My motivational and inspirational advice for 2017 comes courtesy of George Michael and my grandad – not a natural pairing in many other circumstances.
The outpouring of stories of George Michael’s behind-the-scenes generosity which followed his death made me reflect on the nature of generosity and that was personified for me by my grandad, who died many years ago.
He was a chef rather than a singing superstar. He lived in London, where he had been sent – alone – at the age of 13 by his large family in Ireland to “make his fortune”.
He never made his fortune but he made enough to buy his own home and support his family.
I was 13 when he died and can remember leaving the funeral with my granny and the rest of my family.
She stopped to ask a man she didn’t recognise, who had been standing at the entrance to the cemetery holding his hat, if he was a friend of my grandad and if so, if he wanted to come back for the wake.
It turned out he was the newspaper seller who was stationed outside my grandad’s stop on the underground.
My grandad bought an evening paper every time he went through – and was never in too much of a hurry to pass the time of day with the newspaper seller.
When my grandad stopped coming, the elderly man made it his business to find out what had happened and came to pay his respects at the gates to the cemetery for someone he missed.
He shook my granny’s hand, put on his hat and went on his way.
It had a profound effect on me at the time but I’d forgotten in recent years until reading those accounts of George Michael’s quiet generosity.
I will remember that as a lasting legacy of the man, just as I will be remembering how my grandad’s small, daily interaction on his way back from work said more about him and the value of human contact and kindness than any worldly trappings of success.
I will be trying very hard not to lose sight of this in 2017. Happy New Year.