Captain Tom shows true commitment to us in Sussex

Three cheers and many happy returns to Captain Tom, one of the nation’s enduring heroes!

Monday, 27th April 2020, 2:47 pm
Updated Monday, 27th April 2020, 2:48 pm
Captain Tom has been a hero before

Suddenly, it seems that old age is fashionable. Captain Tom is at No 1 in the charts with his hit, You’ll never walk alone. Let’s hope he also receives an award from the Queen for his support to the NHS.

We’d all want Captain Tom to be our grandad or great-grandad. But that’s not just because he’s top of the pops.

What’s impressive is that he hasn’t traded on his achievements of the past. His investment is in the here and now. He decided to make the best contribution he could to life today, and we have been humbled by that commitment.

This is good news in a bleak landscape. I hope it prompts us to review our attitudes towards age and the positive contribution that people, young and old, can make to our wellbeing as a society.

Schools are already well aware of this. The gift of time and commitment that many elderly volunteers make to primary school learning is remarkable.

Listening to children learning to read is one example. Being a living history lesson is another. Taking an interest when no one else has time to, is yet another.

This also reminds us that the elderly were once young, facing struggles in life as we still do today. Within the fragile, aged, and slower person, the younger self still exists.

The novelist, Hanif Kureishi, now a pensioner, writes about this, observing himself as the hero of his first novel, The Buddah of Suburbia: “I wish I were that boy again, free on his bike. But I know he’s still in me, funny, hopeful, rarin’ to go, always up for it, going somewhere.”

I think we love Captain Tom because he demonstrates that zest for life. The Tom who was “up for it” in the theatre of war is the same Tom who is committed to making a difference today.

Against this background, we have rightly been outraged to think that the instruction, “Do not resuscitate” could ever be used indiscriminately about people over a certain age. Who would dare say that to, or about, the 100 year old Captain Tom?

This must raise serious questions about our attitudes to life and death. Life is a gift from God, and not simply a medical condition. Tom has helped us to see that more clearly. Thank you, Captain Tom!