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February is National Heart Month

13 February 2013

February is National Heart Month

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The British Heart Foundation has designated February as ‘National Heart Month’ in order to promote the benefits of making positive lifestyle choices which may reduce the risk of having a heart attack, and also to raise funds for the pioneering research the charity undertakes in the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease.
A recent BHF campaign on TV featured the footballer and actor Vinnie Jones demonstrating the technique for Hands-Only CPR in time to a backing-track of The Bee Gees hit ‘Stayin’ Alive’. At the end of the film, as Vinnie held up his fists to show the words HARD and FAST spelt out across his knuckles, the message on the screen was “It’s not as hard as it looks”. The combination of Vinnie’s ‘hard-man’ character, the high falsetto voices of The Bee Gees and the lyrics of the song created a humorous and memorable way to deliver a serious message that can, and has saved lives. More information about the work of the BHF can be found at www.bhf.org.uk

Fundraising is a vital source of revenue for any charity and often this fundraising activity is linked to the workplace. Organisations donate materials, resources and man-power to help local or national projects, allow sabbaticals for long-term involvement with VSO or enter charity challenges as team-building exercises for employees. However, for most organisations and the majority of UK workers, charity fundraising definitely ‘isn’t as hard as it looks’ because it involves fun-filled activities like sponsored events, dress-down days or cake sales. No matter what level of corporate involvement, raising money for charity can be an enjoyable aspect of working life that delivers benefits for both the individual and the organisation whilst helping others at the same time. It really is a win, win, win situation.

This month also sees celebrations in many countries for St Valentine’s Day when it is traditional for sweethearts to exchange tokens of love on the 14th February and in a Leap Year, for a woman to propose marriage to a man. The origins of this day are not clear because there are a number of early Christian saints with the same name. However the most popular story associated with Saint Valentine is that he was a Christian priest imprisoned by the Romans because he performed weddings for soldiers who were forbidden in law to get married. Before his execution, St Valentine was said to have written a farewell message "from your Valentine" and since the Middle Ages when Geoffrey Chaucer wrote stories of courting and courtly love, St Valentine’s Day has been associated with romance. Over the years this has evolved into an occasion for presenting flowers or offering confectionery as symbols of love and affection and the popular Victorian activity of sending anonymous hand written ‘valentines’ has grown into a global industry with approx 160 million cards sent on Valentine's Day, according to the Greeting Card Association.

With a focus on matters of the heart this month, a quote from the French author Antione de Saint- Exupéry seems rather appropriate:

“Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward in the same direction”

de Saint-Exupéry, who wrote ‘The Little Prince’, had a short but adventure filled life. Born in 1900 to a family of provincial French nobility, he failed the final examination for university and instead studied architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts. During military service he was offered the opportunity to become a pilot but moved to Paris, took an office job and began to write. During the following years he tried several jobs including bookkeeper and car salesman before flying the mail for commercial airline companies in North Africa and South America.

The isolation of flying and harsh beauty of the desert became the background for The Little Prince and also his second novel, Night Flight, which became an international bestseller and a film starring Clark Gable and Lionel Barrymore in 1933. He later became a test pilot but continued to write and after an aviation accident in North Africa he was lost in the desert for days before being rescued. He was seriously injured in another plane crash in Guatemala but continued to write during his convalescence. It was during World War II when de Saint-Exupéry was in North Africa with the French Air Force that he wrote The Little Prince in which the narrator, a pilot, crash-lands in a desert and meets a boy who turns out to be a Prince from another planet. In the story, the Prince describes his adventures on Earth and tells of the precious rose from his planet. He is disappointed to learn that roses are common on Earth until a desert fox convinces him to love it just the same, thus, having found the meaning for his life, the Prince returns to his own planet. In 1944 Saint-Exupéry took off from Sardinia on a flight over southern France when his plane tragically disappeared. The wreckage of the plane was not found until May 2000.

Although his early years were uneventful, de Saint-Exupéry went on to find adventure, success and happiness in his life, expressing his view that love is about ‘looking outward in the same direction’. For anyone in a relationship, for friends or even for colleagues working together, to be looking in the same direction can only be a good thing.