Story 63

Compassion and humility

I first knew of Leonard Cheshire as a pioneer of care for people with a disability when I was a social worker at Salford Hospital in 1954.

Leonard with residents at Le Court

I wrote to him to seek his help for a couple, both of whom were disabled. His personal reply was wonderfully supportive and sympathetic.

We were in touch from then on, throughout the development of Oaklands residential home and services in Lancashire. I was invited to become a trustee in 1989, and was immediately asked to chair the Family Support Services committee (the old name for Care at Home). I was particularly interested in the development of innovative services to complement residential care and in that I had Leonard’s support.

My years as a trustee were both stimulating and fulfilling. On an overseas visit to South Africa I experienced Leonard’s tireless devotion to all whom he met. There were, then, segregated services to visit for ‘blacks’, ‘coloureds’, and ‘whites’. Leonard was welcomed with love in each place and responded warmly to everyone. He was a man of compassion and humility and an inspiration to us all.

My final meeting with Leonard was at a trustee weekend after he had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease. I asked him how his recent trip to India had been. He replied that it was wonderful, and he had especially relished it as he knew it would be his last.

Typically his thought about his own serious medical condition was that the experience would help him to understand the feelings of others.

What I really admired about Leonard was his ability to identify with everyone he met and to treat every individual with equal importance.

Those ten years as a trustee were very special.

He was a man of compassion and humility and an inspiration to us all.