Last week I took my seven year old daughter to a presentation ceremony for the Kids Who Give WA project. This is a great initiative which encourages kids to give back to the community by donating their time, skills or raising money. We had a little group of Year 2 and year 4 girls, having raised money for a local bushfire appeal with a large garage sale, after the kids donated their toys and books to sell.
The ceremony was held at Government House and as we were the first group to arrive we were met at the door by the Governor and his wife. It became awkwardly apparent that the girls didn’t really know whose hands they were shaking, but they were rather more taken by the fact that we were going to be sitting in the ballroom, a majestic room with enormous chandeliers and – naturally – a throne. Yes, the actual throne the Queen sits in when she comes to visit Perth.
The Bombshell had shaken hands and been sent up to our seats, but she shortly returned. She bluntly looked at the Governor’s wife and said ‘Can we sit in the Queen’s chair?’ I giggled nervously, silently thanking her for actually asking first and not just throwing herself in it. Surprisingly, the answer was ‘yes’ and later on they would get the chance to sit in the throne.
The eight groups who presented their giving projects were very diverse – from entire year groups to tiny little groups like ours, poor schools, very rich schools, year 2s to year 7s, some raised a lot of money, some just donated their friendship.
A group of girls from my old high school got up to speak about their project – they donated their time and skills to ‘help the elderly’. They explained that while there was a lot of worthy groups in the community, they had decided on ‘the elderly’ because ‘they can’t do much anymore, they don’t have any friends, and they might die soon.’ A lot of grown-ups in the room laughed and shook their heads upon hearing this assessment. Their giving project involved playing bingo, listening to stories and helping sweep and garden.
There is a large seniors home near the school, and girls have been doing community service there since before my time, but I was mildly concerned when one of the girls mentioned that one of ‘the elderly’ had used to be a teacher at the school.
I couldn’t help myself.
At lunchtime I abandoned the Bombshell to her lunch and found the girls from my old school. I crouched down beside them and heard my knees creak in protest. So did they, and their heads collectively swivelled towards me.
I explained that I used to go to their school a few years ago. ‘’Oh yeah?’ one asked. ‘What house were you in?’ ‘Riley’ I responded. Two of them high fived each other and the rest accepted that yes, I was indeed one of them. I asked them if they remembered the name of the teacher who was now ‘an elderly’ person.
They looked at me closely, as if they were calculating how old I was, and if I could possibly know someone who was elderly. They could only recall her first name which wasn’t much help as my school was very proper and we never would have been told a teacher’s first name.
I then told the girls that my 20 year school reunion was coming up in a few months. ‘A what?’ they asked. I said that it had been twenty years since I had graduated from Year 12. They almost fainted. 'Twenty years!' they cried, and the consternation as how very very old I must be was clear upon their faces.
I quickly realised that through their young eyes, I was probably already in their category of ‘elderly’ and so I stood as quickly as my creaky old knees allowed me, and ran off before they could start tending to my needs and playing bingo with me.