I came back from Cyprus on a sunny Friday afternoon. An eventful return, delay after delay, twelve hours on the go with a heavy heart and my mind buzzing, thinking of what I can do to get out of the routine I was about to get back into, already missing the sun and exploring my home island, already missing the sea, the love and the people.
I didn’t get into my little ‘under construction’ home until late at night and Saturday went too fast. But I had something to look forward to on Sunday.
The next Touch event. I’m so lucky to volunteer for such a great charity. Every time I leave inspired, motivated, touched.
This one was even more special. A collaboration between the amazing Love Soul Choir run by Dan, one of my favourite humans and Touch, songs and stories at probably my favourite venue in Southampton, Harbour Lights.
Music, soul’s medicine and real life, every day, inspiring stories. I knew before I got there it would be a great one.
After a short glorious walk on a sunny, unexpectedly warm afternoon I arrived there a bit early to help out. I loved being down at the reception directing guests upstairs. I was more than once mistaken for Harbour Lights staff and I loved directing people to the till, to the screens, to the bar. The little every day surprises I find amusing.
Many familiar faces in the crowd, Bev, Lucy, Svetlana.
2pm and we are about to start. After a short intro Love Soul is up, warming up the audience with their incredible vocals and then Vie, the first speaker, takes the mic.
She is wearing a black coat the other way around, and lets her hair down, covering her face. That’s who she was for the first thirty years of her life. She was told since the tender age of six that she was ‘fat and ugly’ by her own family. She was bullied to believe she would never become anything special. How sad to be made to feel like that by your loved ones.
But after she discovered burlesque dancing her life completely changed. She became a qualified trainer, a motivational speaker, a bright example dressed in pretty 50s vintage clothes with flowers on her gorgeous hair, for young people to follow.
After Vie, Love Soul entertained us with a few more songs before the break and then Andy, our second speaker got up. What a life he and his wife already had despite their young age. Seizures, miscarriage, a devastating brain tumour diagnosis and radiotherapy for his wife… But they never lost hope, they kept going and through their faith and support from their family and friends they made it through and they are both and their two lovely boys well and happy.
Andy writes beautiful poems and he read a couple to us. He even brought copies of his book Uplifted and gave them out for free. This one is the last he read, which sums up his life attitude:
There it is, suddenly
Something so much bigger than me
Feeling that significance is my life’s
Revelation is my remedy
It’s not who I am
It’s who has my destiny
Got no strength; I am weak
Yet the great I AM is the conqueror
Where all I see defeat
No broken promises
All things to good, I believe
My only hope
Love Soul was up next singing two more songs and then it was time for our final speaker Abby.
Another in-cre-di-ble story, another amazing human. Abby was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder when she was 25, after years of minimal sleep, pain, lows and highs. Solent Mind supported her throughout her journey and after becoming a motivational speaker and a mental health advocate she is now running her own project, Heads Up, delivering workshops to young people of all ages in schools, colleges, anywhere there are young people, raising awareness for mental health so she can help others from as early as possible.
What an astonishingly immaculate difference it will make to a person’s life to get diagnosed and get help as soon as they can feel that something is wrong, to know that it is OK not to be OK and not suffer in silence for years.
After Abby’s speech Love Soul closed the event with a final song. What a beautiful ending to an already marvellous afternoon.
I can’t wait for our next event. Still, after five months of volunteering for Touch it surprises me how everyone has a story to tell, how I can relate to all in some way, how many amazing humans are out there and how inspired I get from each one of them. I truly hope that one day we live in a world that accommodates openness and honesty, where feeling vulnerable is not a weakness and everyone feels comfortable to share their story and learn from each other .