There are moments in your life that are truly life-changing.
Probably the most significant one in my timeline seems unremarkable on the face of it: a brown envelope posted through a letterbox in the spring of 1986.
I had left school in 1982, and bar a nine month temporary job (from hell) I had been unemployed. Almost four years of barely scraping by, with my mum’s part-time job supplementing a Royal Air Force widow’s pension and my dole money. We couldn’t afford a phone, or anything above basic provisions.
Then, on a fateful Saturday morning, I came down the stairs to be met with an A4 brown envelope on the hall floor, addressed to me. Inside was an application form for a Clerical Officer job with the Northern Ireland Civil Service. I had no idea why it had arrived, as I didn’t even know they were recruiting.
Despite my bemusement, I completed it over the weekend and posted it off first thing on the Monday morning.
The following day, a school friend of mine called to the house. I had kept in occasional contact with him, but not that often. Turned out that he had seen the job advert in the Belfast Telegraph and while phoning in for an application form for himself, he requested another to be posted to me. His spur of the moment decision, based on his correct assumption that I may have missed seeing the advert as I couldn’t afford to get the ‘Tele’, was to be my biggest stroke of good fortune.
Anyway, to cut to the chase, I was successful at the subsequent interview and started work at the end of June 1986. It was like winning the lottery. From £42 a fortnight in Unemployment Benefit to £350 a month pay.
Getting this job was the turning point in my life. It gave me money, yes, but even more important I now had a sense of purpose, restored pride, boosted confidence: it was the stepping stone for an enriching career.
It also gave me the wherewithal to finally ask Eileen out on a date. A year later, we got married and bought the house we still live in. These would have been unthinkable while unemployed.
So, from that one brown envelope I have secured financial security, a very happy marriage (with the arrival of Ryan in 1989 the biggest reward of all), and met (and continue to meet) some terrific people through my work.
So, never underestimate the impact one thoughtful act can have. It may just change someone’s life.
“One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” President John F. Kennedy.