One of my favourite places on the planet is the Lake District in England and despite what most Londoners might tell you its not that grim up north; the Lakes is actually spectacularly beautiful.
It’s an area that attracts all different kinds of visitors from causal holiday makers to mountain bikers and serious walkers. There is something for everyone both young and old, which brings me onto today’s tale…
On a recent trip to the Lakes we decided to hike Helvellyn and started from the Thirlmere Reservoir side, one of the quieter routes. It was a beautiful summers day with temperatures of 25c and little to no cloud coverage – It might as well have been the Sahara Desert (I swear I should have been born ginger), but I digress.
So shortly after starting our climb we came across an elderly gentleman, he was in his 80s dressed in a tweed suit, tie and dress shoes. He was carrying an umbrella and a small bag. He looked so out of place, he wasn’t dressed for the activity and didn’t look like someone who regularly went out hiking. Most worryingly of all, he was alone.
As we caught up to him we stopped to have a chat and make sure he was ok. We offered him some water which he gratefully declined and replied “I have some orange and a bar of chocolate”.??? He was one of those old folk that you meet and just want to squeeze them and take them home.
Satisfied he was ok we went on our way and asked the people that we passed coming in the opposite direction to check on him and make sure that he was ok and not distressed. As we climbed I kept looking over my shoulder unable to shake the urge of wanting to look after him. I could see him in the distance slowly making his way. I figured that we would meet him again on our return journey.
We must have spent the best part of an hour at the summit taking pictures, admiring the view and having something to eat. Just as we started our descent as predicted we crossed paths once again. I asked if he was ok and if he’d eaten his chocolate – he hadn’t he was waiting until he’d reached the top. ??? He had brought along an old disposable camera and asked if we would take a picture of him for his album, after a few snaps we wished him well and we each went on our way.
There were plenty of people at the summit who I’m sure would have loved him and made a fuss which gave me comfort that he would be ok and would continue to enjoy his day out.
For me the loveliest thing about meeting this gentleman and the thing that I absolutely love is the fact that he woke up that morning and said to himself “I’m going to climb a mountain today” and then went out there and did it! I don’t know this mans circumstances, maybe he had just lost his wife and wanted to keep himself busy, maybe he just wanted to enjoy the sunshine and do something different but I do know that I will remember him for a long time to come. I hope I have his spirit when I’m his age, although I doubt my knees will last that long.
Never underestimate the power of a simple “are you ok?” or taking two minutes to stop and take an interest, it really can make the world of difference to someone. Thankfully this gentleman was fine but what if he wasn’t and we’d just walked on by? It doesn’t bare thinking about. There are a lot of good people out there in the world and I would like to think that a stranger would look out for my loved ones in similar circumstances should they ever need it.
I did some dementia awareness training this past week at my day job and I couldn’t stop thinking about this gentleman the entire time. The take home message was this: Think and communicate from the heart and you will not go far wrong. People might not remember exactly what you said to them but they will remember how you made them feel. I think this is something that we can all take into our everyday lives. Be kind.