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It’s Never Too Late to Make a New Year’s Resolution That Works

It’s Never Too Late to Make a New Year’s Resolution That Works

Image Source: Photo by Nik on Unsplash

At the beginning of the new year, many of us eagerly make our resolution. We look at our lives, seriously attempting to divine what we need to change. We do so with the best of intentions. But as we’ll see, our success may hinge on the nature of that resolution.

Origins of Making a Resolution

We come by the idea of making New Year resolutions honestly. It stems from ancient Babylonia, several millennia ago. At the time, their calendar began in the spring in March. This was known as Nisannu, the first lunar month of the calendar.

At this time, around mid-March, they’d hold Akitu, a huge religious festival. At the time, they’d crown a new king and as part of the celebrations and they’d make promises to the gods to live a good life—paying their debts and so on. These promises, would eventually become our resolutions.

Stele of Hammurabi” from the Louvre Museum (Image Source: Wikipedia).

Although, we understand New Year resolutions as something undertaken in January rather than March. So, fast forward to Roman times.

In time, the Romans had adopted Babylonian New Year. They continued the tradition of making resolutions at the top of their year, in mid-March. The Roman Calendar system was also initially based on a lunar calendar.

However, in c700 BC, a funny thing happened. King Numa Pompilius altered the calender. He added two additional months—Ianuariusi and Februarius—which were intended to account for the winter. Further decisions moved these two months to the beginning of the year. Now, the beginning of the year was in January rather than March, hence the timing of the New Year’s resolutions we all know and love.

How Things Have Changed

Naturally, the early pledges of the Babylonians and Romans were closely tied to the harvest. Thus, intentions to pay debts related to farming or other promises were tied to the harvest. This would’ve been common practice.

Times change and centuries later, in mediaeval times, noted resolutions were tied to the world of knights with the “Peacock Vow.” This was a pledge to uphold the values of knighthood.

Taking the Peacock Vow. Jacques de Longuyon of Lorraine is the author of a chanson de geste, Les Voeux du paon (“The Vows of the Peacock”), written for Thibaut de Bar, bishop of Liège in 1312. It was one of the most popular romances of the 14th century, and introduces the concept of the Nine Worthies, the ideals of chivalry (Image Source: Wikipedia).

Still later in the 18th century, there was a religious flavour to the remembered resolutions. It was merely a determination to live a good life in the coming year.

Fast forward again to more modern times and we’ve seen a curious trend in the resolutions. Many are linked to some form of self-improvement. A poll completed by Forbes Health/One Poll in 2023 noted how the top resolutions focussed on improving fitness, improving finances, improving mental health, weight loss and improving diets.

Where Things Go Wrong

Everyone has the best of intentions when they make their resolutions. However, for the vast majority, these new year’s resolutions tend to only last for two to three months. Indeed, many people fail to succeed with their New Year’s resolutions.

There are various reasons why people may not be able to uphold their pledges. Some explain how the idea of change needs to be more deeply explored. Terry Bly, a clinical psychologist has stated how “the pain of not changing has to be greater than the pain of changing.” Only then can we maybe find real change.

Maybe we also fail to realise the true nature of the change. For instance, anyone can say they want to lose a certain amount of weight. But it’s not simply about eating less. It’s also about exercising more.

Moreover, it’s about not getting up at night and having something to eat or maybe not snacking and so on. In this sense, it’s tied to the fact changes require a change to our lifestyle. That’s no small endeavour.

That small insignificant resolution to “lose weight” rattled off on the 31st of December must involve a much larger change to our entire lifestyle if we have any notion of succeeding.

Still, there’s another reason we may be failing in our resolutions.

Maybe It’s Not All About Me

What we note about the majority of the most popular resolutions is there focus on ourselves. “I” want to improve my level of fitness or “I” want to improve my finances. Now, no one’s saying the wish to improve these aspects of our lives aren’t admirable goals.

Although, there’s another option. Say we choose a New Year’s resolution tied to others. For instance, we may say we want to explore what’s involved in setting up a community garden. The wisest first move is to arrange for people to sit on the board. In so doing, it’s a goal that moves from “mine” to “ours.”

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Moreover, we’ve now got a resolution intended for the community. This involves more than just “me.” It involves all of us. In so doing, it brings in the notion of oneness. And when we feel a sense of oneness, we feel connected to everything and to all.

The tendency is then to work closely with others in cooperation and collaboration. We are all at one with each other, recognising the myriad interrelations and interconnections that bind us together. So, ultimately, to help another is to help ourselves and everyone for whom we care.

In so doing, the likelihood of accomplishing our resolution greatly increases. There are unquestionable gains to our mental health when we help others. Essentially, most of us are hardwired to do good things for others. When we do, our levels of stress diminish. Practising altruistic actions can also lead to what some refer to as a helper’s high.

Benefits of Helping Others

When we help others, it places life in a new perspective. Sometimes when we help others, we gain an understanding of the seemingly insurmountable challenges some face. As the old saying goes, there always is someone worse off than we are. Such a perspective is invaluable.

It’s always worthwhile to give a helping hand (Source: Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay.

Helping others also broadens our world view. For instance, as a resolution, we may say we’ll volunteer at a homeless shelter. It’s possible our only previous understanding of homelessness was walking past people begging on the street. Although, with this experience, the “homeless” become people, ones we may just as soon like. Experiences similar to this one would undoubtedly broaden our world view.

Some Final Thoughts

Hopefully, with a little thought, we can make a resolution at the top of the year with more assurance of being able to see it through. As we know, whatever we choose to do, it’s always best to start small. However, if we really want to meet with a winning resolution, not to mention, make a difference, our resolutions can be centred on others.

And if things aren’t looking great in terms of our success with the various resolutions we made at the beginning of the year, there’s still hope. Some look to the 17th January as a time when we can provide that extra push we need to find success. And what the heck, if things are really not looking good, then come the 17th January, we can make a change and throw our efforts behind something that will truly ignite our personal fires. There’s always hope.

Sources:

Boeckmann, Catherine 2023 “The Interesting History Behind New Year’s Resolutions” https://www.almanac.com/history-of-new-years-resolutions

Davis, Samantha and Alexa Hall 2023 “New Year’s Resolutions Statistics 2024” https://www.forbes.com/health/mind/new-years-resolutions-statistics/

Goal Mastery 2024 “19 Surprising New Year’s Resolution Statistics (2024 Updated)” https://insideoutmastery.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

Kedia, Surabhi 2020 “Oneness: Becoming Whole with the Universe” https://themindfool.com/oneness/

Pruitt, Sarah 2023 “The History of New Year’s Resolutions” https://www.history.com/news/the-history-of-new-years-resolutions

Sexton, Chrissy 2021 “New Year’s resolutions are more satisfying when they’re focused on others” https://www.earth.com/news/new-years-resolutions-focused-on-others-are-the-most-satisfying/

Trovato, Tegan 2022 “Here’s why summer may be the perfect time to revive your annual resolutions” https://www.fastcompany.com/90760697/heres-why-summer-may-be-the-perfect-time-to-revive-your-annual-resolutions

Tsipursky, Gleb 2016 “Is Serving Others the Key to Meaning and Purpose?” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/intentional-insights/201607/is-serving-others-the-key-meaning-and-purpose

Vinney, Cynthia 2023 “The Psychology Behind Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail” https://www.verywellmind.com/why-new-years-resolutions-fail-6823972

iThis is January in Latin.

