Ron and Marion HowardRon and Marion Holland  will be awarded the Cross of St Piran for a lifetime of love for their community, wherever that may be. They are an inspiring couple, always ready to help and always cheerfully so.

Many of us say, “Someone should do something about that.” But Ron and Marion just get on and do it. Not out of a sense of duty, but because they love people and its impossible not to love them back. It troubles them how lonely and isolated people can be, especially the elderly and people living with dementia. But rather than worrying about it, they do something.

Taking the time to let people talk, and to listen

Ron will sit on a bench with the older gentlemen who wander down the hill, giving them time to talk. Marion will wait for hours with an older lady who’s fallen, doing what she can to speed up the response from the ambulance service. Both heard that the Memory Café they helped set up was great, but people wanted more chances to meet together. Or to have respite from the loved ones they were caring for. So they set up Natter Chatter. And when some of their number struggle to get there, Ron collects them in his car.

“For some, this could be the only time they get out of their homes in a week. One lady used to tell me how her husband rarely spoke at home. Yet, when he came to the Memory Café, he could talk for hours.” Neither Ron or Marion professes to be expert in Alzheimer’s, but they understand enough to know that people have a need to be together, to be able to talk and to feel like they belong.

As Ron says, “When one lady asked me to pop in on her husband so she could have a break, I just took an engineering manual round because he had a Master’s degree in it. We both had a lovely time. I loved to hear him talk about his past, and he loved to be heard. He might not remember after I left that I had even been there, but for that time he was happy and felt valued. And so did his wife.”

“He might not remember after I left that I had even been there, but for that time he was happy and felt valued. And so did his wife,” says Ron

Why do Ron and Marion bother?

So why are Marion and Ron wired like this? What is it that prompts them to pick up the phone to check that everyone’s okay? Or find space for people to meet, bake fabulous cakes at the drop of a hat? To start a cinema club, check builders are doing a proper job for a worried neighbour, or answer any of the great many pastural care callings from within their community?

“For me it’s the Lord,” says Marion. “My prayer is that He will use my hands, feet and eyes and direct them to where He wants me to go.” Marion first felt the tangible presence of God in her life when her daughter Coral was born prematurely at 27 weeks. A nun at the hospital advised her to pray.  “They weren’t sure Coral would make it through the night. So I did. I prayed and by the morning she was off the danger list.”

Ron first discovered the love of God when selected aged 11 to be a choir boy in Hackney. “Most of the other boys weren’t interested, but I just felt something incredible that I really wanted to be part of.” He became lead choirboy and once sang at St Paul’s Cathedral. “I’ve thought so much about what that church in Hackney meant to me.”

A lifetime of being cared for and caring for others

Ron went on to travel the world as an engineer with Ford Motor Company and always had a sense that he’s been looked after. Like when he undertook a sponsored cycle ride from Land’s End to John O Groats. He unwittingly cycled through the sites of the London bombings, two days before they went off in 2005. Or when he was persuaded to be a church warden. He really didn’t have the time, but found it gave him great peace in a busy life. Or when he was offered the chance to take his family and work in France, despite his rusty O Level French.

Talking with Ron and Marion Holland, it’s quickly apparent their lives have been crammed full of people they have loved. Acts of kindness shown to them, opportunities that came their way, people who went above and beyond. All of which they remember, cherish and have learnt from. They say nothing is wasted in God’s economy, and nothing has been wasted on Ron and Marion. For every kindness they have been shown, they have passed on tenfold.

They will be blushing when they accept their Cross of St Piran award at the weekend, but a great many, past and present, will be cheering.