Making Magic on the Frontline

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…feeding hearts and souls.

I would like to bring you our video of magic on the frontline, showing you why we brought magic to the Philippines. The positive impact it had was profound as we aimed to heal hearts, minds and souls. Click the image below to watch it!

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Magic has been with me my whole life. I come from a family of amateur magicians; my grandfather was, my father is a magician and I am a magician. So when I leapt into the frontline as a humanitarian worker 15 years ago I automatically slipped a few magic tricks into a corner of my suitcase…just in case!

But it wasn’t until I was in Thailand in 2004 post the Asian tsunami that I started to really understand the transformation that magic delivers.

When a disaster happens the great and the good arrive with speed The Red Cross, the UN, Save the Children, but as fast as they reach so do the ‘nasties’ the sex traffickers and child kidnappers. The adults who have survived the disaster are distracted, searching for loved ones and any remaining remnants of their lives and homes. The children are often left alone or with an older brother or sister in charge. In the Thai survivors camp the volunteers had set up an enclosed area for the children, caring for them, consoling them and giving them activities to do.

Here is an excerpt from my book “Marmalade and Machine Guns” about magic on the frontline from my…

‘As the children tsunami survivors poured their pain out through art, black horrifying images, I realized in a flash that what we needed was magicians. My first request for such volunteers brought stunned silence or an outpouring of ‘ are you crazy!’

Within a few weeks, my first volunteer magician had left London for Phuket. Attired in the uniform of his profession – brightly-coloured waistcoat and dickie bow – Michael the Magician took the camps by storm. Dripping with sweat, melting daily in the unforgiving swelter, he performed at least three shows a day for three weeks. He performed to crowds of children and adults – on the beach, in schools or in the survivor’s camps.

In no time, Michael was being followed about everywhere he went, greeted with shouts of ‘Abracadabra’, like a pied piper weaving his spell. The show needed no words, he made his own magical stories with his actions: producing rabbits, making silk scarves disappear, twisting balloons into animals. He was like a bright butterfly flying around the blackened stumps of a devastated forest.

When he performed his magic show to the children of Ban Nam Khem School, the parents came early and squeezed in the back of the room .The magic seemed to take the tension out of their shoulders, smoothing away the lines of worry…for a while at least. The school had taken a particularly severe blow: out of a total of 450 students, 150 had been washed away by the wave. Michael’s audience was blindsided with grief, having lost so many friends and siblings.

‘Michael, please come back soon,’ I heard the head teacher say .‘Your magic is helping the children to find joy in life again. It is the first time I have seen them smile in months. Your magic wand is really working.’ News of the magician’s success must have travelled.

One morning, I found an email in my inbox:

Dear Linda,

Would a circus be of any use to you and your recovery work? We have a small children’s travelling circus, based in UK, and would love to help?

Love Arabella

In no time at all we had jugglers, stilt walkers, fire-eaters and Giggles the Clown roaming up and down the survivor camps, spreading a bit of happiness as they went. The circus stayed for six weeks and in that time they brought a ray of magical sunshine everywhere they set up. They also gave circus skills workshops and trained camp volunteers to perform tricks so that their legacy could be continued after they had left’.

…excerpt from my book Marmalade and Machine Guns
 

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The great thing with magic it has its own universal language, there is no need for translation. Magic unites people in fascination and wonder and brings joy, laughter and entertainment. I have used my little bag of magic tricks in so many ways; to build bridges, dissolve conflict and bring psychological recovery to devastated communities worldwide and …. I continue to do so.

In May 2015 I took a local Nepali magician to a village high in the Himalayas that has been completely flattened by the earthquake. As he performed his routine standing on top of a pile of rubble, his makeshift stage, he fed the hearts and souls of the children, of the people and for a moment they could forget their pain, relax and smile. I even spotted some passing American volunteers pause and smile and enjoy a rare moment of calm.

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What do you currently do to lift your heart and soul in moments of stress?

What tools do you have in your emotional first aid kit for those times of need?

