Max Winchester Visits Bethlehem

Max hadn’t intended to visit Bethlehem. The truth is, geography never has been his strong point, and satellite technology isn’t either. When the word ‘Stable’ had come up on his TomTom, he’s assumed that it meant something completely different. He’d hit the ‘Go’ button – with a degree of his normal trepidation – and driven off into the night. Mrs Winchester, knowing the limits of her beloved husband’s technological skills, and aware that he’d left his trusty AA map at home, went to bed a little worried. In the morning, when his side of the bed had remained unslept in, she phoned the police.

No, they hadn’t had any reports of accidents, but thanked her for leaving her details. She heard the Community Support Officer on the other end of the phone snigger as she mentioned his satnav skills. As Mrs W. returned the old phone to its rest, she noticed his mobile on the chair. The battery was flat. Her faith in angelic beings looking after her beloved husband of forty years would be tested over the next few days – and it was. She slept not a wink that night, lying in bed imagining the worst. Or even worse.

If she had only checked with his credit card company in the ensuing week she would have found a series of petrol purchases across Germany, Austria, Croatia and Greece. (Greece was worrying.) And a huge cash withdrawal at Athens. Little did she know that as she lay in bed on the fourth night, their little Ford Fiesta was on board a ferry in the Med, headed for Haifa.

Max Winchester arrived at Haifa and continued to follow TomTom diligently. The man at the border had asked him for his passport, and he was relieved to realise he had on the same jacket he’d been wearing when they’d done their last international trip – Newhaven to Dieppe in the summer. The passport was in his inside pocket. What a stroke of luck! He still remained a little confused about how he had managed to travel so far when he’d only planned to go Christmas shopping at Bluewater. The Med had indeed appeared to be the only blue water he had been in close contact with since he’d left home. However, during his drive through Albania he had noticed a particularly bright star in the night sky. He’d found it strangely comforting – not least in the absence of Mrs W’s reassuring night-time warmth that he had snuggled up to for so many years. This shopping trip had not been quite what he’d imagined, and he knew there was no way he could do anything other than follow the satnav. He’d be lost without it.

He drove out of Haifa with his spirits high, and it was one in the morning when, having had a bit of a kip in the back seat, he checked the satnav again. Only ten miles to go!

The next city looked very unattractive. “Unemployment high here” he told himself as he surveyed the unkempt streets with their high walls covered with graffiti. Very down market. Poor. Not a very safe place to stay. He kept an eye open for a place where he could get a room for what was left of the night – with secure parking. Mrs W. would be very disappointed if he came home without the car.

So it was that a few minutes later a little inn attracted his attention, and he pulled over. This place really was the pits. The gum-chewing girl on reception was chatting up a bunch of locals who smelt of, well, the countryside, and through a doorway he could see there was clearly a lot of activity going on under the light in an old stable. He could hear a girl crying in distress. What on earth…

Max never forgot that out-of-this-world moment. It wasn’t the teenager giving birth, or the scruffiness of it all. It was as if a shaft of burning light like lightning pierced his heart on that December night.

And back in her warm bed, Mrs W. switched off the light, closed her eyes and slept like a baby.

Part 2 … Coming Home.

The Kind Stranger: On the Beach

I was sitting alone on holiday in the sun when the Kind Stranger came to me next. I’d been weary and tired – they’re different, aren’t they – and needed to hear a reassuring voice.

The beach at Speightstown, Barbados.

But it was his shadow I noticed first. It cast itself across the table I was sitting at and I knew straight away it was him. Typically he was not visibly filling the vacant chair at my side, but we both knew he was there. If he had been visible to the naked eye as well as the naked spirit, he would have been leaning back, smiling, relaxed, maybe with his legs crossed, drinking a smoothie.

“Hi Andrew.” It’s great he knows my name as well as yours. “Thinking again I see.”

“Yes, I do a lot of that.”

He didn’t reply. It amuses me how he is perfectly happy to leave my comments and expressed thoughts untouched. He has no compulsion to express his own (priceless) opinions, or pronounce subtle judgements in the way we humans are so clever at doing. So I asked him a question.

“Do you think a lot?”

He chuckled, as if the question itself was a little absurd.

“I used to,” he said. “However, now I tend to live more in the moment, being less concerned about having a thought-out answer for life’s pressing questions. Sometimes they’re better left alone with their mystery intact. I tend to consider whether or not the question has a satisfying answer – whether it needs to be asked at all. Often people ask questions to provide them with greater security or greater power. I’m not short of either of those!”

