It is often said of Australians that we try and diminish people who stand metaphorically head and shoulders above the crowd. We cut off the tall poppy.
Today I want to build up one considered a short weed. Physically he is not big, except in his heart! I met him about 28 or 29 years ago, when he was a teenager. He was a double orphan but in the government hospital where I was working as an astermame (like a carer) for another teenager with whom he had grown up. His friend was also a double orphan. He slept under his ‘brother’s’ bed, emptying bedpans and feeding him because the other boy had very nasty infections in both elbows.
The hospital staff were angry at me because I had increased the occupancy rate of the hospital from 5 when I arrived to about 120. It was a 120 bed hospital. They invited me to go home because they only got the same government wage for doing a lot more work. In addition to verbalizing their discontent they were very uncooperative. I had to wheel the trolley to collect patients for their operations, load them on myself and push them to the operating room and lift them onto the table. I organized a highly intelligent young man (employed as a cleaner) to watch over the anaesthetics after I had put the person to sleep. Two nurses worked in the operating room and were on the whole cooperative. But after recovery I would have to repeat the process in reverse.
As soon as he heard the wheels of the patient’s trolley moving, the young boy of whom I am writing, would run to help me push the trolley. Eventually we adopted him and that in itself is quite a story. There were many hoops to hop through to get him to Australia. At High School he had his zygomatic arch in the side of his face broken because a lot of the other coloured girls thought him very handsome and some of the other coloured boys beat him up! He couldn’t open his lower jaw. Just as well his father was a surgeon!
He was never a good student but he stuck with it and eventually obtained a diploma in aged care. In the interval before getting his diploma he was never without a job. He is a terrible speller; his grammar is at best basic but he copes very well at a conversational level and does his job well.
I think in many senses he is a tall poppy.