My friend asked me the other day why I feel an inexplicable emotion towards lonely and seemingly abandoned old people on the streets and none at all for babies in prams. They make my heart ache and my eyes well up.
I remember when I was about 8 years old and on the bus to school. An old man got on and not a single person moved to give him a seat. I did and he looked so stunned that it took him a few minutes to realise what I had done and seat himself.
Even today I help old people cross streets, shelter them under my umbrella when it rains and once I have even carried an old man's groceries up to the steps of his house from the bus stop. I cannot bear to watch old people eat their lunch alone on a park bench or watch a movie alone. It makes me want to cry. In school I volunteered at an old age home for one week along with two friends. We all can safely say that it is an experience we will carry with us for as long as we shall live. There have been times when the old person doesn't really want my help and has made this clear in as many words - yet I persevere.
You must realise that this is very unnatural for me. I am a rather cold and practical person. If someone sticks a baby in my arms, I don't gush all over it. I am fairly neutral towards babies, beggars, old beggars and most animals. I contribute towards Green Peace and the Wildlife fund because I believe in preserving nature and wildlife- but my eyes don't well up at a dying animal (except elephants!) or a cut tree. But lonely, tired looking, old people - they can make me weep like I've just cut an onion!
So back to answering the original question of 'Why' - I am really not sure. It may have something to do with the fact that my family lived with my paternal grandparents when I was growing up and to this day they still call me every Sunday night at 8 pm. It may be because our locality for at least the first 10 years of my life was filled with old people and I would see them go for walks in the evening with their walking sticks, in groups of 2 or 3 and they would stop to chat with my grandparents and with me. It could also be because my grandparents have, to me, personified dignity, brilliance and forward-thinking (individually!) very unlike others I have met.
Whatever it is - it's my weakness.