Silverlining Charity Book GroupDecember 18, 2019
I got to know The Silverlining Charity because Bolt Burdon Kemp hosts their meetings at our offices – the last Friday of every month.
After a long week at work, with emails to reply to, tasks languishing on your list and the pub waiting, finding a spare two hours to attend the meeting can be a challenge. But… no matter the reasons you might find to hold you back, once you get there, you always know that it was the right decision to go.
Always some of the same faces, always some new ones, always the hum of chatter and the clink of coffee cups, always a sense of anticipation, that warm feeling of understanding… I am a tourist when I attend and lucky enough to share in slices of life belonging to some extraordinary people.
As the meeting starts and I look around the room, every time I have attended, I have been struck by how different everyone in the room is. Different races, backgrounds, interests… all linked by one fact. They have all suffered brain injuries.
And suddenly everyone’s humanity is on display….
We live in such a strange time. Where we are continually defined by what we are. Gay, Black, Old, Remainer… We are led to believe that we are so different from one another. But really… we are all pretty much the same and one of the many, many things that link us, is that we have big complex brains, sitting delicately in our thin skulled heads. Brains that are vulnerable to injury. Injury that leads to change. Change in our emotions, ability to communicate to move, to get on with people.
Everyone at the meeting has an injury that has impacted them uniquely. But… they all understand each other’s plight – and face a society that will misjudge and underestimate them at every turn. They come to share their life stories, their achievements and disappointments and the amusing, anecdotal, incidental events from their lives.
You might think that listening to twenty stories that start with “I was driving to work when a car coming from the left skipped a red light and….” Or “I was working on building site when someone dropped and…” or “I turned in the shower and…” would bring you down. But they don’t. I have left every meeting feeling inspired, motivated and lucky to be alive.
Maybe it is the openness. Maybe it is that every meeting shows that it is the truest joys are the smallest things open to all of us. Maybe it the achievements, the things overcome, the things being overcome. Maybe it the context and environment provided by Sherrie (the neuropsychologist who leads the meetings – and founder of the charity)… Maybe it is all these things plus a bit more of something else, magic…
Anyway… after a couple of meetings, I thought I’d like to get a bit involved. Anto, one of the Silverliners (as they call themselves), having written a book about her own experiences of living with a brain injury wanted to set up a book group. So I offered to help.
The Silverlining empower people with brain injuries to do things… to run marathons, to set up clubs, to write music and make art.
Roll on a whole year and the Silver-Bookworms have been meeting every couple of months at the British Library… Between four and ten of us attend and the rest is pretty much as you’d expect.
We chat about the book. We drink coffee. We chat about other stuff.
The book is announced about a month in advance. Anto and I normally try to keep the choices relatively short with a linear narrative… We don’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence, though, so we try to choose books with challenging themes or which have been recognised as literary classics. We also try to vary what we choose month to month.
We have read Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, We the Animals by Justin Torres, Matilda by Roald Dahl… to name a few.
We always allow a bit of time to discuss whether the book was particularly easy or hard to read. But beyond that, it is the same emotional reaction to each book’s characters, conversations covering themes and general observations you might expect from any book group… with the added benefit of views from every walk of life and perspectives from minds that have been shaped differently by injury, illness and misfortunate.
Sometimes it is the first book someone has read since they became injured years before, sometimes it took someone four whole weeks to read, sometimes it is the eighth book they’ve read that month. It doesn’t matter.
For me… it is an enjoyable afternoon away from the office and a good way to keep reading… and a privilege and a joy to be part of.
Tom Lax is an associate solicitor in the Adult Brain Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp. If you feel you may have a claim or are enquiring on behalf of a loved one, contact Tom free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4840 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Adult Brain Injury team will contact you. Find out more about the Adult Brain Injury team.