It’s fashionable to say that everyone’s too busy for each other these days; that no one has any time to help anyone else, much less a stranger; that no one thinks to stop and help, people will turn a blind eye and continue on their way.
Last week, I found the truth was completely the opposite.
I was on my way to work on Monday morning when I found myself on the receiving end of a fast-moving cyclist. Almost from the second I found myself staring up at a grey London sky from the asphalt, the kindness of everyone around me, friends and strangers alike, was overwhelming.
There were the two teachers who left their field trip class lined up on the pavement and scooped me up from the road and into the school opposite. There was the woman, whom I have no way of contacting but wish I did, who called both the paramedic and my office to tell them what had happened – and then called them the following day to find out how I was.
There was the paramedic, the picture of kindness and sensitivity, calming me down and ensuring me I wasn’t causing an unnecessary fuss, driving with enormous care so bumps in the road didn’t send shudders of pain through my back; and the radiographer who manoeuvred me with immense patience through the x-rays.
There’s The Writer, who rushed away from an immensely busy office to come and sit with me in A&E, talking to doctors who had my name down incorrectly on the paperwork, and helping me change into and out of hospital gowns without so much as a raised eyebrow at the length of time I was there, or the vastly unflattering nature of my attire. He’s since made me hot water bottles, brought me painkillers, made suppers and brought them to me where I’ve laid prostrate on the sofa, and been generally wonderful.
My colleagues have been enormously understanding and patient with someone who for a week has been dosed up on so much codeine she can’t remember whether or not she’s sent an email. Ma Blonde has been checking in several times a day to make sure I’m okay and not overdoing things, with Pa Blonde – the last word in all things pharmaceutical – giving me strict instructions on how best to manage the multitude of drugs.
The police officer who came round to talk to me about what happened was kind and caring and took time and pains to explain precisely what she was going to do, and why she was going to do it.
Friends have sent emails and messages, outraged on my behalf at other people’s conduct, including those who have been lucky enough to have their own recent weekend hospital stays, and The Domestic Slut sent a card that was 100% guaranteed to cheer me up the moment it landed on the mat.
And then there are the people I don’t really know and have never met – the strangers who took a moment out of their busy days to ask after me, and check I was ok.
And for all of them, without exception, for all the tiny and not so tiny shows of kindness that make the world a more pleasant place to be, I am enormously grateful.