World MS Day 2020

This week Joan Jordan talks about World MS Day, a blackbird and the soundings poetry book!

“Stop, stop and listen for the bough top
Is whistling and the sun is brighter
Than God’s own shadow in the cup now!
Forget the hour-bell. Mournful matins
Will sound, Patric, as well at nightfall.”
Austin Clarke- The Blackbird of Derrycairn

Isn’t it funny how timing really matters in life? When I was in secondary school, we used the Soundings poetry book. It was first published in 1969. It was intended as an 'interim' anthology of poetry for the Leaving Certificate until such time as a more permanent volume could be devised. Twenty-six years later it was replaced! In the meantime, it had passed through the hands (and through the brains) of hundreds of thousands of students in Ireland.

The Soundings book really was an eclectic mix of Tennyson, Shakespeare, Dickinson, Yeats, Kavanagh and many more. Unfortunately, I was way too young and inexperienced to actually GET any of the poems. When I read it today, the themes of loss, heartbreak, joy and unrequited love resonate with me more than they could ever have done with a sixteen-year-old. I remember the teacher interrupting my doodling during English class to ask me what the poem above was about. “I dunno. A talking blackbird sir?”

The supposedly correct answer was that the poem is about the struggle between paganism and Catholicism. I rote learned the metaphors, the assonance and the alliteration. I regurgitated what I was told the poem was about in my exams and happily closed the Soundings book…. Life happened.

Now, when I read the poem, I think it is about being mindful. It is about seizing the day and living life in the moment. It is about not putting things that you want to do off and not doing things because you have been told to do them.

World MS Day is observed globally on the 30th May every year. The aim of the day is to raise awareness of Multiple Sclerosis and bring together those who are living with the condition to share their stories. Who could have known that when I marked World MS Day 2019 by holding a vintage car show with my Louth Voluntary Branch friends, everything would have changed by the same time next year? I am immunosuppressed because of the medication I take. This year, I can’t mix with my friends as I am posing a threat to myself and others as a result of Covid 19.

The theme of World MS Day 2020 is ‘I Connect, We Connect’ and the campaign hashtag is #MSConnections. You can find out more here This campaign will challenge the social barriers that leave people affected by MS feeling lonely and socially isolated. It is an opportunity to advocate for better services, celebrate support networks and champion self-care.
MS Connections is flexible for individuals and organisations to achieve a variety of goals, including:

  • Challenging social barriers and stigma that can leave people affected by MS feeling lonely and isolated
  • Building communities that support and nurture people affected by MS
  • Promoting self-care and healthy living with MS
  • Lobbying decision-makers for better services and effective treatment for people with MS

I don’t know how things are going to play out in the future. I think that this has become apparent to the entire world in recent months. All we can do is try to be the blackbird and make the most of each day, for ourselves and for others. Mindfulness gives us somewhere to go when we must stay where we are.

Happy World MS Day 2020!

You can help make its objectives a reality today by buying a virtual balloon, an exciting new initiative from MS Ireland for World MS Day. Race a balloon for €5 & support 9,000 people living with MS in Ireland. #9000balloons