He paused, then continued, “And sometimes people think thinking is a safer alternative to acting, living out their lives.”

“Thinking to avoid the risk of failing, maybe?” I ventured.

He smiled again. “Could be.”

We’re never rushed when we’re together, the Kind Stranger and me. I don’t think he does ‘rushed’. We just sat for a few minutes, and then …

“I think to puzzle things out,” I said, “to somehow grasp the complexities of life and understand them, to simplify them, to increase my knowledge. In Powerchange we say that people are hunting for MCC, meaning, clarity, and closure.”

“And does it work?” he asked.

“I think so – it helps people make sense of a jumbled world.”

“That sounds to me like a quest for peace of mind!” he laughed.

“Absolutely!” I returned. We both laughed and the conversation went quiet for a few more minutes. We just sat.

“Andrew, I love you, you know.”

“Yes, I do know. I feel very very safe with THAT knowledge. It definitely brings MCC for me.”

“I love you when you’re thinking and when you’re not. I love you when you have answers and when you don’t. I love you when you feel safe and when you feel scared, and as I’ve said before, you’ll never be outside that love.”

I cannot describe how good it felt to hear him say that – though I’d known it to be true for many years. Friendship this deep, this real, this accepting, cannot be confined to the meagre expressions of the English language. It is drawn in through every sense we have – and more.

As I sat looking out from my shady table over the turquoise sea, listening to the breaking waves lap the shore, in my mind I saw the Kind Stranger get up from the table.

“Come on!” he invited. “Enough thinking!”

“Where are we going?” I asked, then watched in horror as he walked out on the surface of the water.

Another question, eh!” He teased. “You’ll never know if you stay where you are now. Come on, follow me.”

I rose from the table, left some change for the bill, and took a deep breath. Some things you just have to do, so I stepped onto the water too. It took a few steps of practice faith – about twenty or so – and I sank several times, but I soon got the knack.

You do, don’t you?

GOD: Part 1. The Pretend Experiment

Whether you believe in ‘God’ or not, spending time thinking about him (I’m using the masculine because it works for me, not because I believe ‘God’ to be necessarily male) is good for you.  Official.   Funny that.

According to the latest academic studies of literally hundreds of neuroscientists worldwide and summarised in Dr Andrew Newberg’s latest book “How God Changes your Brain” you don’t need to believe in a Supreme Being, God, Jehovah, Allah, or some other divinity, for thinking about him to be beneficial.

Dr Newberg from the University of Pennsylvania and his colleagues make a very strong case. Enjoy the read!  The truth seems to be that, neurologically, ‘God’ may be one of the most powerful words a person ever encounters, and that once the concept is in your head it won’t go away.

Personally, I’m delighted to be a ‘believer’. It works for me. I don’t put that into the same category as believing in Father Christmas – though in our house believing in FC is definitely beneficial on Christmas morning – or believing in Mother Nature, whoever she might be. It’s just that if I dig deep into my mind, heart, thinking, and soul, I can’t hand-on-heart, bring myself to say with any conviction that a single Supreme Being doesn’t exist. Reason? I think he does, and if he does, I want to be on his side and have him on mine. I hope you follow the logic.  However there are one or two conditions attached for such contemplations to be beneficial and not damaging.

The aforesaid God needs to be perceived as benevolent. No problem there, mine is.  Stick your head in Dr Newberg’s fMRI scanner and you’ll notice that contemplation of a God who is authoritarian, dictatorial, malevolent, vindictive, violent, critical, fearful, distant, angry or focuses on our wrongdoing (sin?) – any seriously negative thoughts in fact – will start to physically damage your actual brain within 20 seconds or so. I think the God I believe in would be very sad for me to do that to myself, wouldn’t he? So I like to avoid doing it; 19 seconds and no more. Only a benevolent God is good for you, not a fearsome one. That makes sense to me.

Another condition seem to be to believe that God is close. Many people perceive God as ‘out there’, separate and remote, an impersonal Force stirring up the stars.  But for us to properly benefit from contemplating this benevolent God we also need to perceive him as ‘in here’ – close, personal, even intimate. Today many people are perceiving God as a ‘living spirit in every human being’. Others may express their perceptions as a loving caring knowing Presence in and around them, wherever they are, whatever is happening to them.  From my teenage years, God has seemed close. Most of the time anyway!

