The Kindness of Strangers

Bay of Fires, Tasmania

There is nothing that restores my faith in humanity like the kindness of strangers. Those people who go out of their way to give, share and provide for somebody they have never met, and may never see again. We go about our day-to-day lives tutting at tourists who get in our way, or swear like a sailor at that tosser who just cut you up on the M1. But when push comes to shove (sometimes literally during rush hour!) the majority of us actively want to help each other and it gives me the warm fuzzies.

I’ve dished out my own random acts of kindness, from holding doors open to the totally extreme act of giving my gym towel to a bleeding man in the street and waiting with him for an ambulance. But recently I have been on the receiving end of some staggering kindness to which I have been unbelievably grateful. On my recent trip to New Zealand, I arrived in Auckland, alone and unsure. The parents of an ex-colleague had offered to put me up for a few days which was amazing in itself, but I cannot emphasise how at home they made me feel. I was driven around the city, fed and watered, introduced to family and friend, and given much needed hugs and advice when I was at my most homesick. They generosity they showed to a total stranger who rocked up to their house with her battered backpack and zero idea of where she was was absolutely beautiful. I couldn’t (and still can’t) thank them enough.

In fact throughout my travels I encountered gestures that really made me appreciate the opportunity to meet new people even more: the fudge seller in Tasmania who brought us free samples to have with our coffee, the water taxi driver in Abel Tasman who took a detour to show us baby seals, the manager of a hawker stall in Singapore who talked me through his recipe when he realised I was trying to take note of everything his chef did.

And the small things always go a long way to perk me up. I had people rush over to help me get my backpack on because it was massive and I am weak. There were rounds of drinks bought, snacks shared, offers to take photos when I was clearly struggling at getting a decent selfie in front of some famous landmark.

Closer to home, I recently got on the wrong train to my parents’ house and ended up 138 miles away in Macclesfield with no way of getting home that same night. As I lamented at my sitcom of a life and proceeded to have a breakdown in the cafe car, the cafe manager Kelly let me use her phone to call my mum, brought me hot chocolate and provided lots of tissues. The train manager Mike offered to stop the train at Nuneaton and when that wasn’t helpful, wrote me a note to show the train staff the next day to allow me free passage back home. This wasn’t just customer service, it was empathy at a very basic level and I was so grateful.

There is no selfish sway to any of these acts. Sometimes, no, 99% of the time people are inherently good. It’s hard to remember when your headphones are in, you’ve had no caffeine and you just want to get through the crowd of bodies to get to where you’re going. But those bodies would inevitably jump to your aid and become real people as soon as you needed them, just like you would too.

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