Friday, May 25, 2007

When Humanity Shines Through...

Charles Moore records in this week's Spectator's Notes how he lost his contacts book during a walk through St James's Park...
Last week, I obtained proof that some people do possess a moral compass.
Somewhere between Clifford Street, W1, and St James’s Park, I dropped my black
book containing many, many years of telephone numbers, but no information about
whom to contact when you find it. In the park, I realised I had lost it, and
retraced my steps, to no avail. I went to Savile Row police station, but the
queue was so long that I lost heart and left. A call to the police, which took a
day to get through, revealed that you have to put your report of lost property
in writing before they can attend to it. Then I got a call from my
brother-in-law. A man had found his number in my book and had rung him,
searching for the owner. I rang the man. His wife had found the book in the
street, he told me, and he had started to work through the numbers (my
brother-in-law’s name begins with B) to find the owner. I asked if I could give
the couple a present in thanks, but they said please could I contribute to a
charity run by their synagogue instead, which I did. One takes too little
trouble to record such acts of kindness, which is strange, because they are

This morning Radio 5 Live did a feature on these random acts of kindness and amazingly featured a call from a friend of mine to whom I gave my Cup Final ticket last year (all was well in the end as I got another ticket later).

So this set me thinking. What's the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you that has restored your faith in humanity - or what have you done for someone else that made you proud to be a member of the human race?


Anonymous said...

Last year when my twins were only 5 weeks old we were all driving back home from my parents' going up the A3 when we had a complete blow-out on one tyre. Stuck on the hard shoulder, I took the girls out of the car and was walking towards a lay-by. Almost immediately a man in a van stopped and asked if he could help. Given my fancy-pants car doesn't carry a spare tyre (as I then discovered) there was nothing for it but to wait for the AA. However, in the meantime, this man offered to take my wife and daughters off to the nearby cafe (at the BHS Wisley garden centre), while I dealt with the AA. In the meantime at least a couple of other passing cars stopped and offered to help. The AA turned up in minutes, as I had told them that babies were in the car. When I finally got to the garden centre two hours later, it turned out that the staff had been plying my wife with cups of tea and cakes, regardless of the fact she had left her purse in the car.

I know now that people react very differently when children and babies are involved, but as unpleasant an experience it was to break down in those circumstances, we were completely blown away by the help we were given. I gave the white van man my card and told him to get in contact if he was ever in London and wanted to take his wife out for a nice meal (which I said I would arrange), but I have never heard from him. He and all the others we met that day restored our faith in human nature.

Anonymous said...

I once lost my wallet and it was returned by young Asian lad who refused any reward.
I always stop for broken down cyclists and motorcyclists, and solo hitch hikers.
I teach and am near burnt out but retire next year. It has been incredibly rewarding.
Like much in life, what you give out tends to come back.
Not sure if that applies in the SE which, happily, I left 40 years ago. I suspect that there are regional variations in kindness as in friendliness.

Jonathan Sheppard said...

I once dropped my wallet (un-known to me) outside my block of flats in Brighton. Amazingly it was returned in the morning to me!

An opposite one here. At Labour party conference I accidently left a filofax full of stuff in one of the fringe events I was attending on behalf of the company I worked for. It had some of my Tory PPC cards in it. You won't be surprised to hear it was never handed in to lost property!

Old BE said...

I have seen people drop things accidentally onto the street several times and people are always shocked when I call after them to tell them. Perhaps they assume that most people would pocket the item!

David Anthony said...

We lost our cat a few years ago, and placed an edvert in the local paper. We received a few calls which ultimately were not our cat. One call came a week later from an old lady who had noticed our advert in an old newspaper and rang up just to see if we had found our cat or not.

Unfortunately we never found the cat, but it always makes me smile to think back to this old lady.

dizzy said...

For New Year 2000/2001 I took my then fiance (now wife) to Paris. I had promised to do so after sleeping through the Millenium with the argument that the real Millenium was in 2001 anyway because only nerds count from 0.

Anyway, we found ourselves stuck in the middle of Paris in the pissing down rain and at about 4am we waved what we thought was a cab but wasn't. A French guy then gave us a lift back to our hotel which was way out past La Defense.

His act of kindness restored not only my faith in humanity but the French too.

kinglear said...

dizzy - out past la Defense? Are you sure you weren't in Beauvais? Lots of people do kind things for me every day - from the guy who fixed my rearview mirror and refused all recompense to the builder ( builder!) who refused payment for the last bit of a job " because it's taken so long" To be fair, I suppose he expected to get another job, but still. I do think it's slightly regional. People in Scotland ( Glasgow, not Edinburgh) are extremely generous both with their time and money

Anonymous said...

You were almost certainly hallucinating.

Anonymous said...