The Golden Rule As a Pathway to Peace?

The Golden Rule As a Pathway to Peace?

Image by Rosy / Bad Homburg / Germany from Pixabay.

Many of us look at the countless never-ending wars darkening our world at present, wondering, is there ever a chance for world peace? Could there ever be some reason for people to lay down their arms? Some would say the only way would be some vast unifying catastrophe. But the likelihood of such an event is fairly slim. But is there ever a chance?

Perhaps we are left relying solely on people’s personal beliefs and ethics, what guides their behaviour. There are various principles over the millennia that have been used to help steer us through life. One of the most notable ones is the Golden Rule. Could it be the lodestar able to guide us toward peace?

Why Do We Fight One Another?

When we look around our world, seeing the countless disputes, it’s simply more of the same. We’ve been doing that sort of thing for thousands of years in some form or another. We’ve fought one another for numerous reasons, each eventually leading to a dispute. For one, there’s a wish to seek economic gain whether that involves fighting over something of value. It could be livestock, land, fuel or minerals. If you’ve got it and I want it. Invariably, there’ll be problems.

Territorial gain is another reason. One nation’s got land another believes should be theirs. Nations may also seek to have a buffer zone, more land or simply expansion as a display of power. Other reasons may include religion or nationalism, each pushing people to fight.

It’s clear to see how wars are a complex beast. Take for instance the current war in the Middle East where one can identify several reasons—religion, territorial gain, as well as economic gain. So, it’s rarely just one reason nations take up arms.

What of World Peace?

So, we have every reason to war with one another. And as a result, it’d seem that something like world peace is a tall order. Peace is defined in various manners, but overall, it’s a reflection of “quiet, calm, rapport, concord, truce; lack of hostility.”

Amongst people in families, circles of friends or a community, difficulties may erupt. But, in time, they often simmer down. At a larger scale, conflicts may occur within nations. However, while they often lead to distress, maybe even brutality, in time, they can abate. Witness the changes that have occurred in Ireland now that the religious difficulties have largely been put to rest.

All well and good. But what of world peace?

The Golden Rule

One of the principles many of us learned when we were younger was the Golden Rule. This was always intended as a rule to encourage and perhaps discourage certain actions with one another. So, for instance, we’re about to say something nasty about another person. Yet, we recall how it wouldn’t be so nice to experience such a thing ourselves. Hence, we realise it’s an unkind thing to do. So, maybe not, we realise.

Image of “Golden Rule Sign” that hung above the door of the employees’ entrance to the Acme Sucker Rod Factory in Toledo, Ohio, 1913 (Source: Wikipedia).

As we all know, the Golden Rule is a principle of great strength, able to guide people of all ages. It can do so regardless of even a diverse range of backgrounds and other qualities that sometimes separate us—sex, religion, nationality, and so on.

The Golden Rule is considered by some to be a central tenet of life, with some even regarding it as a universal principle. In fact, myriad religions utter some form of the Golden Rule in their efforts to guide their believers. The one with which many are most familiar emerges from the Christian interpretation—Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s a principle that unquestionably offers a pathway to peace.

And if all of us pursued a life where the Golden Rule were a guiding principle, would there be any reason for our interactions to erupt into conflict. Would not an adherence to the Golden Rule dampen and extinguish these clashes?

Yes, it would be a wonderful idea. But maybe it’s not so simple.

Is the Golden Rule Always Appropriate?

One of the many challenges of the Golden Rule may be the fact that not everyone would agree about the action in question. For instance, someone may make a romantic gesture towards someone. The individual making the gesture would say this is fine, as they would welcome the same being done to them. Yet, the individual in receipt may not share their sentiments and actually be taken aback. So, in this case, doing unto others is not the best approach?

However, in this instance, we need to simply ask ourselves if we need to alter how we apply the Golden Rule. Perhaps it’s just a matter of rewording the question—Would I want to have romantic sentiments overtly imposed on me? Our answer may very well be no, in fact we wouldn’t. Thus the Golden Rule would stand true.

Another complication may occur if someone is convicted of a crime and sentenced to a period of time behind bars. When imposing the Golden Rule, we might say, we would not want to spend time in prison and thus, we cannot do this unto another.

Yet again, what if we simply alter the question? If I would be willing to pay for a crime I committed, then actually, I would accept this being done to another. Again, the Golden Rule will hold true and still applies.

We just have to take care regarding the question we ask ourselves. For instance, in the one, it wasn’t a matter of wanting to be behind bars or not wanting to be behind bars. The real underlying issue was about accepting punishment for something we’ve done.

Golden Rule and World Peace?

Now, we can question whether all of this could apply in terms of world peace. Well, in my opinion, world peace is certainly possible. But at the same time, it’s still highly unlikely. Certainly, at the scale of nations, there would seem to be too many conflicting interests and agendas guiding people.

Sometimes, application of the Golden Rule requires a bit of tinkering to truly understand the issue at hand. What exactly am I okay to have done unto me that I feel someone else should also have no problem experiencing. In any respect, one can easily see how this is far more possible to work out face to face than amongst nations. The application of the Golden Rule isn’t always straightforward.

But then, maybe we‘re thinking of finding a solution at entirely the wrong scale. If there ever will be world peace, maybe it’d best begin with you and me. Which is to say that perhaps the idea of world peace requires we change our perspective. Instead of thinking at the scale of nations, we must turn our attention on ourselves first.

Perhaps, as is often the case, the challenge is to ensure that you and I find peace in our families, circles of friends and communities. It is much simpler to work out the finer nuances of the Golden Rule when dealing with fewer people and also when we’re able to do so face to face.

Image Source: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

Ultimately, we seem to have little control over what nations are doing. But we do have control over ourselves. We can start with ourselves and maybe it’s possible that peace will be able to touch the nations at large. We may be surprised how great an impact you and I do have on the world. Everything beautiful and magnificent always begins and prospers in the small and quiet corners of the world.

Sources

Goodman, Paul 2023 “The 8 Main Reasons for War” Owlcation https://owlcation.com/social-sciences/The-Main-Reasons-For-War

New World Encyclopedia 2023 “Golden Rule” https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Golden_Rule

Shatz, Itamar 2023 “The Golden Rule: Treat Others the Way You Want to Be Treated” Effectiviology https://effectiviology.com/golden-rule/

Make a Difference in the World

Make a Difference in the World

To make a difference in the world is a sentiment many share. Some dedicate their lives to these words—firefighters, nurses, doctors, teachers and so on. For others, it’s a feeling that may only arise at some point in their lives. Regardless, I sometimes wonder what lies at the heart of this undoubtedly noble wish.