For me laughter is the best medicine, and it’s scientifically proven to help. So if you are feeling a bit blue instead of switching on a soap opera, intentionally seek out laughter, put on your favourite comedy show, reminisce over a silly moment with a friend, visit a relative with a toddler…or…

…you can start smiling right now by reading the below:

“Dear Mum and Dad,

Apologies for taking so long to write, but my writing utensils were destroyed in the fire at my apartment. I am out of hospital and my doctor says that I should be able to lead a normal healthy life. A handsome young man named Pete saved me from the fire and kindly offered to share his apartment with me. He is very kind and polite and from a good family so I think you will approve when I tell you that we got married last week. I know that you will be even more excited when I tell you that you are going to be grandparents very soon. Actually there wasn’t a fire, I haven’t been in hospital, I’m not married and I’m not pregnant but I did fail my biology exam and I just wanted to make sure that when I told you, you put it in a proper perspective.

Love your daughter xxx”

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As the daughter of a magician I feel certain that a grand magic master not a midwife was waiting to greet me, a magic wand was part of my birthright.

I was raised from day one to believe in the magic of life, to expect the unexpected, to embrace the mystery and believe the impossible. And this has stayed with me all my life. I urge you to follow your bliss.

Life is not a business to be managed but a mystery to be lived!

NB: Magic is everywhere….

HRH The Prince of Wales, who I first met when he visited an aid project of mine in Delhi, is a great humanitarian and also a magician and member of The Magic Circle after passing his audition in 1975 by performing the “cups and balls” effect. The set of cups and balls he used is in The Magic Circle club in London.
 

Together we create a ‘magic circle’ of change.

I also have some other really exciting news to bring you today!

I’ve been working on something for weeks now that I personally wanted to bring to you…and finally it’s here!!!!

My passion is all about helping people on the frontline with a “Hand Up not Hand Out” approach and in my 15 years as a front line humanitarian worker I have learned so much from the people I have met, the places I’ve been to and the situations I have faced.

I owe those people, those places and those experiences a debt of gratitude!

…today is the day I bring the lessons I’ve learned to you!

 

Linda’s FREE Challenge

 

FREEDOM: RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!

5 Days, 5 Emails, 5 Challenges
September 7th – 11th 2015

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Intrigued? Want to know more?

>> CLICK HERE FOR ALL THE DETAILS + TO SIGN UP! <<

It’s a powerful combination of insights gleaned from my international corporate, humanitarian and humanistic adventures – from life threatening to life changing experiences that in the most extreme will either change your world forever, or encourage you to think, feel and act very differently to get different, better and more profound results.
It’s only for those who have a sense of curiosity, daring and adventure in their souls and an irritating niggle that there is something missing.

I feel passionate about sharing what I have learnt – I want to help.

>>>> CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE! <<<<

Thank you so much!

Everybody Dies But Not Everybody Lives.

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I encourage you to learn how to say “No more!”, so you can say “YES!” to experiences, to people, to places that can stretch you and stimulate you.

Be daring and be surprised by how wonderful it is to feel so alive.

I hope this email inspires you to live passionately and to say YES! And if you want to take things to the next level and really as if there was no tomorrow, no way to say No! then I’ve got something coming that you’ll love! Want to be the first to know what it is…?

>> Yes, I want to join the Early Notification List!! <<

Just for a moment think back over your activities last week, the time you got up, went to bed, the route you took to work, the times you went to the gym or called your mother?

How much of what you did was similar to the last week or the week before? Did you buy your groceries at the same shop, meet your friends at the same pub and sit in the same seat on the train?

We are creatures of habit. There is something reassuring and comforting to repeated patterns. Don’t get me wrong certainty and routines are good. Its good to know that we turn on the tap and that water will come out, that your mother will pick up the phone at 6pm on a Sunday night and that the bus to work will run on time.

You may also find that you naturally surround yourself with people who agree with what you say and who support the same football team.

But believe me, and I know from my own experience, too much certainty can dull us, life can lose its edge, it’s excitement. Predictability creeps up on us slowly and unknowingly we slip into a semi happy, semi alive state, operating on semi autopilot. We expect and anticipate certain things will happen as they always do and so only need to half engage.

Does any of this ring true?

Mind you, uncertainty can be uncomfortable. As we step out of our known world we may have to face a fear or two or change an opinion. But believe me the rewards are worth it ten fold.

I started breaking free of my own sleep walk through life with tiny steps. I began by creating ‘everyday adventures.’ Simply doing ordinary everyday things differently.

