This is a subject very close to my heart and is more important to me the older I become. I have been very fortunate many times in my life that when I have needed assistance, often a complete stranger has come to my aid. I in turn now try to pass this on to everyone wherever I can.
In both cases you have to be very aware of your own safety and it is often more difficult to accept or even give help when you are alone, ironically this is when you are most likely to be more observant and spot someone in need. I now believe I can now trust my own instincts on whether someone is genuine or not. Years of travelling and living in different types of places and countries have certainly helped and my instincts have also helped me avoid potentially scary situations. (another post on this some day, perhaps)
Here is a list of my favourite past experiences, these people I will never know or ever meet again, but to whom I shall be forever grateful:
- The older (and wiser) lady who said ‘whoever he is, he was not worth it. You are young and beautiful, get out there and have a great night’. This was as I was crying next to a sink in the ladies toilets of a bar. She was right and I did!
- The little Italian man in Venice who dropped me at the bus station during a horrific storm as I was trying to walk there in rep uniform with my giant bag unable to see a thing and looking like a drowned rat. (I know getting in a car with a stranger is a risky one and not advisable!)
- The Old Greek man in his cap who bought me a pastry and an orange juice despite not speaking a word of English as I was crying on the floor of a Greek hospital in Crete with no money or phone waiting to hear how my friend was after a serious accident. (quite possibly my favourite and most meaningful experience of true kindness)
- Two (rather drunk) woman who stopped me in my tracks from walking a long road home at 3am in the morning, fed me some booze, gave me a lecture (in the nicest possible way) and made sure I got in a taxi. (Never to make the same mistake again!).
- The taxi driver who took me where I needed to go in an emergency knowing that I did not have enough money for the full fare.
- The young Greek man, with his family, in the hospital waiting room who marched me into see the head doctor on hearing I had been there waiting. (Looking back I think there may have been a Mafia connection 😉 )
- The tourist couple who bought me a bottle of water and sat me down before I collapsed as I had fell asleep on the beach on a VERY hot day. ( I know, I would not be so silly now!)
- The American couple in Mexico who took me with them to visit Chichen Itza just because I wanted to go and we were staying in the same hotel.
- The rather scary looking man (never judge a book) who dragged me off the side of a road to save me being run over by a double-decker bus.
- The lady on the train who passed me her rail card under the table when she realised I clearly did not have one to go with my discount train ticket. (an innocent mistake by the way not one of my tricks)
There is many more but there is also the small ones like the guests who tip you or leave you magazines and books and toiletries when I was working as a rep. The man who can see you are in a hurry so will let you skip the queue, someone who gives you (correct) directions when you are lost in a strange place, the bouncer who lets you skip the giant queue to get into the club, or the local family who invite you into their celebrations or home , in what is for you, a strange unknown land. These are all valuable experiences and I shall forever be thankful to you all.
I have in turn helped many a person in need at home and on my travels. I decided not to write an equivalent list of these as I do not require a pat on the back for my good deeds, besides if I have to write about some of them I may actually cry!
I am sometimes wary of approaching people as you most often notice those in need when you are alone so sometimes I will walk away if I get a feeling it is not safe for me. When was the last time you read an article or watched something on TV about someone helping a stranger? Other than this post I bet it has been a while. When did you last hear about someone being murdered, raped or mugged? Within the last 24 hours I imagine. The world we live in makes us fear the unknown but at one point is it right to walk away from a person who may be in need? A small gesture of kindness can make an incredible difference to someone’s day or even their life.
I attended a personal safety course many years ago and a scam was discussed where someone will lay down in a quiet spot feigning injury and wait for you to bend down to assist before their friends will come behind you and run off with your handbag or worse. I have also heard a large variety of scams from travellers who have had the misfortune to fall prey to one. I would always research these for the specific places you visit as we are all more vulnerable and trustworthy when on holidays and travelling.
How wonderful is it that in spite of our fears there is still some amazing people who will not only notice a person in need (we are so often too caught up in our own lives to take any notice of our surroundings) but will do all they can to help, which in some instances may even save a life. On thinking through my experiences, I have sadly discovered that most of the kind strangers I have met have not been whilst in the UK and they have most certainly not lived in luxury and could probably do with a little kindness themselves.
So please do me a favour and show some kindness to a stranger. It does not have to be a biggie just help an old lady across the road, talk to the person next to you on the bus/train/park bench or buy a homeless person some lunch. Not just once but whenever you can. Worried for your own safety? Volunteer for a charity. No time to spare? Give money to a charity. We all have it in us to be a kind stranger . 🙂 🙂