You never asked me, a poem by Dignity Champion Sharon Scarlett

Added on 21/02/2011

Sharon Scarlett, Service Manager at Pembroke House, which is run by Family Mosaic housing association.

Sharon said: "I work for a large organisation and we are encouraging and supporting staff to become Dignity Champions. I am a Dignity Champion, although I don't feel like a 'champion', I am just glad I get to work with some of the nicest people and am in a position to be involved in special things that happen to people - small achievements and overcoming major obstacles.

"I used to work in an old institutional hospital, a home for people with learning disabilities. One morning I sat and thought about the changes that have happened to some people when they left the hospital for a 'new life', and I wrote this poem called 'You never asked me'. I hope captures a little bit of what people have had to live through."

You never asked me

I lived in a 'bin' for most of my days
Away from the world, out of public gaze
You fed me, you bathed me and put me to bed
And while you were doing it nothing was said

You never asked me if I wanted to play
If I wanted to sing, if I wanted to pray
You never asked me to come into town
If I was happy or feeling down

Treated the same as a table or chair
An object, as if I weren't there.
And lo and behold everything changed
No one asked me - was already arranged

Come to our world you do have the right
Live beside us - but keep out of sight

You have to be normal
And do what we do
You mustn't look different
You mustn't be you

You never asked me where I wanted to live
In a house, in a flat or even who with
The old days are gone and life will be good
You will be treated the way that you should

So I got a new bedroom and painted it blue
It's not like the bin, it's bright and it's new
And the staff came along as they knew me so well
Different walls, different views
Same staff, same hell

You never asked me 'what would you like to eat?'
You never asked me 'would you like your tea sweet?'
You never asked me 'would you like to go out?'
You only got cross when I started to shout

And you gave me a label that said I was bad
And you gave me some pills that made me feel mad
And you locked up the kitchen so I couldn't choose
And you bought nice things that I couldn't use
And you sat in my chair, used my TV remote
And my life only existed in the notes that you wrote

Cornflakes for breakfast, two sugars in tea
A shower in the morning, a baths not for me
Knock on the door when you come to my room
Don't just open it, don't just assume
Open the wardrobe and show me my clothes
Ugh! baggy old trousers, I won't wear those

Cornflakes for breakfast, two sugars in tea
A shower in the morning, a baths not for me
Knock on the door when you come to my room
Don't just open it, don't just assume
Open the wardrobe and show me my clothes
Ugh! baggy old trousers, I won't wear those

Cornflakes for breakfast, two sugars in tea
A shower in the morning, a baths not for me
Knock on the door when you come to my room
Don't just open it, don't just assume
Open the wardrobe and show me my clothes
Ugh! baggy old trousers, I won't wear those

I'd like to make lunch, a soup or a stew
Then sit down and eat it, join me too?
I'm not very good but I'm sure we can try
Please can you teach me and explain to me why
And when I come home at the end of the day
I need someone to talk to, listen to what I say
I might go to bed or sit up for a while
Please keep me company, please make me smile.

I want all the things that you have in your life
A home, a job, maybe a wife
I want to have friends and have fun and a laugh
I can't do this without paid staff
But that doesn't mean I value you less
I need your support, please care and invest In me

We're not different
We're the same you see
I've always known
But you never asked me

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