It is random acts of kindness day, and as the news continues to reveal a pretty turbulent world, it feels especially relevant this year. Sometimes it’s good to stop, take a breath, and think about the little things you can do to positively impact those around you. Monica Dickens, great granddaughter to Charles Dickens, took this one step further. Disillusioned with the privileged world she was brought up in, Dickens got expelled from her exclusive school (which prevented her being presented as a Debutante at court) and decided to go into service, a controversial choice at the time. The contrast between the world she had come from, and the hardship she witnessed when she went into service, opened her eyes to the suffering of others. She went on to work extensively with the NSPCC and the Samaritans.
Her book of 1953, No More Meadows, reflected her work with the NSPCC and she later helped to found the American Samaritans in Massachusetts, which inspired her book The Listeners. Between 1970 and 1971 she wrote a series of children’s books known as The Worlds End Series which dealt with rescuing animals, and to some extent, children.
In The Listeners, Dickens explores what drives you to be a Samaritan. Whether it is the need to help others, or if you are responding to a damaged part of yourself. It follows the stories of those in need, and those that answer their calls. The depth of understanding that Dickens has gained from real life experience shines through, creating a nuanced and insightful novel.
Her World’s End Series, featuring a family of siblings forced to fend for themselves in the country, caught the imagination of children when originally published in the 1970s. Carrie, Tom, Em and Michael Fielding have to avoid social workers, figure out how to feed themselves, all whilst caring for a menagerie of rescued animals. The House at World’s End, first book in the series, follows the children as they settle into their new home, and hatch a plan to save a beaten old horse from the knacker’s yard.
In 1977, Monica moved to America, where she set up the Cape Cod branch of the Samaritans, having been inspired by her work in London with Chad Varah, founder of the Samaritans. In a marriage of her extensive charity work, and her great grandfather’s legacy, Monica reads the audiobook of A Christmas Carol, as it was read to her by her grandfather, who in turn heard it from the author himself. Proceeds benefit Samaritan crisis lines, support groups for those who have lost someone to suicide, and community outreach programs. This recording is the original radio version which has been enhanced by new music and engineering to honour them both.
Whether it is offering up your seat on the train to someone who needs it more on your way home tonight, or simply smiling at someone that looks a bit down, we wish you a happy, thoughtful, and relaxing Friday!