Don’t hold my hand . . !

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SHE was over eighty, and not too sure of her steps as she fumbled to find the bannister railing, when the shopkeeper came running and extended his hand, “No thank you!” she said gruffly, and then looked at me, as I had suddenly turned and found she wasn’t next to me.

I offered my hand, she held it and we both walked down in silence.It was a few steps away that I asked, “Why didn’t you take his hand?” “He saw a helpless old lady!” my aunt replied. “What about me?” I asked, “You didn’t refuse my hand?” “What do you see when you look at me?” she asked, and her stare was direct and pointed. “A strong woman!” I said, “One who managed well, even after the death of her husband. Who didn’t stop living to spend her life grieving but continued with life, even though she missed him!” “And what do you think the shopkeeper saw?” she asked.

I nodded and understood. The elderly don’t want pity. No, I’m not going into the right or wrong of what my aunt thought of that shopkeeper’s arm of help, but just want to concentrate on the fact that ‘pity’ isn’t a kind word to the elderly. I have seen old people in homes for the aged, who look lifelessly at a group of singers who come and sing or try to cheer them up with a songs, plays or skits during Diwali or Christmas.

They are not entertained or amused. Suddenly a child goes and sits with an old man or woman, and starts talking to him or her, holds his or her hand, and soon you see an animated conversation as the older person starts speaking and the younger listening. Eyes glisten, and faces are lit with joy. Both parties are engrossed in each other’s talk, and towards the end you nearly have to draw them apart. What did that young person give? Pity? Oh no! Respect? Yes! What the aged and elderly ask each day is respect. When you and your siblings sit with your old dad or mom, and give them hugs and kisses but don’t include them in your conversations, what is going out of the window is that very word, ‘respect’!

Respect does not die with age. On the contrary it should grow. You don’t need to wait for the aged to die before you go to the funeral to pay your respects! No, do so while they are still alive, and suddenly those old arms and body, that wrinkled face and bent back, will spring with life again. Respect the old, and watch their youth return..!

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