So what happens if you honestly don’t believe God is real? Amazingly, you do not need to believe in the reality of a benevolent close God for God to be good for your brain. The evidence seems to indicate that just pretending (yes, pretending!) that this God – benevolent and ‘in here’ as well as ‘out there’ – is real, and living in that pretence on a daily basis for six or eight weeks, will change your brain structure in your favour. It seems you’ll be happier, more relaxed, think more clearly and your brain will become more integrated and function better … just pretending God is close and on your side each day! Who knows, you may want to continue the experiment if it turns out really good, or maybe refine it.

OK, so I don’t need to pretend because I am a believer. You might not be right now, and may need to pretend to get the benefits.

I know it’s very subjective and not very scientific, but do me a favour and let me know what happens. Newberg reckons you need to meditate, for twenty minutes a day for six to eight weeks, on this God who you imagine to be both benevolent and close.

Hmmm. Sounds like the Kind Stranger to me.

The Kind Stranger Chapter 4: A trip to the pottery.

Good morning!”

I’m getting used to the Kind Stranger sneaking up on me and surprising me.  Behind his smiling face is a playful sense of humour. Here I was getting on with my life, preparing breakfast in the kitchen. In he came, looking for me. KS is always welcome in our home.

“We’re going on a short trip today,” he said. “I’ve something to show you.”

By now I have learnt that he hears the deeper thoughts I have and responds to them without me needing to verbalising anything. I suspected this was another similar moment. It was.

But of course we didn’t need to get the car out and disappear down the road.  No, the Kind Stranger invited me to sit quietly with him, rest my mind, and wait. A few minutes later, I knew we were on the move, and soon we arrived at a village square.  You’ll probably have been there yourself.  It had an array of houses gathered around a village green.

“We’re going just over there”, he pointed to an old building with a light burning inside. We wandered over, he lifted the latch and we stepped inside.

We were in a workshoppy room, with pots everywhere, in various stages of completion. This, I realised was the village potter’s house, and I was unnerved to find that the old potter, working away at her wheel in the corner was oblivious to us.  I tried to talk to the old woman, but she didn’t hear me.  It was as if I was invisible to her. I slowly realised that I was.

I turned to the Kind Stranger to ask what all this was about when he put his finger to his lips to quieten me. He smiled. “Just watch,” he whispered.

I moved over to a workbench, pulled myself up onto it so I could sit more comfortably, and watched as instructed.

The Kind Stranger came and stood by me, and put his hand on my arm.  He often did this to reassure me and help me to relax. I felt myself take in deep breath and exhale slowly, feeling my shoulders drop and my breathing slow.

The Potter got up, moved past us, and unseeing, made her way to a bin of clay. Lifting the lid, she removed a lump of pure soft clay. Cutting a small amount from the lump the potter took it over to her wheel and began to carefully press it, mould it, and shape it. She took such care, and I was intrigued to watch her skills in action. Several times she stopped the wheel, and looked contemplatively at her amazing creation. It was absolutely beautiful. She had used her lifetime of skill to form a fine elegant pot that would undoubtedly be very valuable when it was finished.

Turning it slowly, she looked at each facet, checking it on the inside, on the outside, and smiled – a bit like the Kind Stranger did. Then, all of a sudden, she stopped. She had noticed a tiny flaw, a little impurity in the clay, hidden imperceptibly on the inside of the vessel. I expected her to pass over it, or take some spare clay and fix it somehow, but she didn’t. No, she gently put her hands around it and with the wheel spinning, crushed the entire pot back into a single lump of clay, and she began to make it again, a different vessel.

It hurt me to watch. I felt sad that such a nice pot would never be used by anyone or admired. Even though it was flawed it was still beautiful, still useful, still worth something. The mark was on the inside, not really visible, what was the big deal?  But I could see that to the potter it mattered. This was about her making the very most of the clay.

Something was happening inside me as I realised that the potter was not going to settle for second best. Of course, she knew that, in her hands, there was no need for any concern at all. She knew just what to do. This was clay of the highest quality and my guess is that she had paid a high price for that raw material. She had no desire to leave the clay flawed by an impurity and had no intention of moving on until that vessel was…

Exactly. The Kind Stranger  looked over at me and winked. We made our way out of the potter’s workshop, and soon we were back in my kitchen. I knew what this was about, and he knew I knew. It was about me, the value of my ‘clay’ and what I really needed right now. If I would allow myself to be …

I caught his eye. He smiled approvingly. Great. He had heard my unspoken decision.