Idea of Altruism

One of the elements clearly apparent in this sentiment is sharing and giving. To make a difference requires we share or give something to that world. And in order to do so, the needs of the other must be placed ahead of our own. We’re guided by feelings of altruism, which, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “the unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others.”

Some might say that true altruism doesn’t exist. After all, that feeling of reward we experience after placing the needs of another before our own is just that, a reward. Still, the goal is not to seek that reward. I’ll feel good about myself, if I give to this person.

For those making a donation to a charity shop, no reward is expected (Source: Gustavo Fring at Pexels)

No, the goal is simply to give to another with no thought of a reward. In so doing, we lay the groundwork for making a difference in the world.

Sense of Oneness

So, to make a difference in the world, a feeling of altruism is good. In my opinion, another attribute that must play a role is a sense of oneness. It certainly helps. Oneness, by its nature, means our own needs merge with those of others. Interconnectedness is at the heart of oneness.

There is a need to focus on others beyond our self identity. Our self is essentially who we are as an individual, arising through individuation—our characteristics, attributes, finer nuances of our personality, as well as our consciousness. As both our conscious and unconscious “selves,” we develop into someone who is unique. It is who we are as people.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay.

With a sense of oneness, our sense of self diminishes and instead we focus on how we are joined as one. John Lennon understood it most keenly, describing oneness simply as, “I am he, as you are he, as you are me, and we are all together.”

When we do so, we form the groundwork for making a difference. Whatever we do, it will focus on the needs of all, for we are all together as one.

Something Bigger Than Ourselves

People are often defined by an inherent yearning for interconnectedness and sense of belonging. Whether to our families, community, circle of friends or to some sort of movement, we feel connected to something bigger than ourselves and are thereby strengthened.

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash.

In other respects, we may be connected to something bigger than ourselves in terms of our spiritual transcendence. It may be to something tied to our beliefs, for instance, to nature, our religion, spirituality, or to a larger community. We may feel it gazing deep into a forest or for others looking upon an iconic symbol of their religion.

Finally, we may be connected to something bigger than ourselves in terms of our service to the world. For instance, the initiatives guiding the actions of some may be tied to a purpose to help those disadvantaged in their community.

In any case, when we belong to something bigger than ourselves, however that is accomplished, we feel more equipped and prepared to address issues that before seemed impossible to face. Dogged determination and courage are then our sacred vows.

Thus, there is no question any individual so prepared will be able to make a difference in the world.

Forgetting Our “Self” to Make a Difference

So, what always seems to be at the heart of these credos—the essence of altruism, a sense of oneness, or focussing on something bigger than ourselves—is to somehow forget our selves.

However defining and pertinent to us, our focus turns from our “selves” to a deep link to others. Once this is achieved, we are in a place where we can unite and indeed make a difference in the world.

For example, what happens when we organise a clean-up of the community. Our focus is not on our selves and our personal needs. Altruistically, we give with no conception of reward for our actions.

We may stand back and look in awe at the multitude of bags collected and feel a sense of oneness. Through our inherent interconnectedness and through a wish to serve, we have come together with a single goal in mind. En masse, we feel connected to something bigger than ourselves.

Photo by “My Life Through A Lens” on Unsplash.

Ultimately, the multitude of bags collected, was the result. Together, our actions have allowed us to make a difference.

Size Doesn’t Matter

And make no mistake, when we’re thinking of making a difference in our world, there’s no need for it to be a substantial one.

Some have the opportunity to make an enormous difference. If that opportunity arises, please don’t hesitate. We’ve heard of various stories recounting such tales, such as those who have donated an organ to a complete stranger.

Yet, it needn’t be so enormous. It can be as small as offering a smile or paying someone else’s parking ticket or bus fare. The fact of the matter is doing so, we make a difference in another’s life.

No matter how small, it can be life-changing.

Some Final Thoughts

Many of us seek to make a difference in this world. As we can see, several things are at work in our lives, laying the groundwork for us to do so. Most importantly, we have to remember it doesn’t always need a lot of thought or planning.

Go about your day, and you’ll no doubt encounter numerous opportunities to make a difference in the world. It may be that major decision to go through with the decision to foster a child. Perhaps it’s the decision to come together with other like-minded individuals and build low-income housing. Otherwise, it may just be a split-second decision to smile at that homeless woman who’s always at the corner panhandling. Fact is, it all makes a difference.

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash.

Sources

Anonymous 2023 “What is Altruism? Does it Really Exist?” https://medium.com/syndicate-post/what-is-altruism-does-it-really-exist-d36ff8148c91

Anonymous 2023 “Belonging” Ideas in English https://ideasinenglish.com/belonging/

Anonymous 2023 “The Self” Vaia https://www.hellovaia.com/explanations/psychology/personality-in-psychology/the-self/

Rosengren, Curt 2017 “How to live a meaningful life: Connection with something greater than yourself – part two” Aliveness & IMPACT https://www.curtrosengren.com/how-to-live-a-meaningful-life-connection-with-something-greater-than-yourself-part-two/

Saavedra, Justine, 2023 “How To Make a Difference: In People’s Lives, The Community, & The World” Berkeley Well-Being Institute https://www.berkeleywellbeing.com/make-a-difference.html

It’s All About Making Connections

It’s All About Making Connections

Image by Madalin Calita from Pixabay

For many of us, the connections we make are the most invigorating and vitalising aspects of our lives. We think of our family members—both two- and four-legged—friends, as well as those strangers with whom, for whatever reason, we made a meaningful connection.

In some instances, those connections are made with other elements of nature, our inherent union with it it energised and strengthened. We may enjoy a walk along the coast with the waves rushing on and offshore thrilled by the sound of its rustle and swish. Some may simply enjoy puttering around in their garden during the early morning—that’ll do.

But what happens when we lack this vital anchor of connection in our lives? Well, we’re often left lonely and adrift.

Loneliness

Loneliness is very complex. An online dictionary defines it as “being without company” while another regards it as “Dejected by the awareness of being alone.” The latter is likely more on the mark. I think we can all agree there is an element of perception that is crucial in determining if we are “lonely.”

Finally, the American Psychological Association (APA) defines it as the emotional distress we feel when our inherent needs for intimacy and companionship are not met.

One site described several causes for loneliness that included the death of a close friend or family member, illness or disability and working alone.

Loneliness can be either transient or chronic, differing in the length of time it is experienced. Transient being shorter periods while the latter being counted sometimes in years. It is more a state of mind, completely disconnected from our physical surroundings.

Some emphasise how it’s possible to still feel lonely despite being surrounded by people. You could be an elderly person living alone, a single parent taking care of youngsters, or a teenager navigating growing up. For whatever reason, you may be assailed by a feeling of unwanted isolation: loneliness.

