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Standing Together

Where did the magic go?

What ever happened to feeling safe when you’re at a concert, out for dinner or going to pray? To being a community. To positivity, to progress?

It’s been a heart-breaking couple of days for so many reasons. As the world mourns those lost in Christchurch and the consequences of the attack, and as Britain tries to tackle the raft of knife-related murders, we continue to be more divided than ever.

The shambolic political situation this week has dominated the news and continues to polarise opinions, not only distracting everyone from tackling huge issues on our doorstep like the knife-crime crisis, it’s also weighing down on the moods of everyone you talk to.

It’s astonishing how two political events on opposite sides of the Atlantic can have such a hugely divisive impact.

A divided nation

When you hone in on the political side of Brexit, there is little wonder that Parliament is so divided. In a democracy, Parliament and Government are representatives of the general population. The general population is so divided it’s not surprising that our country’s leaders are too. It’s a no-win situation now.

After two years of negotiations, we’re still at sea. We’re still completely unaware of what is going to happen when we leave the EU. At this point, the outcome is almost irrelevant. The damage to the economy is now far greater with so much uncertainty than if we plot any one of the options presented.

We simply need to know what’s happening, so that we can all get on with it and start to push in the same direction once again.

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Unfortunately, as the uncertainty continues, there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight or even a way we can visualise how we might eventually come back together as a community, as a country.

With such polarised views, someone has to be right, and with so many theories and agendas, how do we know what information is truthful and correct. Does it have a spin, an unconscious – or more likely, a conscious – bias? Fake news is news these days.

There has even been talk of riots in the streets. I remember those days in August 2011 when rioting swept cities across the UK. We were in Manchester’s City Tower at the time, watching the chaos unfold 27 storeys beneath us. It’s not a time I’d like to go back to.

But there are always two sides to the story.

Looking for the helpers

After the riots, people took to the streets to help the clean-up effort. Social media campaigns spread with people offering their time, help and support to get the affected cities back to normal.

And, beside the narrative of a divided Britain and an America in the grip of Right-Wing nationalism, there are other tales to tell. Stories of people driving positive change. Of the movements to shape a more positive future world. Of the tiny changes that build into systematic change.

While the US President denies climate change exists, people across the world are driving change themselves. The latest #Trashtag hashtag campaign sees thousands of people transform areas in their local communities and posting their success to encourage others to do the same.

People are becoming more aware of the impact of plastic, and are choosing to use reusable cups, bottles and cutlery as just a start. We’re recycling more. We know the problem exists. We know that the big corporates aren’t doing enough about it, so we’re doing it ourselves.

All of our waste at UKFast was either recycled or transformed into energy in 2018. Small changes make big differences. Even in our hotel in the Swiss Alps, we have stopped buying and using single-use plastics for drinks. And whilst this may seem a tiny drop in the ocean, it’s hundreds of thousands of pounds that will no longer go to the factories and corporations that previously supplied us.

This sends a message. All of our “plastic” cups are now made out of corn and our straws are paper. And as for it being a drop in the ocean, you are right, but it’s one of many businesses that will never ever buy plastic like this again. As each business joins in the quest, one drop at a time, we gather momentum and the factories are forced to change their manufacturing methods as they risk going out of business.

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Or another example is the man who chose to stand outside of a mosque in Manchester on Friday, following the Christchurch attack, with a sign that read: “You are my friends. I will keep watch while you pray.”

And in Christchurch, people flooded to offer condolences, help and support. When we’re at times of crisis that’s what we, as humans, do. There is so much good in the world, we’re just not hearing about it so much anymore. Those stories don’t get as many clicks as news of horror, of conflict or of controversy.

We’re perhaps in the midst of one of the most testing times for our country, and arguably the planet. Yet, when the going gets tough, that’s when you see people’s true colours. That’s when 99% of people congregate to help and support. It’s a minute minority who are the ones causing the trouble, the divide and the chaos.

There is no escaping the terrible events across the world, or of the challenges we’re facing in the UK at the moment. However, becoming caught up in the negative news cycle is absolutely of no benefit to anyone. Instead, I believe we should choose to drive positive change, to seek out the magic. We can all make a difference, one household, one business at a time.

One such story this week reminded me of the magic that we still have in the world. The Qantas airline CEO replied to a 10-year-old boy’s letter, inviting him to Qantas HQ. Why? Because the young man had ‘set up an airline’ and had written to Alan Joyce, the Qantas boss, to ask for his advice. Rather than dismiss the boy, Joyce replied with a respectful letter, suggesting they meet to learn from one another.

Children have this ‘magic’ in its purest form. They dream big, they see the good in the world.

The famous quote from Mister Roger’s Neighbourhood is often used at times of pain and crisis, I have used it myself. It reads: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

Whilst this is a comforting message to share, I think we need to look beyond it. It’s time for us to be the helpers and take ownership of the problems facing us all. Look to how we can drive change, as individuals as well as with our neighbours, colleagues and friends.

Ask yourself the question, “How can I make a positive impact on the world around me?” It may be by supporting a community group who are struggling or at risk, or by helping a local charity, by giving up plastic or by making small changes to how we live our lives.

It could even be as simple as looking at the content we share online. What benefit does it bring sharing the video of the attack around social media? I stumbled across the Christchurch attack video and watched it without realising what it was, thinking it was a video game. What does that say for our society we have created so far? It’s a vision I cannot un-see, it’s a memory that I cannot forget.

There are so many ways that you personally can make a difference and help to create and join in the momentum. Step one, is to stop fighting each other on political and other futile issues. Step two is to use our time and energy more wisely. It’s as simple as that.

Each and everyone of us is one of those drops in the ocean. Like Michelle Obama said about her and Barack, “We are stronger together than we are separately.” I was reminded about that this week doing a podcast with Gail about setting up UKFast.

Collectively we are a colossal force. Social media shows us the power of a message and how quickly it travels across the globe, but that pales into insignificance when you consider the power of real people and physical energy. Isn’t it time we start making a conscious effort to create something better for our future?

What’s stopping you?

See you out there.



And whilst I am on that, big shout out to friend and inspirational entrepreneur, Fred Done, for his generous donation to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. My wife has recently joined the board at the children’s hospital and this sort of action makes a huge difference.

The post Standing Together appeared first on Lawrence Jones CEO of UKFast – internet business blog.

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