Lynn Thomas was born in Jamaica in 1938 and has been visiting and supporting older people in their homes for well over twenty seven years. When she left her home in St Katharine and came to England in the early 1960’s the most difficult family separation was that of leaving her grandmother and in a culture of close knit families; this was hardly surprising.
The bond was deep and preciously maintained through daily contact and when this closeness was no longer possible the caring was transferred to others, in the fervent hope that someone back home would continue to care for her grandmother as Lynn had done. These acts of unconditional giving receive no reward that would make her tasks an obligation to others. Lynn Thomas does not ask for payment for what she does through Contact the Elderly, neither does she receive any practical support that would align her work to an organisation and therefore, in recognition of her generous commitment the Mayoress and I were very pleased to welcome Lynn and her ladies to the parlour, some of whom came in their wheel chairs courtesy of help from the accompanying volunteers.
Lynn represents a generation that straddles two cultures that grew up together but on different sides of the Atlantic. The teachings of church and family followed Lynn from her home in Jamaica coming to the United Kingdom with a generation from the Caribbean for whom Great Britain was the mother country and they responded as any child would when faced with adversity. At the beginning of the Second World War, Jamaica was an early contributor to the war effort giving money for aircraft manufacture, collecting from door to door in making it possible for the defence of an island nation so far removed from the shorelines of the West Indies.
Another generation born closer to the home counties, shires and borders, shared the same values as Lynn and started work in our NHS hospitals in the mid 1950’s or early 1960’s with a level of care and compassion that many of the Nightingale Nurses trained at St Thomas’ still guard as their professional reference and ethical bond. Something that Lord Leveson found so difficult to identify throughout his deliberations, since it was a learned behaviour that is now devoid of modelling due to the diminishing profile of those for whom ethics was an expectation of service to others from their very first day as a probationer.
It could be argued that the concept of the big society attempts to put the pieces of an estranged social jigsaw back together again in an uneven competition of provision for those whose expectation is `availability on demand’. Originally each generation made way for the next without counting the costs or evaluating those contributions that we can still thankfully experience through Contact the Elderly, as a legacy from those for whom caring was never something linked to a cost analysis to be set out as government policy. Sadly, that same generation were the regular building society savers, who now find their modest investments reduced by a base rate pegged at half of one percent in furthering their over stretched generosity to even more unprecedented levels of self sacrifice.