Chris Markiewicz's Blog
Every Monday – thoughts, observations and ideas that hold up a mirror to who & how we are

Shoulders back!

A couple of years ago I was on a tube platform in Central London. I spotted a tall, elegant man with white hair standing with a Transport for London (TFL) employee next to him. They were chatting – I guess making small talk whilst awaiting the next train.

The tall man was holding a white cane and wearing dark glasses.

He looked incredibly dignified and well turned out – the kind of person that you would imagine to be independent, accomplished and able to make his own way in life. Yet, here he was, visually impaired and calling on the help of a TFL employee in order to board a train.

For some reason, he left a strong impression on me. In seeing this man, I recognised that, being visually impaired doesn’t mean that we can’t retain our stature and dignity, yet we may need help at times. It highlighted for me this balance between independence and dependence, dictated by the situation we’re in.

As I write this here and now, I have a strong realisation –  he didn’t seem “disabled”.

The fact that he stood strong and erect prompted me to think that perhaps there are two types of visually impaired people. The “shoulders back” people and “rounded shoulders “ people ie: the independents and the victims. And, of course this doesn’t apply just to those with visual impairments or other “disabilities”!

I try as hard as I can to be the “shoulders back”. Ironically, throughout my childhood and youth, my mother would constantly chastise me for not holding my shoulders back. Now, in my 50’s I’m finally acceding to her frustrated demands.

My white cane acts as a kind of psychological prompt – every time I carry it, it reminds me to walk with dignity and with head held high – although, sometimes as a result, I don’t see stuff in my path. Nevertheless, should I have a mishap, I quickly work to retrieve my dignity by brushing myself down and pressing on (almost) regardless.

I actually christened my cane “Dignity” in order to reflect this.

And, do I crack at times? Absolutely! We all do – if tired, under the weather or just plain grumpy.

Nevertleless, had I not seen that unknown  man that day on the platform, I wonder whether I will have been so inspired and prompted to walk tall with “shoulders back” – most of the time!




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