Eva Bradley: Concern not quite a thing of the past

By Eva Bradley

In the 21st century, it is not especially cool to care. "Me and mine" and "what's in it for me?" have replaced "love thy neighbour" and "how can I help?" as clichés du jour.

So when you find yourself sitting at the optometrists getting an eye exam, it really is the last place you expect to find some genuine, old-fashioned concern that isn't just directed at the state of you retina.

When I popped in for a quick checkup earlier this week, my friendly local optometrist commented straight away on how sore and tired my eyes were looking.

Presuming this was simply a professional observation, I explained that this was the inevitable result of being a photographer mid-wedding season, when my eyes were either focusing through the back of a camera or on a computer screen, with very little time to do anything else, including closing for some well-needed sleep.

Expecting the conversation to then move on to something involving "please close your left eye and read the letters on the top line" it went sharply left field instead, with my optometrist telling me he wasn't just asking about my eyes professionally.

As someone who had followed the highs and lows of my life through my column for many years and seen me now and again at his practice, he was asking as a "father figure" and was mostly wanting to know ... was I working myself too hard?

Without any father figure of my own and, in fact, no figures at all to speak of, the question instantly made my eyes even more red than they already were, and even prompted what an optometrist might call a "complex secretomotor phenomenon from the ocular structure" and I would call shedding a tear.

Although like most people, I feel like life is tough sometimes and I would sell my soul to the Devil for a weekend off, the tear arrived chiefly because in a world where we mostly don't give two hoots about the people whose lives intersect with ours in the course of a business day, someone cared enough about me to ask.

In between discussing the letters reflected in the mirror, my optometrist and I traded tips on getting the work/life balance right, and he shared a few brief stories about his children growing up and a few quality thoughts on old-fashioned discipline and other topics that people my age and younger generally don't have enough wisdom on.

Back in the good old days when father figures stayed for the duration and families supported each other through good times and bad, moments like mine in the optometrist's chair would have been unnecessary and unlikely.

Now, though they are still very much unlikely, they are valuable reminders that the beating heart of an old-fashioned and caring community can still be felt, even if it is in dire need of a pacemaker to give it a rev-up.

I left my appointment with what I came in for - a certificate to say I could drive without needing glasses.

But I also took away with me something far more valuable and much more difficult to secure - a warm fuzzy feeling inside that comes from knowing although we can live in a world where we are often isolated from the people we know, there are still those that we don't really know who care enough to ask.

Eva Bradley is an award-winning columnist.

- Northern Advocate

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