Dwindling Numbers

Their numbers were dwindling. It seemed no one new wanted to join them, and other members, even the established ones, were either moving to new locations or dying. They supposed they couldn’t do much about the dying.

“What we need is some new blood,” said Rory. He was standing in front of Cheryl, staring round at everyone. “This can’t go on, we need to do something.”

“Well yes, obviously,” said Michael, keen to not be outdone. “But how exactly? And who? Who are we aiming at?”

“I think everyone,” said Lottie, looking at her feet. She wasn’t keen on public speaking, but she felt this was important, felt the others had been getting it wrong lately. She wasn’t really surprised at the low numbers, in fact, she was at the brink of leaving herself, but wanted to help if she could. “I think,” she clarified, “that we should be including everyone, all ages, all groups. Everyone. Whoever they are.”

“What?” said George, leaning forward, “What did she say? Can’t hear her. Mumbles.”

“She said ‘everyone’,” repeated Rory, “all ages.”

The group nodded, in spite of the banal nature of her input. They did after all, want to encourage her, and she didn’t speak very often. They prided themselves on how accepting they were, what an all encompassing group. Which is why it was so strange that their numbers should be dwindling.

Yes, they all agreed, they were aiming at everyone, at all ages.

“Though,” said Harriet, “we might like to have arrangements for the babies.”

“Oh yes,” agreed Charlotte, “I don’t think any of us were thinking that babies would join us. Their crying would upset our train of thought.”

“And toddlers,” said John, remembering the previous session, when little Tommy had rolled his cars up and down, right under their feet. “Hardly fair to expect a toddler to keep quiet.”

They nodded. Of course, that was obvious.

“Older children?” ventured Lottie.

“Of course,” said Harriet. “As long as they’re well behaved. It does rather depend on the parents doesn’t it. To keep them still and quiet I mean. Sometimes in the past we have had trouble with those parents who can’t control their off-spring, who spend the whole time whispering at them, or showing them books.
“It didn’t happen when I was young,” she added, remembering. “When we were at school, we walked in silence to assembly, and we sat in silence until it ended. Children haven’t changed you know, if we were capable of sitting for an hour on a cold floor, then children today should be able to remain in a chair without speaking. It really is down to the parents.”

They all nodded. Parents today just didn’t have a clue.

“Teenagers are easier,” said Norman, “we’ve had teenagers a few times.”

“Yes,” agreed George. “You see, Suzie was so good then. They got a bit silly, started to poke at each other, fiddle with their phones, misbehave. But Suzie wasn’t having any of that. She sorted them out, didn’t you Suzie?”

Suzie smiled, glad her discipline skills had been noticed.
“Yes, she said. “It only took a word, and a look, they soon realised it was inappropriate, and they were quiet after that.”

“But did they come back?” asked Lottie, “Did they feel welcome? That the group was relevant for them – for their age group I mean?”

“I don’t think that’s our fault,” said Suzie. “We can’t allow a few teenagers to disturb the rest of us, can we? That would hardly be appropriate.”

They all nodded again. This discussion was going extremely well. They were all in agreement.

“What about the elderly?” said Lottie, “Do we welcome the old people?”

“Oh yes,” said Norman, “I think that’s obvious.”

“Yes,” said John, “old people fit right in. Unless they’re too fussy of course. Some old people do get rather set in their ways.”

“That’s true,” agreed Norman, “and they like to moan. They tend to complain about the seats being too hard, and the talks being too long.”

“Probably having bladder control problems!” laughed Michael. “More than an hour and we’re likely to get puddles!”

They all laughed at that one, good old Michael, always one for a joke.

“Sometimes they find standing for long periods difficult,” ventured Lottie, “perhaps we should have fewer songs where everyone stands up.”

“Well, they can always remain seated,” said Norman with a frown.

“But then they can’t see. And it’s a bit grim, to be sitting down when everyone is standing…”

“Ha!” said Michael, “The teenagers don’t seem to mind. They stay in their seats whatever the rest of us are doing I’ve noticed.”

“Really?” said Suzie, “I hadn’t noticed that. I’ll watch out next time we have teenagers, make sure they’re joining in with the rest of us. Otherwise it’s just rude.”

Yes, they agreed, just rude.

The numbers were dwindling, but it was difficult to know why. They were after all, a very inclusive group. Anyone was welcome. Even established members were drifting away. Lottie thought she might be next…..

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