As we reach this Friday of our Inspiration Week, we cast about for people who really lift us up and make us want to try harder. We were thinking that an inspiration doesn’t have to be someone famous. They don’t have to have a place in the history books or a statue forged in their honour. It could be, we thought, your neighbour, your granny, your Aunt Jean. It could be someone who will never be on Strictly, who will never trend on Twitter, who will only make headlines in your very own heart.
And then we thought – actually, we damn well do know who has inspired us, and that is the British people. That’s it. It’s pretty much everyone on these rainy islands because, let’s face it, the last few months have been dreadful. We know that it’s not the Second World War, and we know that bombs are not raining down on Bristol and Coventry and London, and we know that nobody had to get in a fleet of small boats and go and rescue the army from Dunkirk. But still, an entire way of life has been catastrophically disrupted.
All the people who took such ordinary things for granted as seeing their friends and hugging their grandchildren have had an enduring shock. There are the small businesses who are struggling and the pubs who don’t know when they will ever open again and the battalions of the National Health Service, fighting an enemy they cannot see. There are the people who suddenly have to stay at home with no work to go to, and the people who are watching their savings drain away, and the people, very close to our own hearts, who are struggling mightily with their mental health.
And all of us are living in a world of grief and loss and uncertainty, and nobody quite knows what happens next.
If you follow social media or watch breakfast telly, you might think that some of the Ordinary Decent Britons are not rising to the challenge as they might. The tabloids and the headline writers adore a good disaster story, so they tend to focus on the drama of the people who break the rules or don’t appear to give a stuff for their fellow citizens. This makes wonderful news, and everyone can get furious on Facebook and have a jolly pile-on. But if you think of your ordinary lived experience, what do you really see, day to day? If you are anything like us, you will know many, many people who are squaring their shoulders and gritting their teeth and getting on with it. They could be moaning and groaning and throwing in the towel, but mostly they aren’t.
We speak to a lot of people in our community, in the extended HorseBack family, in the services, in our friendship networks, and the conversations all follow a similar pattern. A little weakness is admitted. Someone has ‘hit the wall’; someone else is exhausted; yet another is in the official Fed Up Phase. And then there is a mordant joke, a good old bit of gallows humour in the true British tradition, swiftly followed by the arrival of perspective. Without fail, whoever we speak to will at once pivot to thinking of the people who have it worse. They think of the young mums on the tenth floor of a tower block or the children who can’t see their friends and can’t take their exams or the wife who has just lost her beloved husband. Everyone we speak to is thinking of someone else. And then they wonder what they can do to help
It might not quite be the mythical dream of the Blitz spirit, but it has a courage and a pluck all of its own. All around the country, there are people who are putting a smile on their face when there isn’t much to smile about, who are going the extra yard to make sure that an older person is not withering away from loneliness, who are working double shifts or extra hours. Nobody writes about them or puts them on the television, but they are there, and they are not giving up, that’s why dear old HMS Blighty is still sailing on.
And just think about you, our kind readers and supporters. Every single week, without fail, you donate cash to keep our own small craft afloat. We know that for many of you money will be tight; we know how frightening the future can sometimes seem, in the dark hours when you can’t sleep. But there you are, digging deep for the people we work to help. That alone inspires us.
You know that at HorseBack we deal in optimism. We have seen too many veterans put their lives back together against the odds not to. We hold on to hope because we’ve seen it in action, year after year after year. We know what human beings can do when they come together and believe in better things.
We might get a little weary sometimes, when the weather is dreich and the news is bad, but we always return to that hope. It keeps us going. And it’s a hope not so much in ideas or institutions or grand plans, but in people. We think you – all of you, in the north and south and east and west, from the rocky Atlantic shores to the curving Channel beachfronts – are terrific, and we salute you.