For years I had toast for breakfast so I started to have porridge. I always got up at 7am ready to dash out the door with a coffee in my hand, I changed and got up at 6am with time to take a 30 minute walk or in the winter sit in my warm bathrobe with a cup of hot chocolate and watch the sunrise.

I drove a different way to work, I added a splash of colour to my black wardrobe, when I went out for dinner I intentionally chose something on the menu that I had never eaten before, I sought to make friends with someone from a different culture, religion or country.

Try it, it’s easy and it will start to reconnect you with that wonderful exhilarating tingle that life outside your comfort zone can bring you life

My 15 years on the frontline as a humanitarian worker has catapulted me into smashing through many of my fears, assumptions and expectations.

Until the age of 39 I had always taken ordinary, relatively safe, forms of transport; a car, a bus, a plane – my time in Tibet changed all of that. It was summer and the rivers were pounding, high and fast from the nearby Himalayas. For hours and hours the caravan of donkey and yak plodded slowly alongside the river, weaving up and down the hills. Being in the last third of the caravan my vision was obscured by the heavily laden animals but the commotion up ahead made me pull myself up and peer over the top.

To my horror the lead yak had plunged straight into the river.

My mind raced ahead and my fearful brain leapt into action, ‘What are they doing? Are they crazy? Where is the bridge?’ I saw myself already washed away, disappearing downstream caught up in the torrent.

I looked around to see who I could alert that this was suicide, to warn them against it, but no one was paying any attention and as we were all tied together, if the first animal was in the icy cold water, we would all be soon.

There was nothing I could do,

I had to face my fear, let go and quietly I said a few prayers. It was soon my turn and the freezing water lapped against the shoulders of my yak and seeped up my trouser legs.

There was no turning back

as this hefty beast weighed down by baggage and me carefully placed one foot after the next on the slippery riverbed of stones and moss.

The applause that greeted me when I reached the bank safely was comical, a crowd of relieved nomads who face this challenge daily recognized that I was clearly way outside of my comfort zone and praised me with their eyes and hands for my courage. I smiled sighed a deep breath and felt exhilarated, if inwardly hoping that we didn’t have too many more ahead of us.

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I have made a personal promise to regularly stretch myself, not to take outrageous risks, but to feel the fear, weigh the situation up and when it’s right, push on through.

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Linda Cruse, a very ordinary woman and not a natural risk-taker, has jumped off the side of a mountain and paraglided down to earth whilst sharing the thermals with hawks, has driven a snowmobile in minus 30, 200kms north of the Arctic Circle and has ridden a camel deep into the Sahara desert.

Don’t waste time because it will run out unless you live it…the inevitable will eventually happen to us all…so make the most of it now.

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Frontline Thinking

Linda Nepal

Life Lessons Learned from Living on the Edge as a Frontline Humanitarian

3 continents, 21 countries, 15 years and 1 suitcase

Real People Real Problems Real Change

 

What is the path you should be walking?

Quit My Job, Sold My House & Changed My Life

Fifteen years of living in extraordinary and extreme conditions has taught me many things. But what I have come to realise is that the key to living a life you truly want to live comes by asking questions, not ordinary questions but great questions.

The ones that make you really think, dig a bit deeper, challenge your status quo, set you off on a journey of exploration and possibilities that you may have never considered.

But be warned. Asking these great questions can change the direction of your life, sometimes a little bit but often drastically.

So it’s no wonder that we avoid them preferring to stay safe within our comfort zone of predictability.

If you are looking for better answers then start asking better questions! And if you ask great questions…you’ll more likely get great answers!

For many of us it takes a serious crisis; a marriage break up, the death of a child, a close friends fatal accident, bankruptcy, to ask the deep questions. It is at these times that the questions pour out easily…

‘Why him?’ Why now?’ ‘Why me?’

I know this too well because it happened to me – in my 30’s I took a job for one reason for money. It was a job I knew that I wouldn’t find fulfilling or stimulating but as money was my goal, I took it.

The build up of stress in my body crept up on me insidiously until it was like a pressure cooker, the misery tightly contained, until it blew with great force one dark winters night. I was driving on the motorway, desperate to get home, after a soul destroying hyped up sales conference when I had severe stabbing pains behind my eyes and then suddenly the curtains came down and I went blind.

