Yesterday something brilliant happened, which I think deserves a wider audience. Some of you will know that my brain does not work in the same way as many others, and one symptom is an extreme inability to retain visual memory. This means that if I put a cup of tea down somewhere I will instantly have no recollection of where it is. This is of course mildly annoying, but the condition also makes travel an extremely difficult thing for me to do successfully.
So perhaps it is not surprising then that on my trip to Liverpool yesterday I got as far as London before realising that I had left behind both my wallet and my phone, either in my car or on the preceding train, and so had nothing with me but a change of clothes, a laptop, and a rail ticket.
I sat in the lounge at Euston and pondered my predicament. I thought there was nothing to be lost by reaching out on social media; perhaps one of my friends or contacts would be in the area and could lend me some cash, otherwise I would be in trouble.
It worked! Within minutes someone had offered to scoot over to Euston with £20. This was extremely kind – thank you to Paul Gallagher, a fabulous human being, whom I am excited to say is coming to work in Brighton as a deputy head next term.
But as if this was not enough to restore your faith in human nature, there was even better to come. A total stranger, who had heard me talking to my wife via the laptop, leant over and gave me £20 which he said he did not want back! I asked for his name and address so that I could reimburse him, but he noticed the ‘96’ badge I was wearing and asked me to donate £20 to the Hillsborough families when I got the opportunity. What an extraordinary gesture – the man’s name is Shaun Lees, the MD of an engineering business in Stoke on Trent. He explained that this had happened to him last year so he understood what I was going through.
It’s a cliché to say that there is triumph in adversity, but in this case my predicament brought out the very best in two men who did something amazing without hope of reward.
I have been thinking since then, and I have a theory. All of us are, at least potentially, like Paul and Shaun if we are minded to be. There are some people for whom we would do anything, such as our family or our closest friends, but this episode made me think – why not widen that circle? Why should we not treat everyone with love and kindness, rather than just the people we like?
I feel inspired by their actions, and have made a point of being especially considerate to everyone I have met today, particularly those who I suspect see precious little kindness as they go about their working lives.
And here’s the funny thing; maybe it’s my imagination, but every single person I have met today has been lovely, and my work in Liverpool today has been a total pleasure to undertake, hardly feeling like ‘work’ at all.
This seems to be a good argument for striving to see things positively.
After all, in the end, are we not all merely mirroring the world we perceive?