Our future health and happiness- an essay by Pip Hardy

I love reading stories to my grandchildren, especially at bedtime. I love watching their anticipation as they choose a book and snuggle up to me, thumbs in mouths as I begin to read. I love the feeling of their small bodies relaxing, warm from their bath, and comfortably full from their tea, growing heavy as the story progresses and sleep overcomes them.

How fortunate we are, to live in warm, comfortable houses, with plenty to eat and time to share stories – stories that nourish our souls as the food they have eaten nourishes their bodies.

Not everyone is as lucky as we are. A recent trip to Africa, working with poor families whose children had suffered brain damage resulting from malaria, was a poignant reminder of our good fortune. Yet, even there, the power of stories to connect us as human beings was obvious.

We spoke no Swahili. They spoke no English. We are white, middle class, middle-aged, comfortable, well-educated, reasonably healthy. They are black, poor, with little or no education. Their lives, already almost unimaginably hard, have become almost unbearable with the added pressures of caring for severely disabled children.

Through an interpreter, we shared stories of the things that mattered to us. Children. Family. Food. Work. Health – or the lack of it. The possibility of a better life. The things that matter to all of us whatever the colour of our skin, wherever we live, however well educated.

They shared the stories of their lives, the hard work and hardships that shaped their everyday existence. The daily dilemma: shall I work in the field so we can eat or shall I stay home and care for the child? Do I have the strength to carry the child to the field with me? Will I be able to work once I get there? The anguish of having a child who cannot go to school, the anxiety about what will become of them, the very real fear of having no money. As each person talks, the others listen, carefully, attentively, respectfully.

They find things in common, shared experiences. They begin to smile a little. The children play quietly on the concrete floor; the parents talk softly in the shade.

I reflect on the power of stories to bring us together, to make connections, to help us understand that ‘there is more that unites us than divides us’. I notice the power of listening, the kind of listening that helps people feel valued and valuable.

I think that, perhaps, our future health and happiness may rely on our ability to recognise the power of stories to shape our lives, our families, our societies, our cultures, to connect us to one another and to connect the past to the future. Through stories we can express and share our values, our passions, our hopes and fears; we can laugh at ourselves and others, we can weep for ourselves and others. We can explore complexity and hold ambiguity; we can touch the best and the worst in ourselves, we can overcome challenges, loneliness and isolation.

As our world becomes more and more pressured and complex, I hope my grandchildren, together with their friends, families, colleagues and their wider communities, will always find time to tell – and listen to – stories.


Our Future Health and Happiness- an essay by Beryl Bradley

To think about our future health and happiness, I have to go back to the start of my career in Mental Health nursing in 1975.

After I qualified and following 3yrs experience on the wards and on a respite care ward, I was lucky to get a sisters post on the community, it was a new service set up by a very proactive consultant, he was very supportive and passionate about his patients, his words to me following interview, were, he would give me all support he could as long as I always kept him informed, if I didn’t and there was a problem he would dig the hole for me to jump in!

The  service was a 24hr service which involved a getting up and putting to bed  service, a respite care unit, a day hospital an initial assessment on a medical ward, access to consultant daily  weekly meetings, radios in our cars,(no mobile phones then) access to long stay beds.

After referral the process was seamless, we were able to support the family totally, certainly the fact that families always had access to their nurse, especially during the night, helped enormously to help families to cope and the system was very rarely abused. We built up a support network, arranging regular meetings and visits,

Home helps, District nurses, social workers GP’s shop keepers all were involved not to mention neighbours and the community

Communication was paramount either face to face or on the telephone (no Emails or texts)

Once a referral was accepted the patient remained on the books until either , death , or  admission to long term care.

Fast forward to the 90s when my husband and I set up and managed a care home for residents with  Alzheimer’s  the changes were occurring, much less support and of course the changes in Health and Safety, lone workers moving and handling issues, no more  helping  patients to remain mobile with any element of danger! Any risk taking by residents had to be risk assessed, to the extent that residents at our home were supposed to do the Food Hygiene Certificate, needless to say they didn’t, it was their home!

After 10 very happy but exhausting years, we retired.

Now up to date, I have just retired, as a Nurse from a Retirement Village.

I now have to think about my future, and with not so good health, what do I need?

