Rise Up And Serve

Yesterday I had the privilege to sing at the inauguration of the new Lord Mayor of Swansea.  I have known Mike Day for many years.  In that time he has been a father, grandfather, member of a church, leader of a church, a carer, a full time educator and a local councillor.  As is often said, if you want something done…ask a busy person.

Now I’m sure he is well aware of the time and energy that this extra commitment will demand. I know he will be supported as he always has been by his wife Christine but it’s going to be a busy and very tiring year.

So why is he doing it?

The honour of being Lord Mayor only comes to a councillor who has shown a long term commitment to public service, but even if you are next in line for the job it’s not always plain sailing.  About a month ago I was asked by Mike if I was prepared in principle to sing at his inauguration.  It wasn’t a firm offer because he wasn’t sure if it would go ahead.  This wasn’t due to Covid, a problem some of the recent Swansea Mayor’s have had to deal with.  No, Mike was standing in the local elections in May and if he hadn’t been re- elected he wouldn’t have been Lord Mayor at all.

Lord and Lady Mayoress Mike and Chris Day with The Mace Bearers.

Over the coming weeks you will see Mike in his robes and wearing the chain of office at all sorts of events.  Come Christmas, he and Christine will probably hear ‘Away in A Manger’ more times in a month than most people will in a lifetime.  They will smile and make speeches, shake hands and kiss babies and smile again.  I’m told by previous Lord Mayors that their year in office was one of the most rewarding years of their lives but by the end of it they were completely exhausted.

The reason I was at the Inauguration was that Mike had recently heard a song I had co-written to mark the Platinum Jubilee.  I had been given a title for the song and a few bars written by a couple of Irish lads, but the rest was more or less down to me. The job was to try to write a people’s anthem to be sung by schools and church groups at their Jubilee celebrations.

It seems that this country is more divided on more issues than it has been for many years.  One of those divisions appears to be the role of the Royal Family in our modern world; but I think whatever your feelings, Republican or Royalist it would be hard to question the commitment Queen Elizabeth II has given to public service over the past 70 years.

There wasn’t a lot of guidance as to what the song should sound like or say but I had at least been given a title.  To commemorate her life of service the song would be called ‘Rise Up and Serve’.  Mike had heard the song and thought it was an appropriate way to mark the start of his year as Lord Mayor. 

On stage at the Brangwyn Hall performing Rise Up And Serve.

Royalty isn’t the only topic that can divide people in 21st Century Britain.  Another is politics and politicians.

For me, one of the most damaging aspects of modern political life is the mudslinging. Sadly that mud sticks to all politicians, good and bad.  In recent months, instead taking responsibility for mistakes politicians and commentators try to point at mistakes of their opponents leaving the public thinking well, they are all the same. 

The mistake I think being made is that whilst in the short term accusing your opponents of the same crimes you have made might help turn the heat off you for a while but in the long run it starts to erode our confidence in politics all together.

Whilst it seems pretty obvious that some politicians are indeed in it for all they can get, I don’t think that applies to all of them. In fact I don’t think it applies to most of them. In the wise words of the Osmond Brothers, ‘One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch girl!. One bad apple politician doesn’t mean all politicians are rotten.

It’s hard for any of us to truly understand our motivation but I still believe that most politicians are drawn to politics to make a difference, to help and to serve. That is especially true in local politics.

Over the next year you might see Mike, in his finery, at some reception or another but what you won’t have seen is the hours he has spent trying to solve the problems of his local constituents.

It got me thinking about all sorts of service, especially in the voluntary sector.  Every day people give up their time and money to organise concerts and choirs.  Volunteer support groups work with the most vulnerable in our communities. There are sporting coaches helping to encourage a new generation of sports men and women. 

Now I’m sure there is a great degree of personal satisfaction gained by these activities, but it takes special people to give up their time after working all day to go out on a football pitch or turn up at a rehearsal.  Without them out society wouldn’t be the same.

If the experts are to be believed we are about to experience some of the toughest times economically for a generation.  Some people will be desperate, some may slip through the gaps.

Now, as maybe never before in my lifetime we need to people to ‘Rise Up and Serve’.

With so many problems facing us at the moment it can leave us feeling helpless and hopeless.  It got so bad for me last week that one night I had to turn the late night news off on BBC 1 and instead watched Whitehouse and Mortimer on BBC 2 fishing. I simply couldn’t take any more bad news.

The new recording and Video features the Morriston Orpheus.

But it was the horrific news footage from the war in Ukraine that showed this country still has a massive heart. My faith in human beings has been restored over the past few weeks. While the nightmarish war in Ukraine rolls on night after night, the outpouring of love and support for refugees shows that people really want to help and will open the doors to take in strangers in need. 

As the ‘cost of living’ becomes a bigger news story over the coming weeks I just pray that we don’t allow ourselves to become numb to the pain being felt by people in our communities as they struggle to simply get by.  I was chatting to a friend who helps out in a foodbank in the Rhondda and they told me some days the queues stretch out of their church and down the road. 

I still find it incomprehensible that one of the richest countries in the world has more foodbanks than McDonalds restaurants.  But we must not that bad news stop us from fighting for justice and working together.

At the heart of Mike Day’s Inauguration was the message ‘Rise Up and Serve’.  I just hope that its more than just a song I helped write, I hope it proves to be a call to action for me…and you!

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