He's been working down there for a while and the idea was for me to get a train down this morning, meet him at lunchtime and spend the rest of the day exploring Ely. He thought I might like to have dinner and stay over so that we can visit Cambridge tomorrow before travelling back home to the North East together tomorrow night as he had planned to come home this weekend anyway.
Like I say... Brave bloke.
The day started off reasonably well. I was booked onto the 10.25 from Newcastle to King's Cross but there's been such torrential rain lately that there were problems with rail travel across the whole of the North East and my original train was cancelled. Instead, my fellow passengers and I ended up on the 11.25 train, which was heaving under the burden of twice as many bodies as anticipated.
It was pretty much standing room only so I was grateful to spy the last remaining seat, especially as it was a window seat. If you drive most days, as I do, then it's a real joy to be able to gaze out of the window on long journeys when you get a chance to be a passenger so I usually find train journeys quite relaxing.
Not today though. Today, the packed train was full of fraught, damp people who were probably late for all kinds of important meetings and who were visibly unimpressed by the thought of standing in an aisle for a few hours, being sandwiched between lots of other fraught, damp people. I quickly texted my friend to let him know that I'd be late and then, noticing my poor, dry, purple paws, I reached down into my bag for the tube of handcream I usually leave in there.
It was so cramped on the train that the passengers standing in the aisle were forced to lean across the lap of the guy sitting next to me in the aisle seat so I tried to remove the lid from my hand cream as carefully as possible. I'm still not really sure how it happened but just as the lid came off, the tube seemed to slip and I had to grab at it to stop it falling which resulted in a thick stream of cream coloured gunk spurting out of the tube and straight across to the lap of my neighbour. I was absolutely horrified but it was all over him before I could do anything to stop it.
I looked down at his (clearly) expensive, beautifully cut suit which was now covered in greasy white gunk and I burst into tears. I fully expected him to start yelling at me (and rightly so) but instead, he calmly took a handkerchief from his pocket and started to dry the tears from my face.
I was babbling a stream of apologies at him, offering to pay for the suit to be cleaned and saying over and over again how sorry I was. I was mortified but he seemed to be completely unfazed by it all, simply dabbing at my face and 'shushing' me every now and again. Then, when I'd calmed down a little, he stood up and made his way down the aisle, being careful not to get hand cream on any of the other passengers as he squeezed his way past them.
I assumed he must have gone off to the toilets to try to clean his suit but he returned ten minutes later with two cups of coffee, one of which he handed to me. He wouldn't take any money for the coffee and he continued to decline my repeated offers to pay for his suit to be cleaned, insisting that it would be fine and that it was an old suit anyway. Instead, he got out a laptop and proceeded to tap away, engrossing himself completely, so I drank my coffee quietly and watched the world go by from my window, trying hard to keep my tearful sniffles to a minimum so that I didn't disturb him.
As we neared Peterborough, where I was to disembark, I repeated my apologies and asked again if I could pay for the suit to be cleaned but he simply smiled and declined, saying that there was really no need before wishing me luck with the remainder of my journey in the horrid weather. Isn't that amazingly kind?
I don't know his name or anything about him, other than that he was obviously a very perceptive, sensitive guy. We didn't exchange any details and I didn't even explain why I was really crying. I'll probably never see him again or get to repay his kindness today but I wish I could tell him what it meant to me and how grateful I am for his kind and thoughtful actions. I'd also dearly love to pay for his suit.
It made me start thinking about random acts of kindness and the impact we can have when we treat one another in a loving way. I know there are some real horrors in the world and I'm certainly not suggesting that we all try to be Pollyanna but his actions today had such an impact on me that I really want to repay that in some way.
I'm sure I remember reading a quote from someone a while ago, something along the lines of...
"You have never truly lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you"
It got me thinking that maybe the best way to repay a random act of kindness is to give the gift of kindness to someone else? In any event, I've decided that I'm also going to try to be a little more decent with people in general. I'm also going to be more aware of the kindness of others and I'm going to write about the things I observe to remind myself how much good there is in the world. I'd love to hear of other people's experiences so please do send them to me if you get a chance.
As an aside, was this you? Maybe you're reading this and your husband/brother came home this evening with handcream all over his suit? If so, can you drop me a line so that I can reimburse you for the cleaning bill? I really do feel bad about spoiling such a nice suit.
Thanks for reading.