Spreading a Helping Hand

The majority of us go through life lending a helping hand wherever we can, not really planning to try to save the world in any huge way. Most of us don't have the ability to make a huge difference in the lives of great numbers of people at any one time but in general we do attempt to make a difference in whatever small way we can. Whether that be by volunteering at a hospital, helping the homeless, reading in a classroom on a regular basis, or simply raising our own children to the best of our capabalitiies, we all hopefully make a difference in at least one other persons life during our lifetime. Although not everyone has the time to volunteer or the ability to provide their services somewhere, even a smile as we pass by a stranger can brighten someone elses day, a kind word to a child or a moment taken to listen to a friend's problems can change their outlook and make a problem that seemed insurmountable suddenly manageable.

When I began teaching primary school I believed my way of helping society was through increasing literacy skills in our youngest generation of readers. However as the years progressed I hoped to achieve this through writing children's books and spreading a love of reading with fun and laughter instead.

Imagine my surprise when just last week I discovereed I was also lending a helping hand in a completely different way with my books than I ever expected or planned.

I always enjoy spreading a helping hand by encouraging home reading through my facebook group "Raising Awesome Readers" as well as giving away many of my children's books to people in need. Earlier in the year I gave a copy of each of my books to a fellow who lives a somewhat difficult family life. He happens to be a "fly in/fly out" dad to three kids, one of which is severly Autistic and another with Aspergers Syndrome. You can imagine the difficulty and frustration not only for him livng away from his family three weeks at a time as well as his wife trying to manage while he is away. So I gave him copies of Gingerbread Aliens, Aliens Shenanigans and Emma the Eager Emu to take home on his R&R to read with the kids. He was so grateful to be given a simple opportunity to read aloud and share a few precious moments with his children.

I hadn't heard anything from him, nor did I expect to, until I ran into him just last week. I was delighted to learn that not only did his family enjoy all the books very much but his wife, who is a psychologist, found the stories were so good for her children she began taking the books to work.

Her clients are mostly children of parents going through break ups mainly from the rigors of the fly in/fly out life style. She is using my books on a regular basis with the children as they find the characters real and relatable. My stories are spreading a helping hand to help chidren overcome anxieties, fear, tension, sibling rivalry. lack of self-confidence and helping them to learn to face conseequences for their actions all in an entertaining and light-hearted manner. The use of the books have become so successful, she is now lending them to her colleagues.

It is not only nice to know that in my own small way I am making an imapct in childrens lives different to that which I had ever anticipated. It is also rather overwhelming to know that children that need love and understanding are gaining so much more than just a simple smile from reading the pages of my children's books.

What are you doing in your small way to spread a helping hand in your community? DSCN0436

Are you close to your neighbours?

Are you close to your nieghbours? The question could be answered in two completely different ways, socially or geographically? Do you live in an inner city apartment where the walls are so thin you can hear everything your neighbours say and do? Are you in the suburbs where the houses are so close the neighbour's gutters almost touch your own?

In relation to distance my neighbours are not exactly a hop, skip and jump over the side fence. I can't yell through an open window and hope they might hear me, in fact to even see if my neighbours are home I need either a pair of binoculars or a telescope.

But would I say we are close? Yes, definitely. :) We might all live some distance apart, (in fact to visit each other we become inventive and use any manor of transport, horse, bush buggy, quad bike or ride on lawn mower), but somehow that brings our community all the closer together. We not only get together for social events like major milestones of birthdays, (any excuse for a bonfire and a party), neighbours drop by to simply say hello, share vegies and plants from their gardens and generally keep an eye out for one another. We share life's joys and successes and support each other whenever someone is in need.

Many city people don't understand the lifestyle choice that comes with living in the country, they believe you isolate yourself. In our neighbourhood nothing could be further from the truth. I have felt far more isolated living with neighbours right next door who you never saw or would never speak to you. People who would come and go and keep totally to themselves.

I've also lived in a quiet little street where all the kids came out to play of an afternoon while the mums watched on over a cuppa and a chat. The neighbourhood was a safe and friendly place for the kids to grow and learn.

Throughout all the places I have lived I have made some wonderful lifelong friends. From my time in the gated community compound in Thailand, to the quiet cul-de-sac on the Central Coast NSW, to our rural community that I love so much now.

Since writing "Gingerbread Aliens" I have had many kids and parents ask if my character Mrs Witherbottom, stems from any of my past or present neighbours? My initial reaction is usually no, not really, however if I dig deep into my sub conscience I find her hidden there as an amalgamation of quite a few neighbours I have known over the years. Alien_Page18

Mrs Witherbottom reflects the kindly neighbour next door we all know and love. The neighbour we all go to for all the gossip as we know she will know it all! If there is something happening in the neighbourhood Mrs Witherbottom represents the neighbour to snoop and find out all the juicy details. It is with great delight that Mrs Witherbottom returns once again in "Alien Shenanigans" to meddle and generally find herself in circumstances she has no control over.

So how close are you to your neighbours? Have you taken the time to get to know them? Leave a reply below and tell me about your neighbours. I hope you get along with them as much as we do with ours.

Alien Shenanigans should be released March 2015.