I could be oversimplifying the idea of loneliness. Still, it seems to be associated with a lack of deep and meaningful connections.

To be connected is one of the most wonderful experiences. And it is here where the concept of oneness is key, for connection and interconnectedness play an integral role in oneness. Can this way of thinking and being not feature in helping to prevent us from feeling lonely and alone?

Inherent Connection in Oneness

What does it mean to connect? Again, a look at the dictionary brings up words such as “linked together”, “associated”, “unite” or “meaningfully related.” One of the most beautiful forms of a more intense connection is commonly known as “oneness.” It’s a sentiment accessible to one and all, whether in a crowd or alone, for hours on end for just a moment.

Kristine Klussman offers some examples of oneness.

  • The awe and significance or insignificance you feel when gazing up at the stars.
  • A silent, sudden awareness that strangers on the subway are really your brothers and sisters.
  • The realization that others have many of the same dreams and heartaches that you have.
  • A sense that you are in sync with the universe, and breathing through the lungs of the earth

These are only a few, but I think you likely get the picture. They provide us with an idea of how it’s possible to feel intensely connected with the universe, with one another, or with some element within ourselves.

And that’s the thing. When we do, the feelings of loneliness have less of an opportunity to gain purchase. Why? Because we feel utterly connected to one and all.

Loneliness may thrive and strengthen when we are deprived of meaningful connection. Although, to be filled with a sentiment of oneness is the essence of meaningful connection. Once this occurs, sentiments such as loneliness lose their hold on our hearts.

It’s not going to happen immediately, the thought of simply running out to catch a beautiful sunrise and that’d be it. But what is essential perhaps, is maybe gazing at that gorgeous sunrise and reminding ourselves of our innate connectedness with the universe. Yes indeed, we’re all in this together.

That innate connectedness is always there, it’s just we don’t always remember that.

Sources

Klussman, Kristine 2023 “Find The Meaning of Connection Through Oneness” https://www.kristineklussman.com/find-the-meaning-of-connection-through-oneness/

Madeson, Melissa 2023 “How to Overcome Loneliness According to Psychology” https://positivepsychology.com/loneliness-psychology/

Modglin, Lindsay and Deborah Courtney 2023 “What Is Loneliness? Causes, Effects And Prevention” https://www.forbes.com/health/mind/what-is-loneliness/

Learning to Play a Musical Instrument: It’s All About Heart

Learning to Play a Musical Instrument: It’s All About Heart

First Starting Out

Unlike many of my fellow classmates when I was growing up, I was never encouraged to take piano lessons. It wasn’t surprising. My mother had few fond memories of her own experiences. She had been taught by a Sister Francis, a member of the convent school she had attended. I even remember the Sister’s name, sadly for less than reputable reasons.

As many would nod their head in shared commiseration, it only very rarely went well. The dreaded click of the metronome accompanied what my mother could only consider as her private torture. Periodically, an incorrect key would be met with a sharp thwack on my mother’s hands by the sharp end of a ruler. My mother did well in her Royal Conservatory tests. Still, the experience evoked no unceasing love for the piano.

Image of a clarinet (Source: lmaresz from Pixabay).

I spent elementary school and high school in the band, playing the clarinet. For a short time, I even played the baritone horn. It was a different section of the band I wanted to explore. So, why not, I thought.

Growing a Love of Music

Yet, there was no true love drawing me to music. I could certainly play. Plus, I learned the very basics of music theory. Still, that was that. Other loves pulled me a away from music and I didn’t look back—until now.

Now, is about three and a half decades later and again, I’ve heard the faint call of music. I have two friends who are naturals, both gifted musicians. Music entered their lives at a young age, there remaining and becoming central to their identity. They both have a feel for the music.

Image by Sabine from Pixabay.

All I can say is perhaps knowing them encouraged me to listen once again to music, but with a different ear. And all of a sudden, I heard the delightful arrangement of notes. The melodies had a lovely ring to them now. It’s something from which I’d grown distant.

I initially began taking singing lessons, which was fine. Although, nothing beyond a perhaps innate discipline drew me to practice. I have a passable voice. Still, I felt no pull. Then, I thought, maybe I could play a musical instrument. I pondered the guitar or piano. Eventually, the latter won out.

Taking the First Steps

My first step was to purchase a keyboard. I was restricted by the amount of money I wanted to spend. In the end I settled for a 61 key keyboard and opted to save money and follow lessons from the internet and books.

Every night, I unzip the bag I’d bought for my keyboard and happily practice. I’m lovingly tugged by a genuine wish to learn. At first, it was simply a delight to finally have an understanding of just what exactly are all those black and white keys. More and more, I’m witnessing the breadth of this instrument.

Image by Elisa from Pixabay

If you’re at all interested in trying to learn a musical instrument, realise it’s never too late. Whether you’re twenty through to ninety-something, it’s always an option. Whether a guitar, piano, violin, bagpipes or anything else, your first steps are crucial.

Those first lessons leave us saying, “ah, that’s how it works!” We’re often left acknowledging how learning to play an instrument wasn’t such a crazy idea after all. As well, it’s vital for us to just take our time. There’s no rush, no examinations for which to prepare, nothing.

Learning to play piano, a door opened into this vast world. “Middle C, you say?” Ah, I get it. For violin, it can simply be an initial introduction to the bow. There’s more to that thing people push to and fro when playing.

Those maybe branching out into the guitar will get an initial lesson on frets, strings and one or two chords. There’s some rhyme and reason to where they place their fingers while holding a guitar. Regardless of the instrument, these are the first steps toward understanding the language.

Learning the Language

As any musician will contend, music is indeed a language, some even say a universal one. Daily, we’re able to grow our lexicon, expanding a knowledge of chords and notes. And when instructors speak of muscle memory, it’s true!

There are times when I’m trying to play something I’ve learned and I can’t quite get it right. Then, I almost force myself to not think about it, allowing my memory and intuition to take control. Miraculously, it works! It’s magical.

My mother assured me once that I had “an ear” for music. I’m not sure what that means exactly. All I know is I truly enjoy learning. The tinkle of the piano notes makes sense and every step I take, every new method I learn adds to my knowledge. Each moment I practice, I touch, sometimes ever so fleetingly, that true zen of music. It’s all about heart.

Image by Desiré ???? Dazzy ???? K-e-k-u-l-é from Pixabay

Pigeons — Contented Nomads

Pigeons — Contented Nomads

Image by Sandeep Handa from Pixabay

I always knew there were pigeons where I live. For as long as I can remember, they’ve been a constant fixture near the lift bridge where one enters the Placentia beach.1 They’d roost there, periodically lifting off, flying in a circle and then returning to the bridge. Sometimes, I’d spot them on the boardwalk, ambling along the shore of Placentia Bay, pecking at the various wild grasses they’d encounter.