Having lost my wallet on a night out, and trying to re trace my steps the following day I gave up. Apparently I had left it in the taxi, the driver posted it back to my house, having got the address off my driving licence.

He left a name with no note or number so I have been unable to thank him.

Anonymous said...

Recently, utilizing my vote at the polling booth, I made an effort to rid Gods' Country (Wales) of an embarrasing dinosaur called Rhodri Morgan.
Alas, due to the weak willed (insert loads of your own swearwords here)LibDems I failed.

Gwil ap Tomos

nadds said...

Not me, but worth a wider airing than just Football365

Proof That Not All Footballers Are Ar5eholes Of The Season

Winner: Phil Neville, who paid for a three-year-old battling cancer to go on holiday to Disneyland in Paris after learning that she had been given four months to live.

Runner-Up: Paul Robinson, who jumped off the Tottenham Hotspur team bus in Seville to tend to a fan beaten round the head by Spanish police for the crime of queuing for an autograph.

Anonymous said...

"I was kind once too," insists Dale.

Thanks for the digest of two wonderful old school journalists in today's blog efforts, Iain.

JP said...

Easy. Driving to visit friends in north London one Christmas Eve a few years back, I broke down just as I left the M25 and ground to a halt at the top of the slip road. Almost immediately, someone stopped to see if I needed a hand. He refused to consider just helping push start my car, and insisted on towing me to the nearest tube station where I said I would ring for help.

Having left me there, he then returned 5 minutes later - he wanted to make sure I had enough change to make the necessary phone call.

Christmas spirit, or just a thoroughly decent chap? You decide ...

Anonymous said...

Left my wallet containing £1,000 and my passport on the Heathrow Express (on the way to Heathrow).

Ten minutes before the absolute latest time for check-in someone handed it in and I made a very important flight. My wallet now contained £900 and my passport. I still can't work out if that restores my faith in humanity or destroys it.

Alan Douglas said...

Jeremy, I think you can be pleased. I seem to recall that in Europe 10 % reward is quite common, and I have family stories from Austria where the 10 % was refused, this being thought very kind.

My 6-year-old daughter was being teased at school, came home and told my wife, but not me, thatit was embarrassing to have a fat Dad.

But she seems to have worked through this by herself, she started making a point of kissing my tum ! God I love that wonderful girl.

Alan Douglas

Anonymous said...

A lady working on Virgin Trains found my bag with my passport, visa, work permit for Russia etc. Without it all, I could not have gone back to work - probably for some time while I obtained new copies of everything. She tried to give it to the Transport Police, but something about their attitude suggested to her that I would never see it again. She said they weren't concerned. So she held on to it and called people on the business cards that were in it. One of them worked out it was mine and gave me a call. I arranged to go to her house (50 miles away) and pick it up. She would take nothing at all, so I sent her some flowers. She had done me a big favour, but just thought it was the right thing to do.

Most people are good people, but our lives are unfortunately shaped by the few bad ones.

Anonymous said...

In 1994 I was an aid worker in Rwanda immediately post-genocide when I came across a Californian teacher named Bob who had seen the TV coverage and had a whip round to buy a generator for an orphanage, any orphanage. Never mind that it was the wrong voltage, wrong plugs etc and that an orphanage would actually use oil lamps (far cheaper and less risk of robbery), it was just AMAZING that this guy had flown into the very heart of darkness to bring a little light entirely off his own bat. If Rwanda was a far off country of which we knew little, here was a guy who was nevertheless touched by what happened. He was horribly out of his depth but wanted to help, so he did. He was an optimist who thought what could be done instead of endlessly pondering the difficulties.

Anonymous said...

On the way to see my brother a few years back I stopped off in Oxford, I think for some Christmas shopping. Getting off the bus from the park and ride my mobile phone dropped out of my pocket, but I did not notice until later when I got back to the car and tried to call my brother.

I found a phone box and called my phone - it was answered by a young man who told me his address. I didn't know the area, so rather than try to tell me how to get there he said he would meet me at the car park.

I then called my parents, whose number I could remember, to ask them to call my brother to say I would be late, but it turned out the man who had found my phone had called both them and my brother (the last numbers on my "called" list) trying to find me.

He arrived 20 minutes later, so had driven for probably 15 minutes, a youg Asian lad with a friend. I offered him a fiver in thanks, which he waved away saying there was no need.

I had a slightly embarrassing altercation some years back with a patch of black ice, and ended up upside-down in a hedge, miles from anywhere on a January night. I started walking towards the last village, some 3 or 4 miles back. a few minutes later a car came past, and to my amazement stopped to my outstretched thumb. It was a quiet road at one in the morning, so I was lucky. I was also astonished to see it was a woman driver (hitch hiking I was never picked up by a lone woman, not unreasonably), who dropped me off at a phone box so I could phone a taxi and the police.