May I firstly wish you all a very Happy New Year. I certainly hope you all had a most excellent Christmas season and wonderful Hogmanay despite current circumstances.

I had a wonderful time with the children, despite the distance, thanks to the wonders of modern communications. However, as I reflected over this last year, I started to grow frustrated by my inability to attract sponsorship, despite the desperate need of millions of people, mainly women and children, starving to death in countries torn apart by the double whammy of warfare and COVID. Countries like Syria, Yemen, South Sudan and Afghanistan. Despite my looking interested people in the eye and telling them my story, before handing them a business card, and securing a promise of sponsorship for £1 per month over 425 times, I have only managed to attract 53 sponsors. Despite professional fundraisers informing me that a return rate of 12.5% is actually an excellent hit rate, I still find it particularly soul destroying, especially when so much emotional energy goes into each meeting. I have to admit that I was close to throwing in the towel but then a number of things happened:

Mirrens Card - Front
Mirrens Card – Front
  1. I remembered that the magnificent Acting Out Drama School in Edinburgh are sponsoring my efforts with as much as they can raise from their productions.
  2. I passed the £12,000 threshold of monies raised for the DEC. That is £12,000 that can help to save and rebuild lives in the world’s most desperate places that the DEC would otherwise not have had.
  3. An old friend, Philip, sent me his smile.
  4. Another old friend, Mirren, sent me some encouragement on a card.
  5. Smile No.117 Sarah from Newhaven emailed me to let me know that she had double-challenged me with a £2 monthly sponsorship starting tomorrow.
Mirrens Card - Rear
Mirrens Card – Rear

I have been reminded that while I haven’t achieved nearly as much as I had hoped in this new chance at life, I have achieved a little and I have life, a walking, talking wonderful life, with Allie, and should hold on to the purpose that I already have. To bring light into the lives of others through the smiles that I can capture, to try to raise as much as I can to save and rebuild lives through the good works of the Disasters Emergency Committee, while fighting, through my ‘balanced daily lifestyle’ to prevent the brain tumour from returning as predicted and, using the mediums of Golf, Music, Navigating over the Hills, Drama, Dance, Juggling, Litter-picking, Physical Training and Writing, to try to rebuild and strengthen my brain to be able to sustain myself in some form of employment. My hope is that if I can make enough noise in the media space, that less people will forget or find it too time consuming to help save lives through a simple standing order. That if I can start to make enough noise, I will start to attract more sponsorship to help save lives. That more people will come to realise that as Smile No.126, Here from Pakistan, said, “£1 is nothing to me but a huge amount of encouragement to you, and even more to those whose lives you are trying to save.”

It will take time, but time is one beautiful thing that I have been blessed with. That while I am not yet strong enough to sustain myself in some form of employment, I can try to bring light into the lives of others through smiles captured and money raised. I keep fighting.

Smile No.162 Philip From Drymen Stirlingshire
Smile No.162 Philip From Drymen Stirlingshire

I make two requests:

I had my MRI scan last week to see if my brain tumour has returned and to see if the granuloma, which is threatening to erode the bone plate between my brain and inner ear, has got so close to my bone plate that surgery is required. If it was allowed to erode the bone plate it would allow part of my brain to sink into my inner ear causing untold possible further cognitive and neurological dysfunction. My son, James, pictured it beautifully, “Dad, if it happens and you stick a cotton bud in your right ear your left arm will shoot up!”

My first request is to pray, if you can, that my brain tumour remains out of sight and that the granuloma is not now threatening the bone plate, but if it is that a slot for surgery can be found before it is too late.

My second request is to please, if you have not yet found the time to challenge me to keep fighting with your sponsorship of me for just £1 per month, please do find the time. It encourages me to keep fighting and helps to save and rebuild the lives of the world’s poorest.

So today, on this bitterly cold morning, after a beautiful rainbow gave me hope, I put my tabard on, picked up my gloves and litter pickers. While litter-picking I collected 2 more bags of rubbish and captured my 163rd and 164th smiles. Marvellous

Smiles Nos 163 - 164 Denis And Christine From Leith
Smiles Nos 163 – 164 Denis And Christine From Leith

I wish you every possible blessing for 2021.

Keep safe.

Keep being brilliant.

Keeeeeeep smiling