As 2021 begins I can’t help but think that now more than ever we need a bit of magical thinking in our lives. What the pandemic has confirmed beyond refute is that all of our actions, big and small have consequences that directly affect others. We know that spreading a virus can be an innocuous as simply standing too close. We know that each of us has a role to play in keeping in keeping the other safe. We know that every one of us on this planet are more connected that we ever realised.

Magical thinking is the belief that unrelated ideas, thoughts or actions are in some way connected despite the absence of any probable or conceivable causal link between them. It is easy to scoff at this type of thinking and dismiss it as fallacious, but it can be argued that magical thinking is an integral feature of most religious beliefs. As a consequence of our actions or in participation with a higher power the course of events in the physical world is altered.

While it is important not conflate superstition with religion or with science, there is a commonality  that binds them together. Cause and effect. A quote attributed the 19th century orator, preacher, poet and writer Edwin Hubbel Chapin reminds us that even if we don’t understand how or why what we do with our time our actions have significance in the lives of others. He said ‘Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity’.

At Localise in the run up to the Christmas we had hundreds of young people recognising need within their communities and responding to that need. While each and every project should be heralded for its own merits there is one poignant image that forever remind me of Christmas 2020.

Here we have some of the residents of a nursing home in Finglas that happens to be right beside a school. The residents often hear the hubbub of school life and have yearned to be part of the world outside their bubble. The students recognised this and created Christmas cards, decorations and gifts for each resident. Through the staff they found out a little bit about the lives and interests of each resident and created appropriate artworks for each of their bedrooms. This image is the moment of handover.

I have no idea what’s in store for these students as they enter adulthood, but I am fairly confident that experiences such as this will help shape their identity and orientate them towards service to others. It is because of these young men and for the hundreds of Localise young volunteers just like them, that I am filled with hope for 2021 and beyond. While we will never really know what effect their actions have on others or on themselves, we can say without fear of contradiction that this is a positive experience for all concerned. There is a consequence to these actions, there is a direct causal link between personal experience and the world at large.

So maybe the most productive thing we could be doing in this next new normal, is creating circumstances so that young people can spread positivity to every corner of this country, by responding to real needs in their communities. Actions that will vibrate eternally. Wouldn’t that be magicl?

By Harry Keogh, Education Coordinator with Localise Youth Volunteering