The Kind Stranger

In Powerchange we have all sorts of interesting ways to help people have a better quality of life, and here’s a new exercise I’d like you to test for me.  It’s called The Kind Stranger and it works by readjusting your thoughts as you read it. Notice what it does to you emotionally over the next few minutes or days, and ‘leave a comment’ (above) so we can know how it is working for you.  If it ‘works’, pass it on to your friends – even Facebook it for me! Here it is …

You know those times when you feel ‘needy’- alone maybe, inadequate somehow, or unresourced? It was at such a time as this that the kind stranger turned up. It was a completely unexpected encounter, and one that changed me. He just came up to me, smiling, and although to start with I was a bit suspicious I quickly realised he was a genuinely good person, and his intentions towards me were healthy – pure – and good.

What he said was good too.  So very good.  He fed me, deep in my soul, and it was only later that I realised how much I had benefited from his kindness. “Excuse me,” the kind stranger said, “I hope you don’t mind me coming over to you, but I notice that you seem to feel alone and, dare I say it, in need somehow.” He disarmed me with his gentle tone of voice and obvious respect. His honesty was refreshing, although a little unnerving, and enabled me to be honest too. “Yes,” I admitted. “It is a bit like that at the moment.”

“May I take just a few minutes to help?”  He was so direct, and although I had so much to busy myself with, I knew I must stop and listen to him. We found somewhere to sit down, and he, this smiling kind stranger, addressed me personally.

“What do you need to hear someone say to you today?”

It was such a surprising line it took me off guard, and I could feel a lump in my throat. I wanted to get away, yet I knew this was important. He was obviously in no rush, waiting quietly for my reply. He watched me attentively – kindly – as his words sank in, slipping under my defences.  I mentally ran through a few superficial replies but knew I must be honest in return. I thought of the one thing I’ve longed for someone to say to me, but simply couldn’t voice it. It was lodged, stuck in my heart.

“That’s right,” he said.

Had he read my mind? I thought of some more.

“And those are good too.”

With a tender transparent authority the kind stranger told me clearly, gently, confidently, things I needed to hear. And something inside me change for ever.  How did he know? (For he certainly did.)

” May I put my hand on your arm?” he asked. Shocked, I reached out towards him, and he respectfully held my arm just above my wrist. It was such an important touch – firm, reassuring, filled with the rich tenderness of loving human contact. I loved him for it. Skin-food for my soul. I felt a deep confidence come from his hand  into my body.

“You know,” he said wisely, “we could meet right here every day or every week in person and I could say these things to you. It would be very resourcing and up-building for you. But I’ve got a better idea: I want you to listen to my voice now, saying and repeating these things you need to hear, deep inside you. Listen to my voice deep in your heart.” He paused as he noticed me do what he suggested. “It is me, isn’t it!” He chuckled, and continued, “And then, every day, even though I will not be with you physically as I am now, I want you to feel my hand on your arm like this and hear my voice reminding you of them –and all the other things you’ve forgotten that you need. Hear the words you needed someone to say to you when you were a child, a teenager, and at those other moments of your life when you felt alone, lacking confidence and direction. I’ll say them – listen out for me. You will hear my voice inside you and I will say them. They are the truth. And when you’ve learned how to listen to me, tell others about your encounter with me and help them to listen. So from today on I’ll be with you forever – and with them too if they want me!”

And he is. Whenever I sense I need him, he’s there… here. Every day. I feel his warm hand on my arm as I write, his confident touch relaxing me, feel his strong arm around my shoulders, hear his wholesome, rich voice, full of endorsement, encouragement, kindness and love reminding me of what I need to hear. I listen to him every day now, and he’s no longer a stranger.

Andrew tells the story personally on youtube – with one or two little extras…

Damned by Speculation

What speculation has damned your life?

Speculation is the theorising about something for which there is no evidence. ANYTHING to do with the future is speculative, because we don’t have the future right now, so we don’t ACTUALLY know.

“I know what everyone will think if I do that.” Speculation. You don’t KNOW. Even if you were to ask them, you will get a speculative answer because THEY don’t know what they would ACTUALLY think. It hasn’t happened yet. You or they may be able to take a very good guess, but until it happens, that is all it is. A guess. No evidence.

“It would be a disaster to lose my job.” Speculation. There are swathes of evidence to show that losing a job can be the best thing that happened to a person – even ones who thought it was going to be a disaster.