Things soon changed, though. One day, a pigeon appeared in the front yard where I live. It was then followed by others. I’d always put out a few seeds for other birds—crows, starlings, sparrows, juncos and the lot. So, that’s what must’ve drawn them. It was a surprise, but to me, it was an unexpected spectacle to enjoy.

However, eventually, there’s one thing I came to learn. Some people really don’t like pigeons. It’s not even a dislike grounded in some annoying activity perpetrated by the pigeons. The ill will was just there. And the sentiment is not uncommon. I wrote a book focussing on eight of the animals people tend to dislike, one being the pigeon. I’m sure many would be happy for pigeons to return to their wild origins and never look back.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the pigeon is going anywhere. Besides, it’s not entirely fair. If we take a closer look at pigeons, we’d see they come with a rich and substantial history. Much of that time has been spent without hesitation, helping other species, namely our own.

Origins of Pigeons

Every pigeon we encounter, from the ones flying around Placentia, to those streetwise denizens of the cities around the world, are all the feral descendants of the rock dove (Columba livia). It’s a member of the family Columbidae, which has numerous members of pigeons and doves, Columba livia, being one of them.

Columba livia likely came from southern Asia around a million years ago. Over time, they found their way to new homes in North Africa, parts of coastal Europe, the Indian subcontinent, and Central Asia.

When in the wld, Rock Doves commonly perched on cliffs (Image by Aidan Semmens from Pixabay).

Then, fairly recently, they made it to North America. There’s reference to pigeons from the early seventeenth century in Port Royal, Nova Scotia in Canada. Apparently, the settlers were complaining about the eagles who’d taken a liking to the local population of pigeons.2

One thing we know for certain, rock doves have been actively evolving. There are now well over 300 breeds of domestic pigeon, including the feral pigeon, all of whom originated from the rock dove.3

Pigeons Lending a Helping Hand

Columba livia has undergone many biological changes through various forms of unconscious, artificial, and natural selection over the centuries.

Pigeons tend to occupy the backdrop of our lives, whether in our laid back rural landscape or our bustling and boisterous cities. Although, there was a time when their presence was more noted in our lives.

They’ve had their fair share of drama and intrigue. Around the world, in Mesopotamia, the Aztec world or in Ancient Greece, pigeons or their alter ego, the dove, played a central role. In Greek mythology, Venus is sometimes symbolised by a dove. Fittingly, her chariot is also depicted as being drawn by two doves.4

The first evidence of pigeons being used as a food source comes to us from Egypt in 3,000 BC where the remnants of a funerary meal, which included pigeons, were unearthed.5 Later, for the Romans, pigeons were a mainstay with many Romans keeping houses in order to raise pigeons for the table.6 Their guano was regarded as gold in ancient Egypt, Rome and into the Middle Ages.

Pigeons have been valued for centuries for their ability to carry messages. From the time of Julius Caesar to last century during our two world wars, pigeons have played a central role in ensuring all the major actors in the wars were in communication.

The Dickins Medal for the pigeon Royal Blue Source: Joseph Krol Wikipedia.

Pigeons always accompanied aircraft on bombing missions during the second world war. During D-Day, the paratroopers carried a pigeon they would release once they’d landed. Pigeons even received medals for their highly valued and honourable role in war.

In Modern Times

Nowadays, some pigeons are used in shows. Termed fancy pigeons, they are doted on and biologically manipulated to enhance their physical appearance. People spend large sums of money preparing their pigeons and then showing them at special events. Different breeds of pigeons are known for various qualities such as “pouters” or “croppers” which inflate their crops.

A blue bar Pigmy Pouter pigeon (Source: Jim Gifford Wikipedia).

Others choose to race their pigeons. In these instances, pigeons are useful in their ability to fly to specially identified locations. This is much the same as they’ve done over the centuries. Except now it’s just for competitory reasons. Many owners are simply driven by the thrill of the game.

And they take it seriously. They ensure their pigeons are in top condition with nutrients and medicinal and non-medicinal supplements to give the pigeons the added vigour they require to win. As would be expected, a lot of money is also illegally made in the betting too often accompanying the racing.

Our “Street” Pigeons

For most people nowadays, your everyday or “street” pigeons are just an expected attribute in our communities. They wander along the streets or fly from rooftop to rooftop, maybe alighting onto a bridge or wire. For the most part, they’re forgotten. That is until their actions are deemed undesirable.

Pigeons on a wire (Image by Şahin Sezer Dinçer from Pixabay).

Certainly, those street pigeons are mostly noted for their insistence on roosting and nesting along the ledges of buildings. They do so for obvious reasons. These features are closest to the cliffs their predecessor rock doves would’ve used in the wild. That and their propensity for perching on conveniently placed statues is largely for the same reason. Both of these habits are considered a nuisance. We erect any number of features to prevent them from coming to rest, for instance, pigeon nets or bird spikes.

A common perch for pigeons in communities around the world Image by Éva Zara from Pixabay.

Except for those who are lulled by the peace invoked when feeding the pigeons in a park, for the most part, that’s now how they’re regarded—a nuisance or pests. Even in more rural areas where I live, pigeons are often diminished by preconceived notions of their worth.

Love Me or Love Me Not

In all honesty, for some, pigeons are often respected, loved and even adored, but often only if they are of use. For some, of course, simply the presence of the pigeon, puttering around and coming for a hand-out is all that matters.

Perhaps one of the things we must bear in mind is how this small creature has been a superlative companion to our species in the past. Surely that must matter. Whether we recognise the great value of the pigeon or continue to level complaints about it, ultimately, it won’t matter.

Pigeons having a drink (Image by Tomasz Hanarz from Pixabay).

For the pigeons who are a part of our life, they’ve only ever remained with us, as they’ve been pleased with the food and care they receive—a “voluntary captive.”7 Freedom is always within easy reach. For those contentedly roaming along the streets of our cities and communities, they’ve already found their freedom, forever contented nomads.

Endnotes

1The Town of Placentia incorporates the amalgamated communities of Argentia, Dunville, Freshwater, Jerseyside, and Placentia which sits on the beach.

2Schorger, A. 1952a “Introduction of the domestic pigeon” Auk No. 69, 462-463.

3Jerolmack, Colin 2007 “Animal archaeology: Domestic pigeons and

the nature-culture dialectic” Qualitative Sociology Review

III (1), 74-95

4Allen, Barbara 2009 Pigeon (London, England: Reaktion Books), 60

5Allen, Barbara 2009, Pigeon (London, England: Reaktion Books), 91

6Blechman 2006, Pigeons – The Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird (New York: Grove Press), 11

7Donaldson, John 1860 British Agriculture, containing the cultivation of land, management of crops, and the economy of animals. Illustrated with 240 plates of implements, animals, etc (London: Atchley & Co., Agricultural, Architectural, & Engineering Publishers), 667.

Gratitude: Seeking Connection

Gratitude: Seeking Connection

Source: Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

Every now and then, we’re faced with some misfortune. Sometimes it’s just a trite bother and largely forgettable. At other times it’s significant enough to shift the very understanding we have of our world. Nothing’s the same now.