Sitting on the side of the road my emotions went from fear to anger to despair. But as I prayed to a God I hadn’t thought of for a long time I made a firm promise that if my sight returned that I would seek out what I was born to do and live my purpose and my passion. I was lucky my sight returned. Stress blindness the diagnosis.

How I changed my life

I desperately wanted to be me again!

I devised a series of questions that would start to reveal my passion, my uniqueness, my gifts, re-discover my dreams and recover my talents that I had buried, lost or simply had forgotten about.

The answers came tumbling out!

  1. I realised that my purpose was to care for others
  2. My passion and curiosity was for foreign shores
  3. I was hungry to immerse myself in different cultures, traditions and religions.
  4. My natural gifts; empathy and listening!

It was time to make a difference!

The end result …’ Quit Job Sold House Changed Life’ … and I leapt into the frontline as a humanitarian worker.

What is the path you should be walking?

So if you are feeling a little lost or you look at where you are now in your life or career and you think to yourself, ‘How on earth did I get here?’….

Get busy and start to ask great questions and don’t wait for a crisis to occur to start the process!

It’s your life, every second counts!

As you start to let your passion and purpose bubble to the surface your whole life will change. If you don’t believe it, just try and see what happens.

What do you have to you to lose? Things change, we change.

Lets get started:

Frontline Thinking – My 6 Step Process to Finding out what path you should be walking?

Give yourself less than 60 seconds a question

Exercise 1. Things You Love To Do.

Writing at speed, note down 10 things that you really love to do, activities that when you are immersed in them time just flies. This could be something you did last week such as watching a beautiful sunset or when you were a teenager enjoying the thrill of racing around on your mountain bike.

When you have finished your list go back to the top and next to each activity write the date you last did it.

Salsa dancing July 2000

Exercise 2. Your Wish Is Your Command!

If you could have three wishes granted what would they be?

I wish …
I wish …
I wish …

Your answers will give you clues, pointers to explore and investigate.

Exercise 3. Smile And The World Will Smile Back

What makes you smile?
Seeing a newborn baby, watching a magic trick, taking a boat trip … activities, people, events, hobbies?

Exercise 4. You Are Talented!

What are you naturally good at? Social media, numbers, painting …skills, abilities, gifts etc.

Exercise 5. Teach What You Need To Learn!

Now look over your answers…any surprises?

As if you are putting the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together see what picture forms as you place all of your answers together.

Are there activities that you love but have forgotten, that you are going to commit to scheduling into next weeks diary?

  1. Keep these answers close by you.
  2. Cut out pictures that represent your findings and create a collage.
  3. Ponder over the answers in a quiet moment, first thing in the morning before you get out of bed, whilst on a long distance drive or doing the washing up.
  4. Let them percolate and be open to surprises and possibilities.

There is never an ending…only the beginning of something new…

There is never an ending…only the beginning of something new…

Thank you so much!

‘Be yourself, be only yourself. Everyone else is already taken.’ Oscar Wilde

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The fact is, there is no public path….we are all different!

There is no one quite like you; your likes and dislikes, what makes you smile, what makes you cry, what makes your heart beat faster, what makes you laugh out loud, what scares you and what makes you feel bored.

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But how often have you found yourself following the crowd, conforming to the majority, quite happy to be the sheep in the middle of the herd rather than standing out and risking that feeling of being an outsider or even worse a social reject. It’s seems easier to blend into the crowd with everything from our clothes to our opinions. Keeping the water smooth and the fur unruffled.

Some degree of conformity is necessary for societies to function – cars stop at red traffic lights, children go to school, we respect other peoples’ property.

But consciously remembering and recognising your uniqueness, your likes and dislikes will bring back (or unearth) the depth and vibrancy in your life.

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The more you conform the more you lose that exclusive jewel that only you have.

Know what you stand for. Question how really important it is that these people like you.

Are you doing something just so that your colleagues have a higher opinion of you?

Is the latest fashion really your thing?

Do you really need to buy the latest hi tech coffee machine just because everyone else is?

Society, fashion magazines and the latest health guru are always telling us what is the ‘right’ thing to do, eat and wear. So be on the alert.

