If you look closely at a picture that was taken of me running with the Olympic torch last week you will see an outline of my phone that I had unsuccessfully tried to conceal in my tracksuit just before the picture was taken.
This image was broadcast all over the world and seen by millions of people. I have to be honest, even though this was one of the greatest days of my life and my friends and family agreed that it was a great shot, my eyes were drawn to that damn phone in my tracksuit every time that I glimpsed the pic.
What was I thinking as I disembarked from the bus, torch in one hand and mobile phone in the other and having no pockets in my slick new track suit to conceal my phone? Did I really think that I could take pictures as I ran down the great stairs of St Pancreas train station carrying the torch and waving to the crowd? Schoolboy error I say and made on a very special day indeed.
Take a break now from reading this if you like tell me if you see the outline of the phone? You will I am sure (well I hope at least) agree with me that it just does not matter that my phone was tucked into my tracksuit - it is a beautiful image that for me sums up my special day.
The older I get the better I am at dealing with this sort of negative chatter. My friend Andy Puddicombe has helped me to practice 'mindfulness' - the art of 'watching' the little negative chatterbox and simply allowing it to be. Believe me I am far from perfect and sometimes the chatter persists 24/7 (don't get me started on the other conversations that I had with myself later in the day after the run - why did I not shave before the run? Why did I not wash my hair before? Why did I choose to wear plimsolls and not trainers? What about my posture? Why, why, why, should, should, should - enough already! ).
Knowing that I am not perfect, I never will be and that this chatter is part of being human has resulted in me achieving some pretty amazing feats lately including the torch run.
The staff at my workplace voted for me to run with the torch because of the work that I do as a mentor to young people from Jamie Oliver's charity Fifteen London. Through Fifteen, I am also working with two other special communities one in Italy called San Patrignano and the other in Slovenia called the S Project. I call the young people who I mentor "kids" and each and every one of them from Fifteen, Sanpa and the S Project continue to inspire me.
The young people that I work with continually demonstrate to me that no matter what happens in life and no matter what you have done in the past you have the chance to pick up the pieces, turn your life around and achieve greatness. Many of their stories are harrowing - some have had very bad luck whilst others have made silly choices in life which has resulted in them getting into trouble with the law or just loosing their way. San Patrignano is a community that was started over 30 years ago by a chap by the name of Vincenzo Muccioli. The community houses 1,500 young people from 28 countries and it is the most successful drug rehabilitation programme in the world with a certified 72% success rate.
A resident at San Patrignano arrives with nothing and the rehabilitation programme is free - all that they need is the desire to rid themselves of drugs forever and the commitment to work in the community for a minimum of four years. The reason why this programme works is that the resident is given the opportunity to confront the reason why they took drugs in the first place. This confrontation is often painful and traumatic and the community gives the young person a purpose through learning a skill and a family to provide comfort. There is no belief in a higher power at Sanpa, no therapy and the young person is not made to believe every day that they are 'sick' and that this illness will stay with them for every day of their life. The resident learns to trust themselves and little by little they build trust with the rest of the community.
What each of the three charities that I am working with have in common is that they provide the young person with structure and the opportunity to learn a skill. Many of these kids have been told that they are hopeless and that they will never amount to anything particularly when they have turned to drugs. At Sanpa there are 52 different skills that the young people can learn - at Fifteen they teach the apprentices to become top class chefs and in Slovenia the students from the S Project learn a trade in hospitality.
As I stood on that platform last week and raised the torch high for everyone to see I was thinking of my family back home in Aus, my friends and work colleagues who were there to cheer me on and importantly all of these wonderful kids who I have had the privilege of befriending. I wished that each and every one of them could have been there to carry that torch with me for on that day I was running for them. They make it easy for me to 'watch' my negative chatter as I often think of them when I am stressed or worried and how they have all triumphed over adversity.
I often think how sad it is that often only very negative stories about our youth make the papers. I wish we could celebrate the inspiring stories more as well like the graduates from Fifteen and some of the residents from San Patrignano who now reside in London. I jumped for joy on Friday night when I saw those seven young people lighting the cauldron at the opening ceremony - hats off to the organisers for doing this. I have a sense that even if the seven young people do not go on to reach greatness in the sporting arena they will be brilliant at whatever they choose to do as they were given a chance to play a major part in the ceremony.
As I watched the opening ceremony on Friday night, I realised that the tiny flame that I carried has now become a part of that glorious beacon and even if I never get to meet those seven young people we have been connected in a very special way. I have seen on many occasions a young person taking great leaps forward when they realise that we are all part of something that is bigger than us as individuals. Each and every one of us carry some sort of flame, our hopes, our dreams and our desires and it is my hope to open the doors here in the UK to as many people as possible who want to enter San Patrignano to become free of their drug addiction.
Danny McCubbin is a London based blogger and a Jamie Oliver Foundation Ambassador. He has worked with young people from Jamie Oliver's Fifteen, San Patrignano, the S Project and the Global Changemaker programme. Together with Scott Forbes, Danny is setting up a San Patrignano Association in London.
For more information on San Patrignano and how to enter the community:
To find out more information on the UK San Patrignano Association
For more information on the Jamie Oliver Foundation:
For more information on the S Project:
PS - I also thought a great deal about my Dad as I ran with the torch - he left our family far too soon. Saying good-bye to Dad is another reason why I am able to 'watch the chatter' - a great man who died with a great deal of dignity. I learnt from him that a parent's role is not only to teach their children about life but also about death. He gave me the gift of urgency and the motivation to achieve as much as I can.
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