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The Kindness of Strangers

Yesterday I had to take our Housekeeper to Victoria Hospital, the closest State hospital to our home in Hout Bay. It was an incredibly humbling experience, in so many ways. The rows of people, the Nurses, the Doctors, the man helping me to get a hospital bed to my car because there were no more trolleys or wheelchairs. The calm, caring manner in which everyone just went about delivering a caring service in what looked like total chaos to me. The charge was R70.00, to which the Admin Clerk added “If you can pay it now it will be great.”

Just another Monday morning…

The Care Sector truly operates on the back (literally and figuratively speaking) of angels. Why would any doctor or nurse choose to work in such chaos and mayhem?

Why not choose a private hospital with order and strict management rules, scheduled appointments and enough equipment?

I also had the privilege of being part of a discussion group that is hoping to build an age-friendly community in a low/middle-income neighbourhood. Yes someone will make money, but the conversation was focused on mindful community creation. Businessmen who care about their aunties and uncles, whilst taking into consideration sustainable development that is also environmentally focused.

Whilst I hear the discontent and grumblings about how our country is going to the gods, I see so much love and care around me, especially in our so-called ‘poorer’ communities. In Care Homes and community centres. On Mandela Day I was told that one of our employees (someone working in a kitchen as a Cleaner) who once a week makes soup for those in need in his community. He is not a man of means, but he makes a difference. Is it not fascinating that often it is the people who have the least that give the most? Creating community.

Last night I had an international conference call with some colleagues about changing the culture of care for older people. It would seem that we can no longer rely on the basic humanity of people, that we have to spend BILLIONS globally to try and teach people how to care. Speaking to young Occupational Therapy students from the USA this morning, I am touched by their bright-eyed look at the world of ageing, and I have to really guard against sounding like a cynical old man….

If you start looking for the good, the good will find you, it will present itself in ways that you never thought possible, and it will change your view of the world. Go and spend a few hours in the emergency room at Victoria Hospital, or any other state hospital. Speak to the people who work there, buy them a cake. In every single care home that I have spent time in, I have been amazed at the patience, tolerance, the forgiveness of people who have to do this job day in and day out. They are the heroes, the people who we should look up to.

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