Anne Hailes: Be the rainbow in somebody else's cloud during the coming year

Maya Angelou, Phenomenal Woman

TODAY is a day for thinking of the lovely things that happened this year. If I'd a penny for every time I chased a rainbow I'd be quite rich but I always failed to catch one. There it is right in front of you, bowing across the road and you think 'I'll drive right underneath the beautiful arch no problem'.

And then it shifts, you chase it and it shifts again so it was never to be. Mind you, I've seen parts of the countryside I'd never have seen if I hadn't gone on my impossible quests.

Then in October I struck the pot of gold. The rain had been teeming down and the road from Enniskillen to Belfast was still wet and the cars were throwing up spray. I was driving behind a large van, the surface water was reaching quite a height when suddenly the sun hit it and there in front of me was the perfect rainbow.

And suddenly I was in the midst of shimmering iridescent colours in front, behind and on each side; it was just as beautiful as I imagined. How often does that happen? Right place, right time. Result.

Phenomenal Woman

American poet, performer and civil rights activist Maya Angelou talks of ‘Rainbows In My Clouds'. They are the people who have been kind to her through her horribly rough times and the happy times in her life.

It's easy to see the clouds and miss the rainbow. "When I stand up in public," she says, "lecturing, directing a film or teaching, I bring everyone who has been kind with me. I say 'I need you now', then I don't ever feel I have no help. I've had rainbows in my clouds. Be a rainbow in someone else's cloud. They may not be like you – not the same colour, not the same religion, maybe gay, maybe straight it doesn't matter: be a blessing to everyone.”

Find her on Youtube and type in ‘Still I Rise' – trust me. I quoted her poem Phenomenal Woman at a women's group in west Belfast and we all stood tall at the end of it. Please find it and learn, especially if you're feeling down.

Her message: “When you get – give. When you learn – teach. Love liberates.”

Well met in Howard Street

I MET four smashing women a couple of months ago and they really cheered me up on a dank day and made a memory when I was standing waiting for a colleague for over 40 minutes.

The girls were pulling cases on wheels and laughing as they made their way up Howard Street on their way to their hotel and a night out on the town. They stopped to say hello, all nurses: Anna Henry, Coleraine; Ann Donnelly, Causeway; Eleanor Coulter and Linda Blair from Robinson Hospital in Ballymoney. And all they wanted to talk about was Eleanor and her NHS award as a 70 Star Nurse named number eight in the top 70 NHS UK stars.

They'd all nominated their friend for her dedicated work, 43 years as healthcare assistant in the hospital. She lights up a room, they said. She had taught them all the importance of paying attention to little things, they told me, a woman who had gone the extra mile for patients and the local community.

They had all given their working lives to nursing, great friends who knew how to enjoy themselves.

Not funny

ALL this business of political correctness during the year really causes me concern – although there are some points I agree with, it's farcical in some circumstances.

Take the case of the comedian who turned down a gig at a School of Oriental and African Studies at the University Of London, having been asked to sign a "behavioural agreement”.

Konstantin Kisin says this reflects a growing trend of free speech becoming stifled on university campuses across the UK. Germaine Greer would agree.

The form stated: "By signing this contract you are agreeing to our no tolerance policy with regards to racism, sexism, classism, ageism, ableism, homophobia biphobia, transphobia, xenophobia, islamophobia or anti-religion or anti-atheism." What's left?

"All topics must be presented in a way that is respectful and kind," it continued: "It does not mean that these topics cannot be discussed. But it must be done in a respectful and non-abusive way."

The organisers have since apologised and the students' union says it believes fully in freedom of speech.

The ‘Me Too' movement served a purpose and brought international focus on unwanted sexual harassment and sexual assault. It reached every part of the world, illustrating the pressures women especially are under in all walks of life, and gave young girls support, knowing they can speak out perhaps for the first time.

Men and boys too now have courage to seek help – look at the world of football, for instance. But it's not all about black dresses on a red carpet; it's much more serious than that.

In more ways than ever people are doing it for themselves, voices are being heard, the grass roots are sprouting, women's groups, men's sheds, young people working for charities. And volunteers everywhere. They are all shining examples to those in authority who just bicker and back bite and get nowhere fast.

The end of another year

SO MUCH to look back on but really it's a time to look forward, to make plans and projects, set goals and remain positive. Encourage family and friends and be a rainbow in someone's life. Thank you for all your support and I hope, dear reader, that for you it will be a happy and fulfilled 2019.

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