I would hope for people who really care and are committed to their work, people who will have time to communicate with me face to face, not by text or Email, to be able to see me as an individual with changing wants and needs, also to include my family.

The NHS seems to be in crisis, although great work is being done, staff feel stressed and devalued, we all need support and to feel we matter and are part of a bigger picture one in which we can all really care and support each other, feel appreciated, hopefully people will respond and appreciate compassion training.

So much time and energy, is wasted, talking and worrying about the past and the future, we could all help the NHS and ourselves by staying positive in the moment with open hearts and minds.

We all react to overseas crisis and major incidents in our country and when faced with floods, snow and ice people react magnificently, so, could we be like that as normal?

The NHS can only get better, I remain optimistic for my future health needs.


30 Minutes Writing from the Heart to Transform Our Health


Our Future Health and Happiness

In your minds eye what does our future health and happiness look like, sound like, feel like?

How would you love it to be?

Send your 30 minute essays to



I hope your day is going well.

As I look around the place that I live when I go to the shops or the chemist I witness so much subtle suffering – so many folks whose bodies don’t move well and whose minds seem elsewhere – it can be difficult to connect.

I also see kindness at the community centre and the mental health drop in and the vets are lovely and the lollipop lady has an awesome story to tell. I feel our small community is full of potential. The banner at the primary school says that Everyone Matters and Everyday Counts.

It is difficult to get an appointment at the doctors and I hear the nearest hospital is at overwhelm.

We are thinking here that our National Health Service is at breaking point – a lot of the people we listen to who work in the system tell us they have never known it like this and that they fear for the future.

We think we could change the way we think about our health – maybe we can create the Neighbourhood Health Service one community at a time. Caring for ourselves and caring for each other, getting ourselves organised. We are going to get started with that here in Fishersgate and Southwick. We hear great stories from people about the positive power of our neighbourhoods.

We are gathering stories of what people imagine when they think about a future in which we are healthy and happy – an ideal way to organise ourselves and our health and care.

What do you imagine as you see future generations thriving?

We would love to read what you imagine. We are gathering 30 minute essays on the subject of:-

Our Future Health and Happiness

In your minds eye what does our future health and happiness look like, sound like, feel like?

How would you love it to be?

All essays received will be published here on this blog.

We will put the essays into a book – we would love to read about what people of all ages and backgrounds imagine, from all around the globe.

Please spread the word.

If we can gather 365 stories of our brighter future we will have one for each day of the year.

Please send your essay (and invite people who care about our common good) to write to……


All of the essays we have received by midday in Thursday the 22nd of January will be printed out and taken to this conference on Compassion in the NHS and shared on our stand with the people we meet.

All essays will be received with delight and read with deep gratitude.




How could developing the wisdom of kindness transform our collective health?

On the 23rd of January Andy will be speaking about the Wisdom of Kindness at what promises to be an uplifting and significant day for the NHS at Leicester Racecourse – there are still a few tickets left – the event is free of charge.

Book here!

Wisdom is the ability to think and act using knowledgeexperienceunderstandingcommon sense, and insight.  Wisdom has been regarded as one of four cardinal virtues; and as a virtue

Kindness is a behaviour marked by ethical characteristics, a pleasant disposition, and concern for others. It is known as a virtue, and recognized as a value in many cultures and religions.

In a field hospital in Syria, a burnt out village in Vietnam or a Nazi concentration camp relentless pain, suffering and injustice is a constant companion – to suffer with each other in these circumstances becomes a way of life – the extra ordinary power of compassion in these circumstances becomes clear – it is all that is left. Choosing to be kind in the most adverse of conditions is all that remains to bring meaning to our lives.

Perhaps our difficulty here in England is that we (not all of us by any means but for the large part) are so comfortable in our heated homes with our plentiful food sources, public transport, access to healthcare, technology, education, treatment, entertainment that we may become disconnected from  ourselves and each other and begin to lose a sharp sense of what a blessing it is to simply be alive.
But we must remember that we are here now living this one wild and precious life and that we are human and that we are extra-ordinary – our capacity to transform our own and each other’s lives and the environments we operate in is unlimited.

It is unwise to be unkind – there are always consequences.

When we join together in a collective spirit of community and kinship we become less dependent on our politicians, our media, our vices, our doctors and our nurses. We can be the authors of our own lives – we can be kind to ourselves and each other.