Be inspired to make 2022 such a better year

England's Raheem Sterling takes a knee prior to kick-off during the UEFA Euro 2020 round of 16 match

England's Raheem Sterling takes the knee. - Credit: PA

I don’t know about you, but the constant Twixmas mizzle and dank dark days feels like the most fitting end to what has been an increasingly dismal year. It can’t end soon enough.

There’s no sugar coating 2021, and we need to be realistic about what’s to come and resign ourselves that a global pandemic takes years to come to terms with predictions of restrictions until 2023 at least, even 2026.

But for every tragedy, loss and setback is the opportunity to reset, change and focus on making good from bad. Little changes can bring big results.

2022 might look different to what we hoped, but it always promises better if we are prepared to do something about it?

Taking inspiration from others is a perfect start. Yesterday morning, listening to footballer Raheem Sterling guest editing BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he handed hope and optimism on a plate, with hefty dollops of wisdom and realism.

A decade ago, looking to a highest earning footballer for guidance to shape the future would have been as likely as a fish riding a bicycle. Back then, ostentation and conspicuous consumption in the professional premier league bubble was a soccer players’ lot, and no parent wanted their children to look them as role models for anything than on the pitch skills.

Then came change, with the likes of Sterling and Marcus Rashford using their hard-earned gilded position to make the world a better place for children just like they had been, hard up, in struggling families, needing a leg up in life.

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Nothing from their past was forgotten, taking their life experience to improve life for others, not just by chucking money at it, but by being present, showing up and leading by example.

They took nothing for granted, living embodiments of social mobility though natural talent and hard graft.

Sterling and Rashford constantly show gratitude and acknowledge those involved in their fortune, and never lose sight of how they have climbed to where they are and want to share it, by making sure no child goes hungry and speaking out making the government listen, and by setting up a foundation to help children aspire and grasp opportunities.

It cannot go without mention that they are young black men, all their , and still regularly, on the receiving end of vile racist abuse, as beacons for hope in an increasingly selfish self-absorbed Britain, trail-blazing the right values.

It’s exactly these values we need in Westminster. What the likes of Sterling and Rashford show us – and previous generation footballers now absorbed in politics with a small ‘p’ as the voice of the have-nots, Gary Neville – is just how out of touch our career politicians are.

Can 2022 be the start of a seismic change to MPs who know about real life and end the hideous polarised love/hate right/left politics we endure from MPs who know nothing of life beyond student politics and the Westminster bubble.

Without radical change, keeping on doing what we’re doing will just bring the same results.

If their actions inspire the rest of us to support young people with work experience, internships, our time to encourage them to make the most of opportunities, whatever their background, and pay young people for their ideas, contribution, and talent, they have achieved so much more, and practically sparked a social revolution.

Inspired by Sterling for a hopeful and optimistic for a better 2022 by small changes, here are a few ideas:

*Buy local, buy reused, be resourceful and more mindful about how and where we shop to support local businesses and jobs and think more about waste and pointless consumerism.

*It’s not just the young that need support. The value the contribution of the over 50s and the skills, experience, dedication, time and energy they can bring to a workplace must never be under-estimated. Kill ageism in the HR teams and bring back more age-balanced workplaces.

*A bonus of the pandemic has been the resurge in volunteering. The vaccination programme would not have happened and the NHS would have been even more on its knees without volunteers. This could be the start of a new explosion of giving people with time on their hands the purpose and satisfaction from volunteering.

*Appreciate and make the most of where we live. London Instagrammers heading to Norfolk and Suffolk for Christmas and New Year claiming to have found heaven when it’s in our back yard should make us look again at just how lucky we are to have the coast, countryside, waterways, towns and cities within a short drive.

*Work for generational harmony. Respect what the young bring to the party and the sacrifice they continue to make for the elderly during the pandemic, against the privileges of that generation against the struggles our young people are facing, and will continue to face. Mutual respect and support goes a long way.

*In the long winter ahead, be thankful for and appreciative of the incredible dramas on TV we take for granted. After binge-watching A Very British Scandal, another perfectly cast and delivered classy drama, we should be so proud to have what so many other nations would give their eye teeth for.

Life rarely turns out as we hope, but let 2022 be happy, harmonious, healthy and full of opportunity for you all.

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