He told her he considered himself very fortunate, as he had a roof above his head, a family, and a good part of the street to work on. He invited Caroline to visit his home, at which she no doubt felt very honoured, to then feel incredibly overwhelmed. Having seen much abject poverty via her travels she was unprepared for the small tent in which he and his whole family lived in, along with the raw sewage running like a stream through the middle of it. Although he knew his poverty, Champu remained proud, and would take nothing from Caroline. I can imagine Caroline's distress at seeing all this, but understanding of her friend's wishes.

Back in the UK, Caroline remained in contact with Champu as a couple of times a year he was able to access a computer. At the beginning of 2010 she heard that the "clean up" for the Commonwealth Games meant that the street workers were being cleared from their streets and that Champu was for the first time ever worried about his situation. He didn't know how he would manage to provide for his family, but said he would find a way. He was determined to somehow save for an electric rickshaw so that he could make a better life. He proudly told Caroline what he had saved, which was a sheer drop in the ocean of what he needed. Caroline had always been determined somehow to help Champu, but had never quite known how. This became a no brainer for her. She decided she would somehow get his rickshaw for him - she had no idea how, she just knew she would!

What she actually decided to do was to enter the Trans Britain 6 day Ultra Run - 156 miles run over 6 days from Scotland to Wales. You assume Caroline was a runner already? Eh, that'll be a no! And that's exactly why she chose that event, this had to be a massive challenge for her. It had to be something that she was unsure she could do, that would be worthy of people sponsoring her, and it really had to take her out of her comfort zone (I wasn't joking about that side of her!).

9 months later she did it. She finished it, stress fracture and all. And she raised over £6000 in the process.

When in October 2010 she went to India to tell Champu what she had done (he'd known nothing about what she was doing for him), and to buy him his rickshaw, he was lost for words. That is until he understood what she had physically put herself through to which he told her, quite rightly, that she was "crazy, real crazy". Then he really understood what she had done for him and told her (quite rightly) that she was amazing. Caroline says that it was only when watching the video of the event with Champu that SHE finally realised what she had done. I can imagine that that moment felt very special for her.

I'm inspired in so many ways by what Caroline has done. I'm inspired by her trust in life which led to the friendship. I am inspired by her respect for cultural differences. I am inspired by the loyalty with which she remained in touch with Champu over the years. I am inspired by her decision to do something. I'm inspired by the sheer scale of the event that she took on and the mental, emotional and physical strength that it must have taken to complete. And I am inspired by this answer that she gave on her FAQ page on her website:

What about all the kids that need help in the UK?

I know, I know!! This is always a dilemma - but I’ve realised that I can’t help everyone and rather than get paralysed by that feeling of helplessness I’m just going to do my best to help who I can and hope it inspires others to do the same. If you feel your heart is more into helping someone else then please do’re under no obligation to donate to my charity. I just hope that what I’m doing reminds you that we all are capable of making a difference, and not to get put off by the enormity of it all. Everything and anything is possible.

I am so incredibly glad to have crossed Caroline's path again.

[oh, and since she needs to come out of her comfort zone again, she's going to be running 98km in under 26 hours, with almost 5600m height gain in August this year. "crazy, really crazy"]

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Let the dancing begin

I love "Got to Dance". One of the things that I enjoy most about this programme is that it's all about the dancing! We don't watch a collection of battles between judges and contestants when the contestant thinks they have a god given right to be put through, or where the judge thinks it's ok to ridicule someone who has got up and given it a go. What you are then left to view is a melting pot of those with outrageous talent, those with a burning passion and those who simply have fun dancing. The girl who isn't perhaps the most precise mover is applauded by the judges for giving it her all and really letting go. Those who don't quite make it are given proper critiques about where it was great and where they can up their game. And then there are those that just take your breath away! And there are many.

The stories that go with these dancers are also not sugary coated sob stories aimed at getting your vote. No one gets though on a sob story, if they're not good enough to go through then they're not good enough to go through! The stories compliment the performance and help you understand the role that dance has had to play in that person's life.

There was the girl who loved ballet from her early years yet was told as a young teenager that she'd never make it due to the scoliosis in her back. She'd lost her place at a top ballet school and was left to pick up the pieces herself. Here she now was, unable to live without dance she'd found contemporary dance with its less stringent rules and freer form. One of the judges was gasping
from the sheer emotion exuding from her performance (I was crying!). At the grand old age of 15 she'd decided that dance WAS her career regardless of what she'd been told and that she WOULD make it happen. She was well on the way.

There was the young boy who'd not been put through last year, but given lots of positive reasons why he wasnt quite ready. A year later he was stronger, more determined and unbelievably good! Infact there were a few faces from the year before, all who'd been given encouragement rather than ridicule and all who had made the experience a positive driver for improvement - and all who made it through this year.

And there was the group of lads who openly admitted that they had all been bullies, had all been in trouble and that actually they hadn't really been very nice. Little toughies they were, all no more than 15. And there they were cheerleading! Throwing their pom poms up and down and doing high kicks as if to say 'come on then, say what you will. We don't care because what we do know is that we feel good when we do this!" They rocked!

I've been watching the programme each week now since it came back on and have been moved to tears by almost every contemporary dance performance. It's a form of dance that draws me in and evokes a myriad of emotions in me. Last year I started doing contemporary and the feeling it gave me was like nothing else I have tried. It felt so freeing, strong, elegant, graceful, expressive and rebellious all at the same time. Then I stopped. I know why and essentially it came down to me just not being fully ready to let the dancer in me out! And instead I've been harping on about missing it, making excuses and saying that I must get back to it at some point. Watching these amazing dancers has made me realise that it's only me missing out and when you really want to do something then it's quite simple - just do it! So I've signed back up and am going to be back in the dance studio on Friday. I cant wait! When you've got to dance then you've just got to dance!