Open letter to little children: My 5 Secrets

Tuesday 22 May 2012

I did not sleep last night.

It is a rare occurrence for me but it is one that re-appears from time to time and has done so since I was a small child in a world of silence.

I know the triggers and when I was a child I wanted to run from them. I wanted to hide; I wanted to dodge and weave and pretend I wasn’t there to face the inevitable bullets that would shortly shaft into my consciousness with the precision of a trained marksman.

But I also knew…instinctively, I guess…that until I built up a line of defence, the process would repeat itself.

I did build up that defence – and as I child I called it ‘My 5 Secrets’. It’s stood me in good stead over the years.

Last night the triggers were the relentless attacks on one person who has been pushed to the edge of despair…a feeling I know so well…and I had to work very hard to get my defence working today. I did so with a lot of help from some dear friends...most of whom I have never met.

This is the reason for this letter to the children. If you think it useful I would love you to share it with a child you know.


My dear little Children

Chances are that someone is reading this to you or at least paraphrasing it (you might have to ask them what that means).

And chances are, also that that person is someone to whom I once said ‘Hello’ from the television set when he or she was a child. Maybe it’s your Grandma or Grandpa or do you say Poppa or Nanna like my granddaughters do?

I have no idea what age you are…but one thing I do know is that I am a LOT older than you. I’m 72 and that makes me as old as some of the trees you see in your park. The good thing is…I don’t have leaves sprouting out of my head…well at least I didn’t, last time I looked.

Now cuddle in a little closer because I want to tell you a few secrets that I learnt from MY Nanna.

Secret 1
There is always going to be something that somebody can do and you can’t. Someone will be able to run faster than you…or sing better…or be really good at Maths and Spelling and other yukky stuff.

My Nanna told me this…and it helped me not to be jealous of my friends.

Secret 2
There is always going to be something that YOU can do that nobody else can do. You might know what that something is right now…or it might take you quite a few years to discover it…but you can be sure that it is there because you are UNIQUE. That means that there is nobody else in the whole wide world exactly like you…even if you’re a twin.

Nanna seemed to think I needed to know this…and I soon found out she was right.

The thing about these two secrets is that they are both good! It’s rather wonderful that we can all do something better than anybody else and that’s why we can be happy for our friends and our family. But here’s another secret that Nanna knew.

Secret 3
Not everybody KNOWS what it is that they can do better than anyone else. Do YOU know? Do you think your best friend knows? Or Grandma? Maybe you could help them find it.

Now this brings me to Secret 4, which is a little bit tricky.

Secret 4
Sometimes we seem to be DIFFERENT from everybody else.

 I was!

When I was just a really little kid I couldn’t hear anything like the other kids could…and I still can’t. They said I had ‘profound hearing loss’ which is really just another way of saying I was deaf. Sometimes when you can’t hear anything, you can’t talk…but for some reason, I could talk even though I couldn’t hear my own voice. This meant that most of the kids didn’t understand that I was deaf. But some kids from another school found out. They used to wait for me to come out of my school gate and they’d make a circle around me and start to call me names and push me around inside their circle and ask me to repeat what they were saying…then they’d laugh when I couldn’t. Other kids would join in and soon there’d be a big crowd all pushing and pointing at me and laughing.

Somehow Nanna found out about this and that’s why she taught me about Secret 2.  Have a quick look at it again.

I realized that if I concentrated really hard and looked very carefully at the way the other kids’ mouths moved, I could tell what they were saying. I didn’t know it then, but I later learnt that it’s called ‘lip-reading’. This was something I could do that nobody else could do...and it felt great.

Now I didn’t let on for ages that I could do this…because I wanted to be really good at it before I let anyone know. Then one day when they were saying really terrible things about me I yelled out ‘STOP! I DIDN’T steal Jimmy’s apple and I’m NOT a stupid dummy and I'm not a liar and I’m…I’m NOT going to be taken away and put in a madhouse!’ Every cruel and mean thing they had said to me, I repeated straight back at them.

Well…you would have thought a ghost had them by their pants. They took off and didn’t try that again.

Now this brings me to Secret 5 which is really rather exciting.

Just for a few minutes go back and have a look at Secret 1.

It’s about everybody else isn’t it. It says that everybody can do something special. Well, I learnt to use that as a secret weapon…not a weapon that would hurt anyone…but one that would help ME because the teasing was still going on with other kids who said I was 'different'. Here it is.

Secret 5
 I would look at each kid as he or she was teasing me and I’d concentrate really hard - just like when I was learning to Lip-Read - and I’d think about Secret 1 and try to work out what each kid’s special thing was. What could they do that nobody else could?

And a really wonderful thing happened.

I tried it out on Harry. He was a really big kid for his age…and some said he was a bully at his own school. He was yelling at me and poking at me with a stick so I thought hard about what it could be that Harry could do that nobody else could.

And I suddenly remembered something. At the Inter-School sports day a few days earlier, Harry wasn’t running – mainly because he couldn’t – so he was messing around behind the drinks stand. I was having a drink – because I’d done a lot of running – and I saw Harry bob down suddenly and pick something up from near the garbage cans. It was a tiny bird and it was very scared…and it appeared to have a broken wing. Well…I could hardly believe it…big bully Harry picked that bird up and stroked it and started talking to it ever so gently. He had it quiet and settled in no time. I think he took it home.

That was it! That was Harry’s SOMETHING. And as I looked at Harry I thought about that…and do you know what happened?

Harry gave me a funny look…threw the stick down…and just walked away. Later we became friends and he told me he wanted to be a Vet or a Zoo-Keeper but his Dad had said he was too stupid and too fat. Can you imagine how Harry must have felt? He said that when I looked at him and he threw away the stick, he felt ashamed...but he also knew that somehow he WOULD become a Vet.


Well – they’re my 5 Secrets…and you can have them. Put them in your pocket right now and take them with you wherever you go.

If you do that, you will find you have the most powerful thing you could possibly own. You can use it when other kids are mean, or things go wrong or you don't feel great. 

Do you know what it is? Here’s a clue.

 It can give you respect
And the freedom to fly
The wisdom to solve things
And help passers by
It can help little children
And men tall as hills
Make everything equal
And heal lots of ills
It can calm any anger
And rid you of fear
It’s there in your pocket
For laughter or tear
It’s there for the asking
As tame as a dove
I think you have guessed it
Of course it’s called LOVE


  1. Fantastic post! I had deja vu reading this post thinking I'd read this before. Being one of your children, I've just realised you have being installing these secrets into my head over the past 2 decades. Nice to seem them all on one page!

  2. You are indeed my elder, married son of whom I am so proud. Yes - unfortunately you now have access to my actions of the past and may well have cause to blackmail me! But on a serious note...I would not be writing this Blog were it not for your encouragement. I love you.

  3. Gorgeous. Love that example with Harry! Thoughts have power!
    So glad to have come across you on twitter. All I knew was your name is familiar. Guess I missed out growing up in 70s & 80s! :)