Well, believe it or not, when we feel adrift and lost, one of the best things we can do is turn to gratitude. You may ask why on earth would we be giving thanks for some grand obstruction to our lives? It feels more counterintuitive and nonsensical than anything else. Aren’t we supposed to be wondering, angst-ridden and bereft, why is this happening to us? In answer, no. Now, it really is the time to be grateful. Let’s take a look.

Feeling Like the World Is Against Use

When we’re thrown to the ground by some unexpected misfortune, our primary focus is on what’s gone wrong. Our heads are swirling with the fact we may have just lost our job. Maybe the one and only love of our lives is now gone. For some of us, the good health we always thought we enjoyed is apparently now thing of the past and so on.

As we know, misery loves company. We’re already feeling bad and so, soon enough, we identify yet more reasons our life is not going well. Like a row of dominoes, our feelings of misfortune gathers steam. So, we’re livid with that person who cut us off and then stole the parking space that should be ours. We so desperately wanted to enjoy that meal, but half-way through, we started to suffer indigestion. Typical. Our spouse put the garbage out too late as we watch the truck rumble off without our garbage.

Needless, to say, these aren’t the real problems. Although, they further our dejection and frustration with life in general. How can we make it stop? Gratitude, you say?

Where Gratitude Comes In

How does that fit? It doesn’t even seem to make sense. Our minds are focussed on everything that’s gone wrong in our lives. But now, it’s an opportunity to forcefully alter our perspective and turn everything on its head. It’s a matter of searching through our life and finding everything that’s gone well—small or large.

Source: Image by Oberholster Venita from Pixabay.

Start simple. That perfect cup of tea we had yesterday morning was superb and steeped to perfection. The sun just came out briefly this afternoon as the clouds cleared, a beautiful blue sky in its wake. Three days ago, we successfully made the bread we’ve been dying to try. We knew it’d be tricky, but we did it. And we recall walking down the lane a few weeks ago, those pink and purple crocuses pushing through the snow were a sight to behold.

At other times, when someone did something entirely unintended, a light of goodness has shone upon us—a random act of kindness for which we’re now immensely grateful. Otherwise, it could’ve been the time that person tried to help us find the earring we’d lost. In the end, even though they failed in doing so, we’re grateful for them trying. We were still grateful for the intention. All of these feelings of gratitude illuminate something of crucial importance in our lives—connections. And, in my opinion, that’s what being grateful is all about.

What Is Gratitude?

What we’re doing when we show our gratitude is simply focus on all those myriad connections that inherently bind us to our world. In actual fact, by being grateful, we shed critical light on the vast array of intangible guy wires—connections—supporting us. While always present, they’re just out of sight most of the time.

Each of the actions for which we’re grateful, every one is an intangible guy wire giving us support. In their own way, those connections are always there, yielding its support and strength. They hold us up when we’re about to fall. It’s just that we don’t always realise or recognise the presence of those connections. It’s at that moment it dawns on us we’re not standing on our own. And in fact, we never have been.

Making Connections

Once we finally recognise the connections supporting us, it helps to bolster and enhance the links we have with the people in our lives. Again, feelings of gratitude which are a reflection of the connections in our lives are of benefit. They help us realise those relationships have always been there for us.

Being connected (Source: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay).

We’ve now been given reason to further strengthen them. So feelings of gratitude encourage us to seek our the family members and friends who’ve always supported us, the ones with whom we feel a true connection.

Feeling gratitude naturally motivates us for the same reason. It’s more a matter of celebrating the connections giving us strength. Now is the opportunity to take the actions we’ve always dreamed of doing.

Gratitude is about acknowledging the goodness in ourselves. And secondly, it’s about recognising there is goodness that comes from outside ourselves. Again, that’s simply because our essence—who we are—is reliant on the host of connections that link us to our world.

A Nod From Religions

Much of this is nothing new. Individuals who practice Judaism begin their days with Modeh Ani. This is a short Hebrew blessing giving thanks to God for life. Christians meanwhile give gratitude to their God by stating blessings.

We are interconnected (Source: Image by John Hain from Pixabay).

Finally, Buddhists recognise gratitude as a concept of origination. As far as they’re concerned, everything is interconnected. Awareness of our interdependence and interconnection is a reflection of gratitude for the web of life that sustains us. These are the intangible guy wires supporting us when we utter words or thoughts of gratitude.

Gratitude is Central

Gratitude must always play a central role in how we conduct our lives. It’s about being thankful for the vast plenitude of connections at the heart of everything we do. Gratitude is about who we are.

Many Faces of Poverty

Many Faces of Poverty

Although the finer nuances of food insecurity have changed, its grip is as tenacious now as it was centuries ago. And much of that tenacity is due to an age-old adversary—poverty. It’s a looming presence for far too many.

Very few can deny the increased cost of living. According to Canada’s Food Price Report for 2023, an expected 5-7% rise in food prices in 2022, turned out to be a 10.3% rise. That’s substantial. It’s the general public who are being forced to contend with these changes.

Even in 2022, people were forced to pick and choose food purchases that were less costly. Other items were simply left off the list. Along with food, other necessary costs such as rent or mortgage, phone, internet and fuel also demand our attention. Simply put, there’s just not enough money to go around.

Yet, food is the one place where we can pinch a little harder. However, as the last resort, some have had to overlook their pride and, cap in hand, ask a food bank for assistance. Everyone needs to know there’s never been any shame in having to do so.

Food Banks Help Fight Food Insecurity

One of the major methods to address the immediate impact of food insecurity is through the use of food banks. In Newfoundland & Labrador, these can be found in larger centres such as St. John’s as well as smaller ones, including the Placentia Area Food Bank — Serving Branch to Ship Harbour.

Photo by Nico Smit on Unsplash

Unfortunately, an increasing number of people are having to rely on the food banks. Often at the final minute, when there is no other hope, many are forced to request an emergency hamper. Some have found the need to rely on a food bank on a regular basis.

Again, there’s no shame in having to do so. In fact, many of the people calling for help are not unemployed. They may have families to support. Whether for those who are single, couples or a family, it’s simply a matter of their income not going far enough.

The Real Issue

However, as many know, food banks are merely the symptom of the true problem. The real issue is down to money. This lies at the heart of many of the dilemmas plaguing us, food insecurity being one of them.

Source: Nicola Barts .

When looking at the data, we find that in Canada as a whole, 63% of those regarded as food insecure receive social assistance. The story is likely the same in Newfoundland & Labrador. That means the majority of people finding it difficult to put food on the table are on social assistance. None of this is surprising.

Most on social assistance are there simply because what they earn in their jobs is inadequate to actually make a living. No doubt, in an effort to address the cost of living, the province increased the minimum wage on 1 April 2023 to $14.50. Then, on 1 October, 2023, it will rise to $15. While an increase to the minimum wage is welcomed, it still falls short of the $18.85 an hour which is considered the living wage.

