Make a point of visiting us weekly!        Tell a friend about us. Silver Surfer Articles Return to “Silver Surfers”  CONTENTS PAGE Page EIGHTY SEVEN

I’m sure there are some who look back and can say, I designed that building, I built that building, I laid all that brickwork, I took part in designing that plane, that vacuum cleaner, that fridge or whatever tangible item it was.   There may be some who can say I wrote a book, composed a famous song or poem, wrote a play, scripted a TV production and so on. There will be many others who will say, I handed out health remedies to thousands of patients, cared for patients in the ward, operated on hundreds of patients, taught thousands of pupils, none of which are tangible products and yet have impacted thousands of lives.

For many it will not be so glamorous and yet our ‘achievements’ have been equally valuable, if not more so in the bigger scheme of things. I can lay claim to a good marriage which is still going strong after forty-five years, to having helped my wife keep on her feet while we raised three children who are all doing well. (I cannot lay claim to much input of the eight grandchildren but perhaps just a little will help them in the future). But then there are the real heroes of achievement, the single mum whose partner abandoned her for another and left her to raise the three children on her own – which she has done. That is an ‘achievement’.  There is the daughter who remained unmarried to care for an aging and infirm parent. That is an ‘achievement’. There is the couple who steadfastly care for their severely disabled child with years of care and anxiety. That is an ‘achievement’. And there are so many more we could think of like that.

Achievements come in all different shapes and sizes. I write this a short while after A-level and GCSE results have been coming out and we have gone through the ritual of the BBC, ITV or Sky News giving us the same shots as last year of tearful teenagers rejoicing in their results which are all that bit higher this year than before. But yes, these are achievements, but they will fade almost into insignificance in the years to come when the next hurdles are degrees or some other sort of professional qualification. I remember taking my professional exams in the past, viewed by the thousands of us who took them in exam rooms in London as the most terrifying experience possible and yet some five years later when I came across my exam papers, I marvelled at how little was asked of us and how more I had learned since.

That’s the thing about some achievements; they are great in the day but they may fade with time and we may even be forgotten by future generations who have perhaps never even heard of our name, or if they have, it is just a name and no more.  The man who started a company and drove it to great heights, the man who appeared each year on a stage to reveal the latest product, even these giants of achievement at the time, fade into history and may be the object of a biography but even that may become lost on the shelf. I’m not trying to be cynical but just realistic. I would hope looking back that I may have contributed good to a variety of lives, that just maybe, somehow I may have encouraged them, guided or directed them in such a way that they are better people today, but I am under no illusions – it may be just an illusion. We do our best at the time and just maybe some one, or some many people even, may have benefited by our presence in their lives back there in our earlier history.

Yes, as I suggested above, sometimes we can see the achievement in an end product that is still there, out there in the world to be seen and used by many. For many, it is just lives we touched and helped, and we must be content with that. As I found myself pondering this subject, I realised that actually my contributions to changed lives, I would not want to broadcast to you, and indeed in the thing that set off this train of thought, my part in the end product was remarkably minor.

OK, I must come clean: a beautifully hot summer’s afternoon and I was lounging on a swivel lay-back garden chair, gazing up at the leaves above me, when I became aware of a certain paternalistic feeling about the six trees that form a mini-copse near the end of our garden. Elsewhere in our ‘Growing Stuff’ pages, I wrote on ‘Change’ and acknowledged that we have lived here with this long but slightly narrow garden for over forty years. In a conversation with one of my grand-daughters just recently, talking about how her dad had played as a child in this garden, I was able to comment to her, “You know nothing you can see in this garden was here when we first moved here a few years before your daddy was born – nothing, none of the trees, none of the bushes, shrubs or other plants, none of the sheds or the fences.”

Yes, these six trees that form this mini-copse each have a history. The silver birch, which stretches up to the sky above the rest, came from an old friend and was only about five feet tall when I planted it. The oak, which is competing with it, I have to acknowledge, was not my work, probably that of a squirrel hiding his acorn all those years back.  One other tree, a big red-leafed ornamental cherry was the one we bought and planted as a small sapling. It is now big! But the other three came as a result of picking up some leaflets at a motorway station that came from the government offering free trees. I sent for three and they arrived nine inches tall. They too are now BIG! Yet all I did was plant them and the rest was out of my hands. OK, I contributed to five of them being here and without me this copse would not be here and we wouldn’t be benefiting from the shade on a hot day, but that’s all.

Yes, looking back and pondering on my achievements through the years has been a useful experience. Some of those achievements can be seen today, others are just lives impacted in some way. Some things have required a lot of time and energy while others, like my six beautiful trees, just needed a little activity to produce a great end product. Much of it, as I look back and ponder, was a case of being in the right place at the right time; there was, no doubt, much wasted effort along the way, but on the other hand ….. well, that’s what life is like isn’t it; sometimes we planned it and it went well, other times our plans went astray, sometimes accident worked to the good, other times, not so.

Years ago I once made a collage of magazine cuttings; very satisfying, but not half as satisfying as meandering through the memories of the years we have known. Yes, we tend to blot out the times of anguish, the mistakes and calamities, but apart from them acting as painful lessons not to be repeated, hey, let’s ignore them, let’s lie back in the sunshine and shade and be incredibly thankful for the good of what has been.  As usual, let’s finish with a quote or two.

“Success without fulfilment is the ultimate failure.” Tony Robbins.

“Doing what you like is freedom, liking what you do is happiness.” Anonymous.

“True fulfilment comes from helping others.” Anonymous.

“It is contentment that gives true fulfilment.” Anonymous

“You will never grow to your fullest potential unless you plant seeds of joy, love, fulfilment, hope, and success. Nature can only return to you what you plant.” Anonymous

A life directed chiefly toward the fulfilment of personal desires will sooner or later always lead to bitter disappointment.” Albert Einstein

“Keep in mind that you’ll have true happiness, true fulfilment, not living to get but living to give.” Joel Osteen

“Happiness is not a goal. It’s a by-product of a life well lived.” Eleanor Roosevelt

“Potential is not an endpoint but a capacity to grow and learn.” Eileen Kennedy Moore

Show me a person who has never made a mistake and I'll show you someone who has never achieved much.”

― Joan Collins

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