"There is both a wildness and sensitivity in all of us that is capable of either crushing or caressing what we touch in life.
Most of us are capable of recognising raw beauty or appreciating the bravery of an act. Yet, there are but few capable of smelling the fragrance of a flower whose scent has either been suppressed and is hidden from the atmosphere around it or whose aroma has passed and whose stem remains a shadow of its former self in more ragged body form as it droops evermore towards the ground.
I remember standing in a post office queue when I was a young boy younger than 11 years. Two places in front of me was an old woman with a curved spine that made her face constantly look towards the ground. She was aided by a walking stick and moved very slowly. She appeared to be in her eighties.
Behind her, and immediately in front of me in the queue, was a loud and somewhat coarsely-spoken woman in her forties who was clearly impatient by the slow movement of the queue. As the queue progressed closer towards the counter, the old woman momentarily faltered in her step and paused for breath; thereby creating a space in front of her. Upon seeing this space, the woman behind her ( like an impatient driver on an overcrowded motorway), saw the space and jumped her place in the line, thereby moving ahead of the old woman.
'Do you mind?' the old woman said to the queue jumper, 'but you have just taken my place.'
In an angry voice, the impatient queue jumper replied, 'And who do you think you are granny? You created it and I took it; what's wrong with that? You're too old to be out and about anyway. You're just a twisted old woman with a crooked stick. You should let the Nursing Home collect your pension and that way you'd stop holding up the traffic!'
The old lady looked up towards the rude woman and politely replied, 'If you must know, my name is Mildred Sayer; 'Miss' Mildred Sayer to you, and Milly to my very close friends and remaining family members. Today I may not appear as swift on my feet as I once was, but I'll have you know that I won a silver cup for winning the fastest Yorkshire mile by an 'under sixteen' when I was fourteen years old. At the age of sixteen, I was a beautiful young girl with the finest set of curls that ever crowned a maiden's head. I worked in the civil service during the war years, and after the war, despite receiving four proposals of marriage; one from a Prussian prince and all of which I declined, I decided to live in India for fourteen years, running an orphanage for abandoned children. At the age of 64 years I was awarded the CBE for my services to humanity and when I was 74 years old, I survived two operations to remove cancerous tissue from my body. I am now in my eighty-fourth year and though the curvature of my spine prevents me from looking you directly in the face, your overall tone and demeanour denote you as a person who has fallen foul of life and out of love with herself. Oh, and by the way, you are not the first person to see me as an old woman of insignificance with a stooped posture and a crooked stick, and in all probability, you won't be the last, but be not mistaken; I am much much more than your eyes can see.'
While I cannot recall with the passage of time that has lapsed the precise words that the elderly lady spoke, they approximate the sentiments that I've unfolded above in my own words of today and which my fading memory can accurately bring to mind.
I remember this incident in the post office clearly, even though fifty-five years have since passed since it occurred. The reason it isn't forgotten is that a woman who became my substitute mother after the death of my own mother many years ago, Miss Henrietta Denton, brought the incident back to my mind. Henrietta or Etta as I knew her, who was a beauty in her twenties was struck down with a condition in her fifties that gave her spine a pronounced stoop. By the time Etta had reached her sixties, her head was permanently looking towards the ground and the curvature in her spine had greatly worsened. Her blessing was that despite her restricted peripheral vision, she saw more of life as it really was better than most younger people with excellent peripheral vision.
This recollection from my youth reminded me that whenever our eyes find gaze upon any stranger, we can never see the range of experiences they carry with them; never can we know the joy or pain that they ever felt nor imagine the extent of their expectations and dreams which they currently hold. As Matthew 7 reminds us in the King James version of the Bible, 'Judge not, that ye be judged. For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged.........' "
Love and peace Bill xxx