If you follow the rules of others it will be like wearing some one else’s clothes…they’ll will never fit you.

 

Frontline Thinking – My 4 step process to find out how to be unique and why you should never follow the crowd?

Exercise 1. Acknowledge Your Strengths

A great way to honour your uniqueness is to acknowledge your strengths. Its easy to put ourselves down; self-deprecating is often a cultural norm, but it’s not healthy.

Know your strengths.

This exercise is best done with a friend but can be done alone.

Each write down 5 things that you know you are good at. If you feel stuck ask your friends and family what they think you are good at.

Then taking turns state to your friend ‘I am a great cook’ and in reply your friend affirms this, ‘You are a great cook’. Saying this out loud deepens the impact. If you feel silly doing this exercise, laugh and that’s great for your health too.

So off you go …I am a good mother, I am a good listener, I make people smile, I am a great cook, I can repair anything….

Exercise 2. You Are A Sum Of Your Experiences

One very important source of your uniqueness is your experiences. Everything you have ever done is recorded in your conscious memory and your nervous system. Everything you’ve ever seen, heard, touched, tasted or smelled is tucked away in your brain.

Write down 5 experiences that have most powerfully shaped your life and next to it how it affected you?

e.g. I have climbed Kilimanjaro and I proved to myself that I have the courage to step outside of my comfort zone and achieve a tough goal that I set myself. I feel more confident now in many areas of my life.

Exercise 3. You Become Who You Have Coffee With

I would like you to think about the 5 people you spend most of your time with, either face to face or on the phone.

Make a list.

Next to each name, make a note of how positive they are (for you) on a scale of 1 – 10 (10 being the most positive). Do they encourage you in your uniqueness, do they spur you on to follow your dreams?

You are affected far more than you think by the people you spend your time with.

Think for a moment….

Have you ever finished a phone call and felt totally dragged down and drained?
Have you left a friend feeling ten feet tall?

I encourage you to become more aware of who you hang out with.

Exercise 4. Reflection

Reflection is the key to assimilating all you are discovering about yourself.

Look back over your answers and highlight the ones that surprise you or the ones that you know you must act on now…or in the next 10 days.

You are in the midst of a great journey of discovery!

My Road Less Travelled

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Leaping into the frontline as a humanitarian at 40 years old leaving behind safety and security many people said that I was crazy. Calls and emails would be filled with‘ Come on home now and settle down’, ‘It must be time to get back on the housing ladder?, ‘You don’t have a pension, what is your plan?’. I had to toughen up and suppress a wobble when I heard the concern people felt surrounding my new life on the frontline.

But I knew it was right for me to take ‘the road less travelled’. I had lived a comfortable life. But that unique part of me broke through my ordered life and my passion carried me through any fears of the unknown. I felt more alive than ever before on the frontline. I was able to combine many of my strengths and unique gifts. Putting myself in the middle of a catastrophic disaster I was able to make a real difference and use my strengths and skills to help others. I knew that this was what I was born to do. For me not knowing where my next meal or pay cheque was coming from and only having one suitcase of stuff was not scary but liberating.

This may all sound totally crazy to you too. But thats the thing…

We are all different.

Raju Khadka, the cake factory hero, sex trafficking and a new mantra gleaned from the survivor’s camp.

Linda Nepal

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

However many times I attend an immediate post-disaster scene it never ceases to astound and horrify me that as quickly as the great and the good arrive; the UN, The Red Cross, Save The Children, so do the ‘nasties’; the sex traffickers seeking out vulnerable women luring them into prostitution and the opportunists preying on displaced or orphaned children, kidnapping them and forcing them into hard labour. But this time I encountered something new and equally shocking – organized gangs roaming amidst the disaster chaos seeking out possible unsuspecting organ donors they can kidnap, if unwilling or pay, if willing. On the frontline we must be in a constant state of vigilance to these unpleasant activities and also educate the innocent and vulnerable to be more aware of the motives of these predators.

Raju Khadka, the ‘cake factory’ hero.