Reaching this living wage is an immense obstacle for too many in Newfoundland & Labrador. Concerns regarding problems tied to poverty and the grip it has on much of the population need to be addressed.

Hidden Poverty

Something called the “poverty line” is a useful barometer for overall well being. Let’s take a basket filled with the goods and services needed to live a fruitful life—healthy food, appropriate shelter, clothing, transportation and so on. The cost of these items are linked to the average cost in the community where we live. This establishes the poverty line, one we are either above or below.

Although, poverty has a level of complexity. The problem is there’s something known as “hidden poverty.” This means you may actually be above that poverty line. However, one is thrust back given the additional costs for electric, child care, food and other basic necessities. So, poverty is the primary reason why people are held within the grips of food insecurity.

Along these same lines, in order to genuinely address the complexities comprising food insecurity, it’s necessary to also take into account the myriad costs, beyond our basic necessities, we encounter in life.

An Integrated Approach

Alongside food, we’re required to deal with a multiplicity of other costs such as health, housing, and so on. The lack of nutritious food is only one component of a much broader problem and this demands a more integrated approach.

And integration means it’s necessary to have people who can work to coordinate the various elements coming together to shape the vulnerabilities people experience.

So, when tackling food insecurity, at the same time, efforts must be made to ensure people are living in ideal housing. At the same time, it’s imperative their health is also being addressed.

These factors are all intimately connected. For instance, our food is closely linked with our health. Moreover, the quality of our housing is also equally bound to our health. When addressing food insecurity, it needs to be alongside other issues such as housing and health.

We’ve been down this road many times before. If we think of food as one arm, our finances may be the other. Health and housing are our two legs. We need to dedicate our attention to the well-being of the body, not just one of the arms or legs. Each are inherently connected to the other.

We need to dramatically change our perspective. If our intention is to improve people’s well-being, any money given must be used to address the whole.

Homelessness Hidden Within Rural Communities

Homelessness Hidden Within Rural Communities

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Homelessness is a condition we all agree is worth eradicating. Easier said than done, we may say. While in urban areas it’s signs are obvious to even those fervently disinterested. Although many do ignore its presence, it’s not easy to overlook that person sleeping on the bench along a busy thoroughfare. But homelessness leaves less of a trail in rural areas.

Plus, homelessness is a condition that easily disappears behind the more apparent ideals we hail regarding rural life—peace, comfort, an idyllic quality. In either case, homelessness is a social ill that can be rectified. Once it’s identified, there are methods to ensure its abolishment. Sometimes, people just need to know there’s someone there who can lend a hand.

Recognising Homelessness

For many, small towns are an unspoiled refuge, places seemingly far beyond the roar of the city. They’re places where those who choose to live there can enjoy many quiet moments of peace slipping by, little tread of the day remaining. Yet, it often disguises certain elements that fail to harmonise with that tranquility.

Homelessness, being one of these conditions, is therefore too often hidden from our view.

Harsh realities like crime and, in particular, issues such as homelessness are like splinters that can disrupt that serenity. And because they are “out of place” with the doctrines of rural life, they are less noticed.

Homelessness, for one, is certainly not a defining characteristic of small town life. Ask anyone in the myriad small towns that dot Placentia Bay, or small towns anywhere, for that matter, about the presence of homelessness and I can guess the response—“Huh?” they might say. “We don’t have homelessness here,” they would assert.

It is also a matter of homelessness not adhering to the visual keys with which urban homelessness has become synonymous—people on the streets or in missions. It’s hidden.

Homelessness simply doesn’t always accord with the idyllic reservoir of rurality. Thus, we may fail to see it. So, our goal is to find ways to shed light on these more malignant aspects of life. If left to metastasise, homelessness will go on to weaken the people who comprise the community.

What is Hidden Homelessness?

According to Statistics Canada, hidden homelessness sits within the rubric of those who are “provisionally accommodated.” According to the federal government, these individuals are using emergency shelter and other system supports because they have been unable to secure permanent housing, Hence, they remain functionally homeless.

People sometimes need to sleep in their cars. (Source: Photo by lucas Favre on Unsplash

These individuals may be staying with relatives or friends—couch surfing. Sometimes, we’d find them living in their cars or trucks. They are “hidden,” as they do not take advantage of homeless supports or other services and are not adequately housed.

Who Can Help

Identifying those in need of assistance is one of the most difficult tasks when addressing hidden homelessness. However, most people who are encountering problems regarding homelessness are likely going to avail of some form of social assistance.

The Placentia area, Cape Shore, Whitbourne service providers who offer resources for families would be one of the sources of assistance. Regardless of their needs, people would be reaching out to these types of organisations.

No doubt if people are challenged in their attempts to find affordable housing, there are likely other problems tied to food or employment. Thus, organisations offering services such as employment assistance and food banks play a central role.

Another key service provider would be ones tied to mental health and addictions. People who are homeless are more susceptible to mental health problems. These organisations are likely also going to be assisting people encountering problems finding housing. Finally, organisations focussed on housing will clearly be a central player in the issue of difficulties identifying permanent housing.

The Personal Touch

The various reasons homelessness has remained invisible are true. Yes, homelessness has countered the pastoral facade that encompasses many rural communities. And yes, homelessness is largely hidden from the general view in rural areas.

However, it becomes apparent that one of the primary rationales for the concealment of homelessness in rural areas is simply because there’s no one who can provide any assistance.

The organisations above certainly offer a more informed glimpse of rural homelessness. However, organisations such as those who deal with housing or homelessness are not the only ones needed. What’s needed is a Housing Outreach Worker (HOW), someone who can offer more of a personal touch. This is someone on the frontline whose sole goal is to assist people with their attempts to locate permanent housing

Housing Outreach Worker

Since November 2021, the Placentia area, Cape Shore and Whitbourne area has benefited from the efforts of a Housing Outreach Worker (HOW). Notices were placed in the various communities to make people aware of the services offered by the HOW. Gradually, people began to get in touch and avail of the HOW’s services.

As soon as the word had gotten around the HOW was in place, people appeared daily requesting assistance. So, it seems one of the primary things necessary is to ensure someone is able to offer guidance.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The HOW who currently works in the Placentia area, Cape Shore area and Whitbourne area is also there to offer assistance for the clients who’ve availed of the services. Sometimes, it’s just a quick chat on the telephone. A lot of times the programmes need to be deciphered. It’s essential as it conveys a genuine interest and concern in making certain their problems are being solved.

Turning the Tide on Homelessness

It may appear simplistic to state that all we need is to ensure someone is there to provide assistance. And not only just assistance, someone is required who can show compassion and be genuinely interested in solving homelessness. In the end, though, perhaps all people need to solve one of the most burdensome problems is time.

Time is needed to patiently identify the heart of the problem—what is necessary, who needs to be contacted and so on. Time is required to follow-up with the various services and organisations needed to get someone housed. Time is also necessary to speak with those being helped to assure them, very simply, they do indeed matter.

