I must admit, I have got to the end of the year feeling like I am stumbling across the finish line. The year has felt a long one, though as fair as always Christmas seems to have crept up on me slightly unawares. For many people it has been a tough year, news is always tough, both local and national and international. Dramas are made out of crisis and the world seems to have reclaimed elements of darkness that had felt lay dormant. In the world of youthwork, shrinkage in a variety of ways – reduction in universal youth work provision in council areas, reductions in conferences and training, shrinking of intakes for courses, JNC validation review all provide adequate ammunition to a youth work profession that can look for comfort in its own dark spaces. 2016 doesnt rank up there as ‘favourite’ year for many.

As i was pondering an end of year article, and the challenges this year has posed, It struck me that during the year, despite everything, there have been moments where i have been inspired throughout 2016. Moments that have provided hope, creativity, and a space to reflect and evaluate the deeper truths that exist in the world. I challenge you to reflect on what has inspired you during the year, but here are mine.

  1. A week ago i picked up Richard Rohrs book on St Francis of Assisi ‘Eager to Love (2014) and it was only £1 from a charity shop! , and , oh my word.  Like refreshing water to a needy dry desert, what an inspiration. Rohr describes his own experience of being a Franciscan, and illustrates the inspiration of St Francis and Clare his wife. They walked a simple but adventurous life together in communities with and amongst people. A few glimpses of inspiration:

My Brothers. God has called me to walk in the way of humility, and showed me the way of simplicity…The Lord has shown me that he wants to be a new kind of fool in the world, and God does not want to lead us by any other knowledge than that – Francis of Assisi

A Spiritual leader who lacks compassion has almost no power to change other people, because people intuitively know he or she doesnt represent the Divine or big truth -Rohr

mysticism is not to lead people to just inner experience but to the possibility of daily and regular experience in the depth and beauty of the ordinary, especially because it incorporates the seeming negative and moves our life to its hard edges, thus making things like failure tragedy and suffering the quickest doorways to the encounter of God – Rohr

(anyone else found those doorways almost paper thin this year…. thought so)

2. The Refuse Cafe in Durham – Actually all the Re-f-use guys and girls. From a seedling of an idea about 15 months ago to being chased down durham high street for publicising Icelands waste food, to being ‘regulars’ on BBC tees for providing wedding reception food from food that was about to be thrown out, and now well on the way to funding a recycled food cafe. Truly amazing. Proud to know them. They’re an asset to the North east.  10 people being up for detached youthwork training in the North east

3. Although I have watched alot more films this year ( we have introduced ‘family movie night every saturday evening, choice on a rotation) The film of the year, most inspiring and challenging, raw and captivating by a country mile was ‘I daniel Blake’ just a must watch. But take tissues. And be prepared to get angry

4. 16 People this year have begun to travel the journey of being involved with FYT and Streetspace, they are either involved in a North east based steering group, are employed in a local project or, and most incredibly of all, have volunteered and participated in detached youthwork training and are readying themselves for being out on the streets in the North east, not only to engage with young people in their space, but following the call of God to go and follow him at work. Just a huge inspiration and its been a joy to be able to be part of this with them.

5. I listen to a number of different podcasts. This year I have discovered the Ultimate Youthworker podcast which has made for a fascinating conversation on youthwork in Australia. The Ted Talks podcast, again the same length as my commute, just oodles of new perspectives. And The Nomad podcast, interviews with those whove practiced faith in challenging spaces.

6. Each week i hear in the staff meetings at DYFC at least one thing that has been inspiring about their week, either that they have done, or what a young person has said, or done, or not done. As determined staff they are inspiring in themselves, but they go out into schools, communities and clubs and invest in the lives of young people and they are regularly inspiring.

7. We make the Road by Walking. By Myles Horton and Paulo Friere. Its an old one, but it only crossed my path this year. Easily book of the year, almost for this quote alone when it comes to educating and involving our selves with young people in the everyday moment:

Always we have to look. Today suddenly a flower is the reason for your surprise. Tomorrow it may be the same flower, just with a different colour, because of the age of the flower

everyday involves looking deeply and intently, hearing, feeling and being. More quotes and inspiration here: http://wp.me/p2Az40-lc

8. Brendon Cox. What a hero.

9. The Awesome people in the FYT/ Streetspace movement. Their creativity is astounding, their determination to live and work amongst young people incredible and their infectious enthusiasm and support has been very inspirational this year. As have the In defense of  Youthwork community, and i thank also the Federation of Detached youthwork conference for their invite to ask me to lead a seminar at their recent national conference, an inspiring bunch all of them, for giving faith perspectives of youthwork a platform. All these communities challenge and provoke, as well as support, listen, lead, pioneer and encourage.

Mention also to the reflective and provocative youth workers on social media, the bloggers on youth work and young people (nurture development amongst others) 

10. The fighters and survivors this year. My Family for putting up with me being busy most of the time, and not stopping much, but as they also undergoing various health concerns or operations this year, its been a tough one, but moments of inspiration through it, like fun nights on the beach, sunsets, days out. Others have inspired as they have had to fight to stay afloat or sane this year because work, ministry or health has dealt a pretty bad hand. For those who stand on the side of the broken and pick them up, and stand with them.

Here is my list of the things that have inspired me the most during 2016, i will have missed a few people off, and i havent mentioned many names, but thank you all of you.

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