There are moments when we feel as though we need a miracle to happen. Sometimes it is a miracle of the everyday kind that we need. You know, the regular sized miracle.
There is, for example, such a big need right now in view of Covid-19, that individually, I think, we need to be thinking of ways that we can make small miracles happen by helping people around us in need. We need to be a little less shy in saying hello to our neighbour and offering a helping hand where we can.
There are, however, times when we need more than an everyday miracle. The challenge of Park Lane Stables of the Teddington district of London, England would seem to fall into this latter category, to which we will return in just a moment.
What we might not always consider when thinking about miracles, is how love can have a great deal to do with making a miracle happen.
And, given that today is Valentine’s Day (And given that Valentine’s Day is approaching), I thought it might be interesting to reflect upon the relationship between love and miracles. Because it seems to me that love is at the base of both the smallest, and the grandest, of miracles. Sometimes love needs a miracle to happen, think of two people who meet by some seemingly miraculous circumstance. Almost always, on the other hand, a miracle needs love to happen, think of the gift of an organ to save someone’s life.
Take, for example, the above mentioned need for a miracle by the Park Lane Stables. They face eviction because their landlord wishes to sell the property that they occupy. The cost to buy the Stables would be upwards of 1 million pounds sterling, approximately 1.75 million Canadian dollars. The Stables have commenced a Crowd Funding Project and have, as of Feb. 3rd raised 201,391 pounds. But they still, of course, have a long ways to go.
On the love side of the love-miracle relationship, when we speak of love we usually are speaking of a love for a person, a romantic love. But you can also speak of love for an idea. Or you can speak of love for a cause, or a group of people, an institution, that is trying to do good in the world. There are, for example, a number of people who love Park Lane Stables and the good that they do there.
By loving a group of people that seeks to do good for others, we often find that some of that love, some of that goodness, finds its way back to us. We are changed by the very good that we seek to do for others.
We are made better by our love. It brings out the best in us. Listen to the comment of Vicky, an instructor at Park Lane who comments on the effect of the Stables on all of its participants: “Run on kindness and inclusion, everyone who is part of it is a better person for it.”
When you deeply love such an organization and the people, and in our case today, the horses, who make it up, you feel inspired and empowered to go beyond what you might normally think of as your own set of limitations and your own comfort zone. And you do go beyond in order to help that group of people, that organization, to go forward and accomplish the good that they seek to do in the world. When you love this deeply, sometimes miracles do happen.
I think you will agree with me that my guest today, Natalie O’Rourke, has just this kind of love about her. Natalie is the Manager of Park Lane Stables. You will find these stables not too far from the Royal Paddocks of Hampton Court Palace, near the edge of Bushy Park.
Park Lane Stables is a small, but very special, urban stable that provides riding and therapy opportunities for the disabled and the underprivileged children and youth who live in the urban communities of London. It is a registered charity. It is nestled within an urban community and plays an important role within it. In the words of Natalie herself: ““We call ourselves the community stables because we’re here for everybody. The same way that anybody can use the library or the swimming pool, we are here for everybody that wants to get involved.”
It is, though, a special place for a number of other reasons too. Perhaps the first reason is that the vast majority of those who use these stables, over 85%, are local city children and youth who have disabilities or who are underprivileged.
It is also special, however, because of the people who volunteer there. Take for example, the comments regarding the progress of children and youth by Nicola Stutcliffe, who is a volunteer for the Riding for the Disabled Association:
“To see the transformation – particularly with somebody with really severe cerebral palsy who can’t walk unaided... and yet when they get on a horse they are almost transformed. Suddenly they’ve developed core muscles that they don’t have when they are walking. They develop confidence, you can see the smile grinning from ear to ear, they absolutely love it ... they’ve got a bond with the animal. I don’t know how it is ... it’s like a magic trick.”
Maybe Christian at 14 years old, one of the youths helped by Park Lane, says it best when he says: “Park Lane is like a little bubble of happiness. Whenever you go in your mood changes.”