As I sat in one of Kathmandu’s typical ancient, dusty, tiny white tin-box taxis, my knees awkwardly jammed into the back of the driver, I noticed another earthquake survivors camp had popped up. The flapping of the bright red plastic sheeting had caught my eye and I asked the driver to stop.
The constant level of fear, caused by the continuing powerful shakes, drives the people to sleep in open spaces as far as possible from the cracked and unstable buildings that have already taken so many lives.
Slowly I tip-toed my way between the make-shift tents, trying to avoid the guy ropes and deep mud puddles caused by the heavy monsoon rains and insufficient drainage.
 
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Hearing our approach a middle-aged lady popped her head out from under her shelter, a beautiful open face beamed up at us. Laxmi Khadka crawled out and we exchanged the customary Nepali greeting, with a slight bow of our heads, our hands pressed together close to our chests, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards we quietly uttered the word ‘Namaste’ which in translation means ‘I bow to the divine in you’.
As I looked up a thin young man was approaching us slowly, limping, the top of his left foot looking angry, red and swollen. He had obviously suffered a deep cut that had healed over before its time trapping a large area of pus and infection.

He smiled at us.

Raju Khadka talked about his families situation, their poor living condition and minimal food but he was most concerned about his mothers deteriorating emotional health.

‘ Every time a strong wind blows or there is an unexpected noise she starts to shake uncontrollably, the memories of the earthquake flooding back. She hardly sleeps. She hardly eats,’ Raju said wringing his hands his face etched with worry. ‘I fear for her health’.
 
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At that moment a tall, lanky teenager bounced into the middle of the group with a beaming smile clearly showing his perfect white teeth and in the clearest English said, ‘ Did you know that my brother is a hero’. He paused, staring at us with his head on one side.

We all smiled and looked at Raju eagerly.

‘What happened?’ I asked.

Raju looked down at his injured leg and nodded shyly ‘ Do tell us?’ I asked again encouraging him to share his story.

Without hesitation Sajan Khadka, 11 years old, the younger brother of the hero, jumped in,

‘He saved my mother and the three other workers at the cake factory’.

He took a deep breath and continued at speed,

‘ It was the first big earthquake and my brother was at work at the cake factory. The building started to shake terribly and fall apart as if stamped on by a giant, my mother fell to the ground screaming and sobbing. Raju picked her up and threw her out of the building just before a brick wall collapsed. She would have died’.

We all looked at Laxmi as she nodded in agreement.

‘ Then my brother went back inside and saved the other factory workers. Blinded by thick clouds of dust and the bricks raining down on him, he ran back into the horror, three times and one by one he brought them out. But you see his luck ran out on the last journey and a wall fell on him,’ he said pointing at his brothers foot. ‘ He thought he would die there, he was trapped, but finally he managed to wriggle out just tearing his leg’.

Raju smiled at his brother, ‘ Anyone would have done the same’, he said humbly. ‘ I am just happy that my mother and co-workers are all alive. The factory, totally gone, destroyed beyond repair. My main task now is to find another job’.

Once the dust settles and the emergency crews leave a focus on livelihood recovery remains as essential as ever for the survivors. However resilient the people are and Nepali’s are resilient giving a ‘hand up’ at these times is the only way. They want to get back on their feet, back to work, independent and able to feed their own families. And when Raju has returned to full health this is how we will be helping him.

Namaste – my new mantra

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‘I bow to the divine in you’ isn’t it a wonderful greeting and my new mantra, conveying respect and honour. It reminds me to pause and take time to look deeper to see and acknowledge the unique and beautiful essence of everyone I meet.

 
 
 
 

Don’t look for a hero. Be one.

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What makes a hero? The dictionary defines a hero as a person who courageously contributes even under the most trying circumstances; a hero is an individual who acts unselfishly and who demands more from himself or herself than others would expect; a hero is someone who defies adversity by doing what he or she believes is right in spite of fear.

A hero is not someone who is perfect. We all make mistakes but that doesn’t invalidate the contributions we make in the course of our lives. Perfection is not heroism; humanity is.

If you get the chance to be a hero grasp it. Do something this week to demonstrate that your actions make a difference. Offer to babysit for a single parent, spend an extra 30 minutes listening to a friend who has a problem and a desperate need to share it, buy a stranger a cup of coffee, volunteer at a local hospital. The opportunities to be a hero are endless. Don’t look for a hero. Be one.

Love from the frontline

Linda x