After 30 years running to keep fit, I am now due for a hip resurfacing later this week. I will ignore the irony of ‘keeping fit’ and the damage that has caused, and also the fact that I am selfishly pleased that the operation is actually scheduled and won’t be affected by either NHS ‘efficiency savings’ or GP commissioning. This blog is, instead, about the way I am being seen by others.
For the last couple of months I have largely been reduced to using a walking stick to help me get around, and the lurching walk together with the prematurely white hair perhaps makes me look a bit older than I am. But I have been affected by the (completely unexpected) way in which strangers, young and old, and often completely against stereotype, have helped me. White vans stop to allow me across the road, and ‘hooray henry’ types offer me their seat on the Tube. I am grateful for these unexpected courtesies, of course, and say so.
But I have been most impressed by the behaviour of young people towards me, whether alone or in groups, in school uniform or in casual clothing, during the day or in the evening. I have been the recipient of universal, spontaneous and automatic consideration and have never, not once, been ignored, as I have to say I had more than half expected.
It just goes to show that even those of us who have worked extensively with and for young people and know them well can hold stereotypes that are just plain wrong. I have learned something important, and I writing to say so, and to thank all those young people who have helped me, and would help me, without any expectation of reward. This is a genuine example of the Big Society writ small.