24 Dec Share Your Story – Ben
My name is Ben Hardy. I am from a part of Derbyshire that overlaps the Pennines, which is known as the High Peak. This is known as the Dark Peak area of moorland borders, Greater Manchester. I have never left the UK or lived in a place more urban than Oxford. Me and my family are Christians, involved in the Fresh Expressions movement. While we lived in Cornwall for three years, my Mum went on a retreat at Lee Abbey Devon. In July 2017, I found out I had a place study for a year with the National Youth Theatre on their Theatre Arts Access course in Holloway. I went to London for this course, but stayed for the rest of summer 2018 for a role in a single day scratch performance in the West End with NYT.
Originally, the course was set to be in East London but a last-minute change meant that in August NYT told me and my parents the course had changed its location to North London. This caused much stress for my Mum, who was now trying to find completely new accommodation options for two months time. This was one too many things for my Mum at that time, who was having a tough year. Because of this, Mum looked up the possibility of going on a retreat at Lee Abbey Devon but instead discovered Lee Abbey London.
Lee Abbey had many aspects that made it attractive for me to choose for living accommodation. These were primarily safety, convenience for travelling to Central and North London, and good value for money, relative to London. I have a disability that makes me more vulnerable than most adults. The brilliant thing I soon discovered was that the social spaces and living spaces were far greater than advertised. I was suddenly in a melting pot of many peoples and cultures. I didn’t need to travel the World, because the World came to me.
Very soon, I started talking with people from all over the Earth every day, Christian and non-Christian. It was now a place where I found people that became deep personal friends, from all across the World. A few of these people were Christians who thought about their faith deeply and seriously. The kind of friends who become the people that you speak to when you need someone you trust, the kind of long-term friends that you know you will pray with for years.
This new perspective on life gave me a resolve for my future, a new courage and love for God and Humanity. The intensity of London life for an Asperger’s person was a great drain on my self-esteem. Lee Abbey was an oasis for me to return to restore myself in a place I felt comfortable. The World was opened to me by this place, and I hope this institution continues long into the future. With the newfound hope and purpose I see a new perspective on my existence. I really don’t say this lightly, but I can truly say that Lee Abbey has changed my whole life forever.