Ensuring the Rich Healthcare in the Placentia Area

Ensuring the Rich Healthcare in the Placentia Area

Birdseye View of the Placentia Health Centre (Source: Lee Everts).

The Placentia Health Centre is a relatively recent addition to the landscape of the Placentia area. It emerges from a long history of healthcare. Undoubtedly, it reflects an ongoing investment in healthcare.

Placentia stands as part of a strong healthcare network. Recent changes, however, are adding tension to the healthcare system. The goal will be to hold onto a system buoyed by a rich heritage of healthcare.

Early History

As early as 1698, health was already a concern for residents. At this time, there was apparently a hospital located in Placentia near a lime kiln used for the construction of forts and fortifications such as Fort Louis.1

A first edition of the Treaty of Utrecht, 1713, in Spanish (left), and a copy printed in 1714 in Latin and English (right). ( Source: Wikipedia).

As the years progressed and following the War of the Spanish Succession, Placentia was ceded to Britain from France in 1713 with the Treaty of Utrecht. Placentia became the military headquarters and continued to provide medical services. However, as more people settled in the Placentia area and on the islands of Placentia Bay, health became a personal or community responsibility.

Thus, care and maintenance of health was approached using a mixture of beliefs, home remedies and knowledge derived from past experience. This art and skill of healing was often equal to what the medical profession would offer years and decades later in hospitals. Certain people within the community would have been regularly called upon to provide medical assistance for injuries—births, deaths and so on.

Health in the Twentieth Century

Nevertheless, more needed to be done. Hence, it was the Commission of Government2 who, having taken office from 1934 to 1949, recognised the need for a greater investment in healthcare. Charged with reviving the ailing the economy of the Dominion of Newfoundland, one of the initiatives of the Commission of Government was intended to rectify health inequities across the island.

The Commission of Government borrowed a scheme used in Scotland—cottage hospitals. They were ideal as they could be used to service a population that was widely dispersed. One of the first cottage hospitals was situated in Argentia. However, when an agreement was made with the United States to permit their use of the land for a military base in Argentia, the community and everything else, including the hospital, needed to be moved and resettled.

Photograph of the Placentia Cottage Hospital (Source: Anonymous).

The hospital was then moved to Placentia. Hence, by 1949, thirteen of the eighteen hospitals were built. These included hospitals in Old Perlican, Markland, Burgeo, Harbour Breton, Come By Chance, Stephenville Crossing, Bonavista, Norris Point, Grand Bank, Placentia, Brookfield, Gander and Botwood.

Under the Commission of Government, nursing stations were also dotted around Newfoundland and Labrador. Along with the cottage hospitals, hospital ships provided floating clinics. For instance, the MV Lady Anderson serviced close to 75 settlements along the southwest coast of Newfoundland. Afterwards, it plied the waters of Placentia Bay where it was also used to transport patients to and fro the Placentia Cottage Hospital.

Entering the Modern Era

Since the early 1940s, the Placentia cottage hospital remained as a sentinel for the provision of health for the Placentia area. However, change was on the horizon. In April of 1986, the Lions Manor Nursing Home opened its doors. Ten years afterwards, the heritage of health in the Placentia area continued to evolve when the Placentia Health Centre was built.

Then, two years later in October of 1998, the bricks and mortar of the old Cottage Hospital were taken down. Nonetheless, its memory as a place where residents could seek health care has remained safely housed in the touching stories of residents.

Current Health System

Despite its rich background, the current healthcare system for the Placentia Bay area, as a part of Newfoundland and Labrador, is beset with challenges. Top of the list are wait times for various surgeries. In a study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), at 60%, Canada topped the list along with Norway in terms of wait-times for medical care.

Photograph of William H. Newhook Health Centre (Source: Eastern Health).

Other challenges also stress the system. Nowadays, Emergency Rooms (ER) are closing in rural centres in Newfoundland and Labrador. It places a strain on the health system. The William H. Newhook Health Centre closed in Whitbourne, forcing residents to either go to Carbonear, St. John’s or Placentia. First and foremost, it’s an additional burden for these residents who are distraught at the loss of their Health Centre, as well as for the receiving ER.

Other rural areas across the country, Manitoba and British Columbia are reeling from the same closures. So, this is definitely not a problem restricted to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Unquestionably, there is a lot of room for improvement for health care in Newfoundland and Labrador. The situation at William H. Newhook Health Care centre merely serves as a representation of what can happen in any of the communities, such as Placentia.Hilda Whelan, the mayor of Whitbourne says they’ve just been exceptionally lucky no deaths have resulted from the closure of the Health Care Centre.

Not so for others apparently. When the Canadian Institute for Health Information on “Avoidable Deaths From Treatable Causes” for Newfoundland and Labrador, the province did not fare well. While Canada as a whole rated 65. Newfoundland and Labrador scored an 87, well below average performance.

On a Final Note

The health care in the Placentia area surroundings has been in existence officially since 1698. Undoubtedly, the heritage of health in the Placentia area is deep and interesting, one firmly etched into its identity. In the 17th century, the investment in health was a top priority. The goal is for it to remain an integral part of the landscape in the years to come.

Sources:

Antle, Sarah 2022 “Patience running out in Whitbourne, as emergency room remains closed for 7th straight week” CBC NL https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/whitbourne-emergency-room-closed-1.6550006

Canadian Institute For Health Information 2023 “Avoidable Deaths From Treatable Causes details for Newfoundland and Labrador” https://yourhealthsystem.cihi.ca/hsp/indepth?lang=en#/indicator/038/2/C10151/

Kulkarni, Akshay 2022 “Emergency rooms in rural B.C. were closed for equivalent of around 4 months in 2022, data shows” CBC https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/bc-er-closures-2022-1.6689970

Modjeski, Morgan 2022 “Emergency room closures in rural Manitoba a growing concern after patient dies being turned away” City News Everywhere https://winnipeg.citynews.ca/2022/05/08/emergency-room-closures-rural-manitoba/

Savoury, George 1975 The Cottage Hospital System in Newfoundland (St. John’s : Memorial University of Newfoundland)

Simmonds, Matthew 20122 “The 2012 Field Season at Fort Louis, Jerseyside, Placentia” Provincial Archaeology Office, 2010 Archaeology Review, March 2011 Volume 9 https://www.gov.nl.ca/tcar/files/Vol9-2010.pdf

Wilhelm. Henrike 2023 “Frustrated Whitbourne residents protest ongoing ER closure — and promise more rallies to come” https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/whitbourne-er-closure-protest-1.6753369

Engdnotes

1. The source for this information is unknown. Although it is reasonable to assume that forts would contain hospitals to address the needs of their soldiers.

2. The Commission of Government was appointed by the British government which took control of Newfoundland in 1933. Economically, Newfoundland was in dire straits. The general feeling was that Newfoundland needed to take a rest from responsible government for the moment.