Leaving Huish Park two weeks ago, the walk to the industrial estate in which the car was parked took only a few minutes. Crowdsat League 2 matches disperse quickly and traffic was moving freely.
Two young men came running across the road towards the car, waving their arms. The instinctive reaction was that some emergency had occurred. The window was opened and one of them spoke, “Can you take us to Yeovil Junction station? We’ll give you £20 – it’s all the money we’ve got. We need to catch a train.”
“Get in,” I said, “I’ll take you to the station, but I’ll not take your money.”
They chatted as we drove. Both were students, they had assumed they would find a taxi outside the ground after the match. They talked about school and university life, about the match we had watched, they asked about sport in Ireland. The journey to the station was short and we pulled up onto the concourse of one of the most picturesque railway stations in England. They were in good time for their train to Devon, the only way they would have found their way home.
“We can’t do anything to thank you,” said one.
“You can. Tomorrow do some random act of kindness for someone.”
Taking them to the station wasn’t an unprompted act of generosity, it was a response to memories of life at their age. There were people whose kindness I could never have repaid, people who seemed able to be kind without giving it a second thought.
Altruism may be as much part of human nature as selfishness; perhaps it is a form of selfishness, people deriving satisfaction from doing things for others, feeling themselves in a position of power relative to the person to whom they are giving assistance. Whatever the motivation for kindness, caring for others can be as common as putting oneself first. Perhaps there just needs to be a reminder that it is possible to give as well as to take.
According to a Facebook post this morning, this is Random Act of Kindness Week, it began last Sunday and finishes next. Seven days of opportunity to surprise strangers, but why confine it to one week? Experience of the times when the age of the students going to Yeovil Junction station would have been very different if there had been a need for a week to remind people to be generous to those one didn’t know. The best way to inspire kindness is not having a week, but simply to be kind.