Greetings everyone. It is a pleasure to be asked to write a series of blogs reflecting upon the ‘essence’ and values of Abbeyfield.

Whatever our connections with Abbeyfield, recent or ‘maturing nicely’, we all have the opportunity to be ambassadors for our family Society …

             Caring, Openness, Honesty and Respect

Openness

"I have to be quite open and declare here that I talk to our local blackbird. He answers to his name ‘AG’. He has an enormous traffic light amber beak and takes his life in his hands on the feeding station outside our kitchen window. Hence his name is ‘Amber Gambler’- AG.

"Now, admitting or open to the fact, I talk to our local blackbird might not be too unusual or I might be deluding myself to be so open. It comes from a relationship which has built up over a number of months as ‘AG’ and Mrs AG have provided for their fledglings with the food we put out for them.

"Open in all its glory the picture of the passion flower (above) portrays different elements of openness. The budding passion flower shows us very little. Next, with care and the right advice and environmental conditions the different elements of the flower develop. It became known in the 15th century as the Passion Flower. The 10 petals and sepals represent those who were the apostles of Jesus (St Peter the denier and Judas the betrayer were excluded). The corona represents the crown of thorns. The three stigmas represent the three nails and the five anthers the five wounds of Christ. Finally, the tendrils represent the whips used in the whipping of Christ.

"Openness does not come without sacrifice and self-giving. This includes the passion to be open to the help and care of others. The beauty of the passion flower brings all the elements of pain and joy together.

"British sign language (BSL) demonstrates openness with open arms which invite an embrace. In these ‘living with Covid’ days an alternative is something I share with our local Hindu newsagent. It is the opening ‘Hello’ greeting of ‘Namaste’. I place my hands together with a smile and thumbs close to my chest and my head slightly bowed. The name Namaste comes from the Sanskrit word for ‘You’ and means we honour the person we are meeting. In fact seeing God in them. The greeting is an expression of the relationship which we have built upon during the handing over of our Saturday newspaper.

"Openness, as a value, is much talked of in terms of institutional governance and accountability. Very often it is to do with expressions of interest and financial probity and at its best expresses the confidence an organisation has in the way it carries out its business.

"From the first moment of the approach of someone enquiring about Abbeyfield’s help and care there is the opportunity to start the relationship of openness.The greeting, the smile, kind words on the phone or face to face. The reassurance they are listened to and their situation appreciated is the beginning of the blossoming of an understanding that we care for them as a person and as a family. Each is unique and special with a story to tell. After induction, there should be time for more open questions  which are not loaded to elicit a foretold answer: ‘What are your favourite things?’, ‘What are you looking forward to?’,’ What are your main concerns?’, ‘What personal gifts do you like to share?’

"Our founder Richard Carr-Gomm differentiated between openness on Abbeyfield business and life at home. He was candid about the way family stripped away any pretence of status! Facing reality with disarming honesty he says, ‘My tolerance and liberal thinking in many spheres were almost inapplicable within the marriage and family relationships. Views on capital and corporal punishment, euthanasia, abortion, drugs, politics and ecumenity, let alone more abstract practices like honesty, cleanliness, right behaviour and openness, were of little help when it came to the issues of living within a family and all the behavioural problems that go with that…’ (1)

"He was very open about the enormous upheaval of someone giving up their own home to come into a small community which can also bring its challenges! He was very open about treating individuals as each one being special, unique and important whatever their situation. Speaking about aims and values he said ‘I think the Societies survive because they stick to trying to help the lonely and will not be distracted from that. That is because from the very beginning there are lonely people everywhere; that they are in need of help remains all too apparent…..The method of small units, with a degree of unobtrusive care and the principle of looking on everyone as whole individuals-body, mind and spirit-is identical.’ (2)

"The picture of the passion flower was taken at the La Mortella Gardens on the Italian island of Ischia off Sorrento in the Bay of Naples. The gardens were developed by the English composer Sir William Walton and his Argentinian wife Susanna. It is said to be one of the most beautiful private gardens, open to the public, in Europe. Susanna (Lady Walton) developed the garden from 1956 for over 50 years. They built their family home there and a Concert Hall in the Gardens. After the composer’s death in 1983 a Greek Theatre overlooking the Bay of Forno on the top tier of the Gardens was built where Youth Orchestras from all over the world perform every year.

"The Passion flower was growing in the valley part of the garden on the second tier of five of the spectacular Tropical Gardens. William Walton was born and grew up in Oldham, Lancashire. His music was inspired and opened by beautiful environments of creativity. His music included ‘Crown Imperial’ for the Queen’s Coronation. The Museum of his life long work is at the Gardens and now his Foundation sponsors many budding musicians from around the world.

"Openness requires real courage and the ongoing encouragement of those around us. To openly share our gifts as an acceptance of others, as they are, is a great privilege and blessing.

"Talking to the birds…that’s even before we talk about plants!"

To be continued…

Canon Edward Pogmore

Notes:-

(1)  ‘Push on the Door’ – An Autobiography by Richard Carr-Gomm, Published by the Carr-Gomm Society,1979, Page 220

(2) ‘All Things Considered – An Autobiography by Richard Carr-Gomm,1922-2004, Published by Trafford Publishing 2005, Page 253

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