The Dineen Lecture is financed by a gift from parents, following Dr Dineen’s retirement as Headmistress of Woldingham in 1997. It was her wish that an annual lecture be delivered by a notable person, or persons, whose personality and achievements can provide inspiration to the girls. This year’s lecture, given by Henry Fraser, could not have met her wish more fully.
Ten years ago, when Henry was 17, his life changed whilst on holiday in Portugal. He ran into the sea, dived into the surf and damaged his spinal cord, leaving him unable to move his arms and legs. As he describes it, “my new life began that day”.
In a packed auditorium, in which a pin could have been heard dropping, Henry told us about his accident, about the many, many months he spent in hospital, and about his life since then, in which he has rediscovered his childhood love of art – now using just his mouth to paint and draw – and become, somewhat to his surprise, an author and public speaker.
There were many questions for Henry at the end of his talk, one of which was, “if you could, would you go back to your old life?” His answer: “only if I could know then the things I know now.” And the things that Henry has learned were food for thought for us all, and included:
Accept what is, and adapt. Don’t waste energy on things you can’t change – move on.
If you know someone is struggling, demonstrate that you care - ‘the little big things’ really matter. For him, the many messages he received in hospital were hugely important and he read and re-read them during this very difficult time.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Be grateful for little things: fresh air, sunshine, food, the love of those close. This is mood enhancing. Think of what you can do and not what you can’t do.
The greater the challenge, the greater you can become. Being challenged is inevitable. Being defeated is optional. Not being successful used to terrify Henry and he wouldn’t do some things because he didn’t want to fail. Now he lives in the moment and strives to do whatever he is doing as well as he possibly can.
Our grateful thanks to Henry for a truly inspirational Dineen Lecture, and to WPSA for arranging this.