“I’m going to make millions.” Speculation. You don’t know you will be alive in three hours time, so how can you know that?

“You’ll be in a wheelchair by the time you’re 40.” Speculation. My dear departed Dad was told that in his early twenties. He died aged 86 and only occasionally used a wheelchair in the last few years of his life when he walked short distances slowly and we all wanted to walk greater distances faster!

“You’ll never make anything of your life.” I’ll not be damned by such wanton speculation! History is filled with the achievements of people who were told they couldn’t, they were not allowed, or they didn’t have what it would take. When I hear those words, I speculate about the inaccuracy of such speculation! The question is not “Can I do this?” but “Do I WANT to do this?” If the answer is yes, then I ask “OK, HOW can I do this?”

The cleverest statisticians can and do predict the future, can and do build up a reputation for accuracy (to within a certain percentage either way, of course), and can and do get things extremely right… and wrong. They are aided by the smartest computers available, which also are unable to take into account the myriads of unknown alternatives, any one of which will provide a ‘different from predicted’ result. Reason? It’s speculation. How many times have we been told by ‘experts’ that this or that disaster is going to happen – and it didn’t?

When it comes to thinking about the future, I’m happy to speculate to some degree, assess risk, and make considered decisions that I suspect may affect my family and future generations. I also think it’s wise to hold my speculations and predictions about the future lightly, knowing that only some of them will happen. Right now, the FACT is, none of us knows which.

I hold the future lightly. I live simply trusting that when the unknown or unexpected arrives I will have the resources, within and beyond myself, to make the most of it. I call that ‘living by faith’, and I’ve found it to be a wonderfully relaxing and rewarding way to live. Adventurous and risky? Well, yes, but this ‘simply trusting’ means I can enjoy my life much more fully, and ask “What if..?” with an excited, creative tone in my voice, rather than one of fear and dread. When unpleasant circumstances arrive knocking at my door, I can learn from them too.

What speculation has damned your life?

What will happen if you ‘simply trust’?

My Song

For those who have read my blog (Success Part 3: Better) on writing and singing ‘your song’, here’s mine. Inevitably it is deeply personal and highly subjective, so please honour it as such, but, well, it’s my song.  I’ve titled it My Mission.

To worship Almighty God alone as Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer of the Universe, and King of All.

To live in the confidence that God has a unique purpose for my life, and for the life of every human being, that reflects His love for me and for mankind.

To work with Him towards the fulfilment of that purpose, guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit, cushioned by God’s grace, and accountable to Him.

To cherish the vision of a kind and forgiving world for future generations.

To seek truth and to keep eternity in view.

To teach life-enriching principles with enthusiasm and to narrow the gap between principle and practice.

To be an example of good health, contentment and personal prosperity for the rest of my life.

If you’re into poetry you might have a though or two on this one of mine: “Who will I be?” Again, it’s very personal, and for those who know me personally, it could explain a lot!


Imagine a fairly deep narrow dark cave with one entrance

You really want to LIVE in here?
You really want to LIVE in here?

and exit into the warm sunshine. Imagine yourself just inside the entrance to the cave. Imagine a lion or other threatening wild animal standing outside the entrance to the cave. It knows you’re there.

There were two of them.
There were two of them.

You have a choice: face the animal, or creep further back into the cave. What are you going to do?

Walk out.

Loads of people come to Powerchange with this dilemma. It is not, of course, a wild animal that threatens them but some other uncontrollable threat: losing their home to debtors, bullying at school, at work, or in the community, rejection by someone important to them. What threatens you?

In the face of real danger of this kind, the desire to retreat into the cave is huge. Yet the further you retreat, allowing your fear to dictate your behaviour by pretending it isn’t there or hoping it will go away, the less options you have, until eventually the terror gets you. At the back of the cave you have nowhere to go.

The courage you need becomes available to you with every step you make TOWARDS your foe. Facing the challenge brings freedom, “…and if you fail, at least you fail whilst daring greatly,” as Roosevelt said in his famous speech in 1899. With every step you make towards the light your field of view widens, more opportunities come into view, and your mind comes more fully alive. You’ll learn things you can learn no other way. (And you’ll also see future dangers before they get so close.)

Today I have been coaching three different clients, one was frightened his business will fail, another was frightened her marriage will fail, and the third was frightened she will fail to handle the not insignificant challenges at work. For all three the issue is fear, not the lion.