Interestingly, Park Lane Stables took the initiative during the Lockdown in London to reach out to individuals. They said: “If [people] can’t come to us, we’ll go to them!” This gave birth to the Pony Visit Program, which meant that ponies were taken out onto the streets of their community to visit individuals to bring some cheer during the lockdown. They visited, for example, those who were not coping well. They also took a pony to visit a very sick child at the Great Ormand Street Hospital, which is a hospital for children. Altogether in 2020, they conducted 168 visits to over 300 individuals.
As mentioned, The Stables find themselves in a spot of trouble. What is at stake here is the possibility of continuing all of the good things that are happening within the Park Lane community. What they need is more than an everyday miracle.
To discuss this situation and the beauty that one finds at the Stables I’m happy to be joined by Natalie O’Rourke.
[Interview with Natalie O'Rourke]
There is a classic holiday movie that you are likely familiar with called Miracle on 34th Street. It is an endearing movie. It is, in its own way, about love. But it also reminds us of the power of faith, goodness and of not giving up even when things look extremely challenging, even impossible.
My favourite version is from 1947, staring Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’Hara and John Payne. Briefly, it tells the tale of an elderly gentleman who goes by the name of Kris Kringle and who sincerely believes that he is Santa Claus. By his kindness and faith, he strives to be a source of good in the world.
What is of special note here, however, is that there is a scene in the movie in which Mr. Kringle has managed to bring together the heads of the two great department stores in New York City, Macy’s and Gimbles, to shake hands and they end up competing against each other in order to provide funds towards the purchase of a much needed x-ray machine for Kris Kringle’s doctor friend. It goes like this:
Macy: I have something that I would like to give our friend here [referring to Kris Kringle]. This is just a little something to show my appreciation for all you’ve done.
Kringle: Oh, that’s very kind of you.
Gimble: [To Macy] I didn’t think you were that generous. [To Kringle] That’s a bit of money. What are you going to do with it?
Kringle: Well, I have a friend. A doctor. He’s been very kind to me. He needs an x-ray machine.
Macy: Oh, I don’t think that’s going to be enough. I’d better give ...
Gimble (interjects): I’llll make up the difference.
Macy: Buy it through the store and get a 10% discount!
Gimble: I can get it for cost.
The three men laugh.
At the end of the movie there is a new x-ray machine waiting for Kringle’s doctor friend.
So, it is with this same spirit of bringing people together to accomplish something good, grand even, that we thought we would bring attention to the challenge faced by Park Lane Stables, to two great competitors of our own time, Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
What if Pepsi and Coca-Cola ran a campaign with images of horses placed upon their respective cans and contributed just a few pennies, or even a fraction of a penny, from the sale of each can to support legitimate equestrian needs, such as those of Park Lane Stables?
There are of course other endeavours to make note of. On By the Love of Horses, we have spoken to Valerie Angeli, VP of Engagement for the Equus Foundation, which champions the care of American Horses, Janice Kirkpatrick of Scotland about her Project to Save the Clydesdale, Meggan Hill-McQueeney, COO of Bravehearts Therapeutic Riding Centre, where mustangs and war veterans, teenagers and children, some having PTSD, all needing healing, find help in one another.
Here in Canada, there is the emergency campaign “For the Herd” run by Ontario Equestrian to help feed horses during the pandemic. We also we soon visit the Can Praxis organization which seeks to help Canadian veterans and first responders who suffer from PTSD.
I also want to mention the work of the Brooke organisation which helps the 100 Million Horses, Donkeys And Mules Who Support 600 Million Of The World's Poorest People.
Obviously, I am not even touching the surface of what a global help list could look like. However, by asking Coca-Cola and Pepsi to offer their support to Park Lane Stables and others, by putting an equestrian photo on some of their cans, with people knowing that when they chose their favourite soft drink, a very small portion of the price would be going to help horses during this very difficult time, we could in effect address many of suchlike legitimate equestrian needs.
And that would be a very grand miracle indeed!