DISCLAIMER – We’re about to get deep
From a young age, most of us were warned about ‘stranger
danger’ – “Don’t speak to people you don’t know” and “don’t take
anything from strangers” was drilled into me by my family for as long as I
can remember. Then, when you reach a certain age, you are suddenly encouraged to
engage with strangers or as it’s known in some circles, ‘networking’.
It’s strange to think of all the people we pass every day on
our commutes, in the supermarket or whilst sat in traffic, people who we will
never see again, speak to or even know their name. You won’t know how their day
was, how they’re feeling or why they’re feeling like that. I’d never considered
any of this until the other day, when something I can only describe as profound
happened to me.
I was commuting home on my usual crammed train. I rushed on
board as soon as the doors opened (yup, I’ve become one of those) and sat down
on the first free seat I saw. Once settling down and taking a breather, I heard
heavy breathing and sniffing next to me. Beside me sat a girl, probably a bit
older than myself, sobbing her heart out. I haven’t seen someone look so
inconsolable in a really long time – she was pale, red eyed and shaking.
Although I’m embarrassed and perhaps slightly ashamed to
admit, I have done my fair share of crying on public transport. Sometimes
things in your life are too upsetting to confine to your bedroom and you can’t
control yourself. I asked if she was okay. I knew the answer, but what else
could I say? She shook her head and there was a pause, I felt stupid and
slightly annoyed at myself. She then simply said: “My fiancé is cheating
on me” and bowed her head, her shoulders shaking from crying so much.
It was such an emotionally charged situation that even I
felt upset. I didn’t say anything because no words can console that feeling.
Instead I put my hand on hers and she held my hand til I gave it a squeeze and
got off at the next stop.
There is a lot to be said about the danger of strangers but
also much to be said about the need for kindness. We, unfortunately, live in a
world where we expect the worst from people we don’t know, keeping an eye on
our bag on the tube, passing off looks from people as negative, keeping
ourselves to ourselves.
The fact is that there are a lot of bad people in the world
but there are also a hell of a lot of brilliant, kind people in the world and
also people who are in need. You never know someone else’s inner turmoil and
what is going on in their life. A smile can go a long way, as can comforting
someone when they’re visibly upset or helping someone when they’re struggling
to carry something. You never know how much something seemingly small you do
for someone can brighten their day.