In the famous work, Pilgrim’s Progress, written by John Bunyan in 1678, his hero’s progress is challenged by two massive lions that bar his route. “Then he was afraid, and thought also himself to go back, for he thought nothing but death was before him.” As he is overwhelmed by the dread, into the scene comes a man who calls out “Fear not the lions, for they are chained, and are placed there for trial of faith, where it is, and for discovery of those that had none. Keep in the midst of the path, no hurt shall come unto thee.”

Maybe I’m that man for you today. “Keep in the midst of the path.” The rewards of victory go not to those who shrink back, but to those who step towards their fears, seeing them as an opportunity to live a better life, even though wounded. Trials strip away immaturity, highlight weaknesses so you can deal with them, strengthen your resolve, and toughen up your courage.

Like the traveller in Pilgrim’s Progress, keep to the centre of your path and prove that such lions are chained.

You won’t die.

But you will have stories worth telling your grand-children.

Poverty Knocks

There is an age-old question: What do you do when people come to you for help, in tough circumstances, you have what they need but they are unable to pay for it? Nothing comes free, so do you pay for it ‘out of your children’s inheritance’ as they would say on Dragon’s Den, or do you keep your focus on creating wealth for the longer term and walk past the metaphorical beggar in the street? Time on the phone with a needy person is literally time away from your family. That is also an aspect of the ‘children’s inheritance’.

What is poverty?
What is poverty?

My answer is, do what you like, but first understand that both courses of action (and every variation in between) produce consequences for you, for them, for us all. No man is an island, but a part of the main, to quote John Donne.  so here are some thoughts:

I spent many years of my life working for a charity, and I have never worked with such demanding people. Apart from anything else, it is amazing how the compassion industry, and each emotionally demanding individual, has mastered the techniques needed to extract cash, time, energy, and love for nothing in return – except, arguably, a freedom from induced guilt. Do I want to encourage this ‘something for nothing’ culture, paid for by people who work very hard to get what they have? I’ve personally been on both ends of this spectrum, by the way.  (I know what it is to be on Benefits whilst trying to put bread on the table for my three teenage children to eat. I know what it feels like to not be able to pay the bills.  I’ll readily admit I don’t know what it is like to live without food clothes or water whilst being shot at in Somalia.)

Poverty in Mumbay
Poverty in Mumbai

It is a real delight to have lots of compassionate and caring people in Powerchange, our company. They are people who have heart, and many of them know first hand what it is to have very little.  They chose to invest in coming to our GOLD Training or get personal development coaching so they can think differently – and get more rewarding results for themselves. (In the case of one recently retired lady, she decided to invest the last pounds of a small and dwindling cache of retirement capital into this course of action. We made it especially worth it for her.) At what point do they say ‘no’ to paying for others (with the cash, time and energy they have personally invested in their training and development) to be coached by them?

There is a parable in the Bible called “The Wise and Foolish Virgins” who turned up at an event wanting to get in, but who didn’t bring with them the equivalent of the car parking money, and tried to borrow it off those who had it. They said ‘no’.  By the time they returned with the money (it was actually oil for their lamps) the event doors were closed.  They were called ‘foolish’ and there was little sympathy for them. The guy telling the story also said “You’ll always have the poor with you”.

A tailor working just down the road
A tailor working just down the road

So here is some advice for you to take or leave. Take a long, hard look at what your policy is on giving away your life time, and make sure you are absolutely happy about what you are about to do. Then do it with a full and willing heart, knowing that it is a clear positive choice for you.

It was an emergency worker who reminded me one day that the most important people at an accident are not the victims but the emergency crews.  If they forget that and put themselves at risk, there is no one else left to help.  That is why a life-saver will keep away from a drowning person until they stop struggling and are ready to do what they are told. (There is also the old adage about giving a person fish or teaching a person to fish, too of course. What happens when you’ve taught them perfectly well how to fish, but they don’t want to do it?)

My choice is to be generous within the concept of win/win/win – and to provide a little to start with, seeing what that person does with it. I ask “Are there clearly definable multiple ‘wins’ coming from this for everyone involved?”  If it makes a clear difference to their situation and is not ignored or wasted, I may give some more.  If it is not responded to in action (words in this context are cheap) then I stop. ‘My children’s inheritance’ needs to be invested with an evident return on that investment.  Unless there are all round multiple benefits, I’m not very likely to donate it, or donate much, however clever or pleading the person, or however ‘noble’ the cause.

I’ll leave that opportunity to my children.