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Professor Mona Siddiqui - 13/08/15

Thought for the Day

A couple of weeks ago my nephew went abroad on his post A level 6th year holiday with his friends. A few days later, my sister got a call to say that he had been hurt in a road accident and was in hospital having suffered a head injury. She flew over straightaway, but thankfully after a few days, the doctors discharged him satisfied that he was fine. Today he’ll get his A level results, his heart set on studying maths and computing and his immediate destiny tied to the letters abc. He, like thousands of other school leavers will soon find out where he will spend his next three or four years. When I phoned my sister to wish him luck, she said still shaken by the whole experience, `the results don’t matter that much now; what happened puts everything into perspective.’

Yet for my nephew who has all the confidence and zeal of youth, his results could mean everything. Exam results can mean new beginnings, new ambitions, indeed a new life. Today, many young people will be either elated or disappointed, the future seemingly bright or bleak. It is a day of extreme emotions. But while results matter, as parents and teachers, it’s our job to remind our children and ourselves that a good and happy life mustn’t be measured in exam grades, that results shouldn’t define all that you are or all that you can become. Whatever life throws at us, the ability to handle life’s joys and disappointments, to know that we are not in control of all that happens to us, is essential to living a wise and positive life. Even when things seem at their lowest, when a disappointment feels like a loss, when we feel most vulnerable, how we pick ourselves up, and find the courage to move on, is what it means to grow and live a life in hope. This isn’t always easy especially when we invest so many of our hopes in people, possessions, experiences and accomplishments. All these things can disappoint and yet our human fragility often reminds us of what really gives value to our lives.

In a few years’ time, today’s students will have moved on to a different place in their lives with new hopes and expectations. They’ll also realise that the best of life comes in more subtle ways, with chance encounters, risks, inspirational relationships and the people who are simply there for us. This is what I understand by having faith in God. Hope is not some theological abstract – it’s an empowering and humbling attitude to life, where you begin to realise that all of life’s joys and suffering are transitory and that the ability to simply be and live for yourself, with your own dreams and help others achieve theirs can bring out the best of our humanity.

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3 minutes