The Comfy Chair
Living in a small Suffolk village which consisted of literally one street, 15th Century cottage with roses growing up the door, backing onto a wheat field and with a new baby. Sounds idyllic, but I couldn’t drive, and isolation kicked in, it was just before Christmas. Many of the villagers went to a Christmas service at the local parish church and we decided to join them as a new family. The presence of a pram and new-born attracted many and I met a sprightly woman who I later found out to be Lady Gertrude. She took me under her wing, and I sat many times in her kitchen at the huge oak table chatting whilst keeping an eye on my very active baby. Gertrude introduced me to her daughter in law who took me out to a mother and toddler group organised by the National Childbirth Trust (NCT). This lifeline helped me enormously and the loneliness, insecurities and timidity of being a new mum gradually diminished. Without hesitation I joined the NCT, became an active member and vowed that I would make sure if I came across any other isolated mum, I would be there for them.
I learnt to drive, we moved to a nearby town and I became the secretary of the local NCT branch and after two years became the Chairman.
As Chairman, my list of priorities was to reduce the length of monthly board meetings, they commonly went on into the late evenings, keeping to the agenda,fundraising and supporting parents and children.
I loved it.
Life was slightly chaotic by then with another child.
Each month we produced a newsletter and I renamed my Chairman slot the Comfy Chair. I wanted to be approachable. The title of Chairman brought responsibilities, respect and real sense of bringing people together. I worked hard at my role and took it seriously even appearing on the local tv.
I was sent details of each NCT member that moved into my area. I then sent a welcome to…. card, with my phone number and assurance that there was a network of people ready to help in anyway they could. I remember receiving details from a woman called Susan, she had just moved into a local village, her husband had taken on a new job and with a baby and expecting her second child she knew no one. I sent a card to welcome her, and she immediately responded. I was determined Susan would not be isolated and face the loneliness I myself had often experienced through living in a village.
We met, drank tea, chatted and ate cake.
This was the start of a great friendship.
This year marked 25 years since I met Susan, we have continued to support each other through thick and thin.
For me, as a leader, it was important to not ignore others, not put my title above the real things in life and to be willing to give of my time and energy. I connected people together, organised coffee mornings, book parties and realised leadership is not just about fulfilling your potential but enabling others to fulfil theirs.
Be encouraged, we all have leadership qualities, we can all inspire, and we can all stand firm in what we believe in without backing down.
Faith Spear FRSA
The Criminal Justice Blog: www.faithspear.wordpress.com