I’m Having the Time of My Life
Handling the good times and the bad
by Brian Radcliffe
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To explore our understanding of a positive view on life, particularly in troubled times (SEAL theme: Managing Feelings).
Preparation and materials
Note: this assembly contains material that relates to bereavement and relationships with parents. Please be sensitive to the situations and current needs of the students present. You may prefer to use the material for class assemblies and smaller groups.
Have available the True Tube video ‘To Life’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 8.38 minutes long and is available at: https://www.truetube.co.uk/film/life
- Have available the YouTube video ‘Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 2.31 minutes long and is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnQ8N1KacJc
Leader: I wonder what we think about our parents. Do we ever stop to think about them? Do we look at them dispassionately, weighing them up as people? They may represent a different generation and they may have different views from us, but hopefully, there are some aspects of their character and personality that are to be admired.
Sadly, there are also likely to be some traits that we find less pleasing. Sometimes, it is a surprise (or even a shock!) that we recognize some of their same qualities and characteristics in ourselves. We can see traces of their admirable and less admirable traits in us. It seems as if it’s genetic, passed on from one generation to the next.
I’d like to show you a video about what gets passed on from one generation to another. It’s honest and real. For some, it might even be a little upsetting. However, the message is very positive and I hope that by the end, you’ll find it uplifting.
Let’s meet a young woman called Tanwen.
Play the True Tube video ‘To Life’, available at: https://www.truetube.co.uk/film/life
Time for reflection
Leader: Thankfully, motor neurone disease is not too common. It is a disease that damages parts of the nervous system and progressively gets worse. To be given that diagnosis must be devastating. Yet what was Tanwen’s dad’s response when asked how he was doing? He replied, ‘I’m having the time of my life.’ It is hard to be sure what he meant by this, especially because he was aware of all the things he could no longer do, and knew that he had a limited length of time to live. Maybe he was concentrating on every moment of pleasure, every shared experience that he could. More than that, he wanted his daughter to also have the time of her life. He didn’t ask her to delay her travelling plans. He wanted her to go and to fulfil her hopes and ambitions.
The onset of the disease could not have come as a surprise to Tanwen’s dad. He knew that it was a genetic illness, passed down the generations, and that it could strike him. The same is true for Tanwen. As she said, she, her brothers and her cousins all have a 50 per cent chance of developing the disease. Yet she, too, appears to be concentrating on having the time of her life.
What do we do when problems crop up for us or those we are close to? Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of Tanwen’s dad first. I suspect that, as his health deteriorated, what was important to him became simpler: to wake each day, to enjoy the sun in the garden, to go for walks and to hear reports of what Tanwen was doing. We’re not told about the rest of the family, but we’re given the sense that for him, life itself was enough. He was contented. Also, it’s as if he’d taken the decision that he wasn’t going to bring an atmosphere of depression into the family. He was going to positively enjoy every moment he spent with them.
What about Tanwen? It must have been hard to go travelling. Her decision to do so was helped by her dad almost giving her permission, assuring her that he would be there when she returned. Second, she reached a pragmatic compromise, shortening her time away and buying a flexible flight ticket so that she could return at short notice. She was thinking of her dad’s condition, but also taking an opportunity to expand her own horizons, to experience new places and situations and to grow as a person. When we have a responsibility to care for someone - and there will be those among us for whom this is the case - it’s important that we also keep ourselves healthy in body, mind and spirit. To care for someone else, we need to be in a good place ourselves. It’s not helpful to anyone if we become down, miserable and even ill.
To be a carer - whether in some small way when a friend has a problem or in a bigger way when a family member is ill or has personal issues - is a calling. It involves some self-denial. It can be exhausting. It takes up time and energy. To be a good carer, it’s important to ensure that we also have the time of our lives when we take a break.
Thank you for every good and enjoyable experience that happens to us.
Remind us of them every time we are tempted to feel down.
Please help those who are going through a tough time.
Please help us to be sensitive, to care, to help and to make every effort to understand people’s situations.
May we share the time of our lives with one another.
‘Good riddance (time of your life)’ by Green Day, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnQ8N1KacJc