How We Judge Our So­ci­ety

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Made­line Mul­hol­land Stanstead

Ma­hatma Ghandi once said ‘You can judge a so­ci­ety by how it treats its’ weak­est mem­bers.’ Evict­ing the el­derly and in­firmed, with­out no­tice, in the dead of win­ter con­sti­tutes a moral blem­ish on any so­ci­ety that would con­done it. White House se­niors, many in frag­ile health, were torn from their home, town, friends, sup­port net­work and, in some cases, the only fam­ily they had; the White House fam­ily. But Stanstead showed its’ moral char­ac­ter and ral­lied to sup­port those af­fected by the in­ci­dent at the White House al­most two weeks ago.

This story is not re­ally about the vic­tim­iza­tion of the el­derly, but our com­mu­nity’s sup­port of them, our ‘weak­est mem­bers’. It is about the char­ac­ter of our com­mu­nity, the so­cial fab­ric we have all wo­ven to sup­port ev­ery mem­ber of our so­ci­ety. Stanstead’s White House in­ci­dent was the lit­mus test that demon­strated how suc­cess­fully Stanstead has wo­ven this fab­ric and how we pro­tected our weak­est mem­bers when the need pre­sented it­self.

Un­be­knownst to many, the se­niors were vis­ited by young men from Stanstead Col­lege ev­ery Thurs­day af­ter­noon for well over a year. Max Daniel, Ryan Smith and An­thony Pasquale used to visit Stanstead’s White House. With con­sis­tency and re­li­a­bil­ity they came ev­ery week to of­fer com­pan­ion­ship to many who had no vis­i­tors or fam­ily call­ing on them. These boys qui­etly and mod­estly sup­ported those in need and in do­ing so, have left a mean­ing­ful mark on many of those at the White House.

This week I vis­ited Stanstead Col­lege be­cause it was brought to my at­ten­tion that these stu­dents were up­set over the evic­tion. They had been given no warn­ing, were can­celled last minute and had no way of say­ing good­bye or hav­ing news on those se­niors with whom they had be­come close.

Re­counted to me by these young men were sto­ries of the warm and en­thu­si­as­tic re­cep­tion they re­ceived each week. The room would fill up shortly af­ter their ar­rival. They spoke en­thu­si­as­ti­cally of their vis­its and with re­gret of their some­times thwarted ef­forts to com­mu­ni­cate with those un­able to speak. They each laughed af­fec­tion­ately about one se­nior in par­tic­u­lar, Hazel, who was in her nineties and would al­ways greet them and say good­bye with hugs for each of them. They spoke of be­ing strongly af­fected and sad­dened by the death of res­i­dents in the past and also how this sit­u­a­tion was sim­i­lar. They were un­able to say good­bye af­ter the evic­tion and are frus­trated at how the se­niors were treated. Ex­press­ing em­pa­thy at what they went through, the stu­dents re­gret they are un­able to have news or visit with them.

Orig­i­nally in­tend­ing to write about the young vol­un­teers’ re­ac­tion to the White House af­fair, I now felt com­pelled to go a step fur­ther, be­cause these boys made it clear these were mean­ing­ful re­la­tion­ships that had been sev­ered. They were wor­ried about peo­ple for whom they cared. I then de­cided to track down the se­niors and let them know the boys were wor­ried and wanted news. I was look­ing for Hazel in par­tic­u­lar, who I found by days end sitting down to din­ner in a home in Ayer’s Cliff.

It was at this point was pre­sented with an­other chal­lenge. In the con­fu­sion of the move, Hazel had lost her hear­ing aid. She could not hear a word I said. De­ter­mined to com­mu­ni­cate the stu­dents’ concern, I wrote her notes on a piece of pa­per – but my light blue ink was il­leg­i­ble. I hunted down a darker ball­point only to be told the ink strokes were too fine to read, the let­ters too small. So I wrote huge let­ters, in thick, repet­i­tive strokes and fi­nally got the mes­sage de­liv­ered. Hazel’s face lit up and tears came to her eyes. She im­me­di­ately spoke of the boys hug­ging her and her ea­ger­ness to see them ev­ery week. She said she al­ways had good vis­its, the boys were very nice, in­tel­li­gent. She noted they were faith­ful in com­ing ev­ery week and she smiled when telling me how they would all jump up to hug her when­ever she came into the room.

My visit ended with Hazel telling me to as­sure the boys she was okay and not to worry. Then, be­fore ris­ing, she wrapped her arms around her­self, still with tears in her eyes, and asked me to tell them she was await­ing her next hug. She asked if I could get her a photo of them. I ended our chat promis­ing her I would do my best.

The fol­low­ing morn­ing the Col­lege col­lab­o­rated by track­ing the boys down and hav­ing them pose for a photo for their friend Hazel. The Col­lege is talk­ing of ar­rang­ing an­other visit for Hazel and her favourite boys for an­other hug.

photo Made­line Mul­hol­land

Hazel tear­fully read­ing a note from her ‘boys’ at Stanstead Col­lege.

Stanstead stu­dents Ryan Smith, Max Daniel, and An­thony Pasquale, who vis­ited se­niors at the White House ev­ery Thurs­day, were up­set when the White House closed sud­denly and con­cerned about the many friends they had made there.

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