Mary lived on our street when I was growing up in a working class new town, full of bombed out Londoners who couldn’t get homes elsewhere. She seemed like a nice woman. She had two lovely children and a husband who worked hard. He was from the Caribbean and that marked her out as different in those far off ignorant times.
The women in our street tried to be friendly. Good morning they would say as she went past.She would just smile and walk on. Often she would ignore them completely, even if they invited her to take tea with them sometime.
Eventually everyone put her down as just snotty. She thought she was better than everyone else. They all stopped trying, disgusted at her high handed attitude. She spent twenty years in the street with no friends.
Her children grew up and then her lovely husband died. Someone made the effort to knock on the door to say “sorry for your loss.” She just stared and smiled. Then she went back inside. Her daughter came to the door and said” thank you” and that she would explain to mum because she was deaf.
The visitor asked how long? Always said the girl, but she’s ashamed. She worries that people will think she is stupid. Dad did the bits that needed someone to hear. She just sat there and he would explain later. The visitor who was my mother walked away after saying “please tell her she is invited to tea any time.”
The daughter nodded, “she will like that it is hard for her to make friends. Perhaps I will come along and help until you get to know her. She can lip read but you need to go slow.” My mother walked away feeling more than a little ashamed that they hadn't made more effort.
She did come to tea and from that moment on they would wave whenever she went past instead of calling out, and she would stop and have a chat. They learned not to judge and she learned not to be ashamed. Everyone learned a lesson and their lives were richer for it.