The last couple of weeks have really got me thinking about how we interact with people – not the people we know or love or see all the time, but strangers. Perhaps the people we share the bus with, or who stand behind us in the queue for coffee. What about the casual browsers next to you in the supermarket, or those who are standing next to you at the bar?
You don’t know them and neither do I. Perhaps one day in the future you will know them. Perhaps they will always be a stranger. And maybe, you’ll never know whether the person you bumped into coming out of a lift will end up a lifelong friend.
However, I’m sure the people on that bus in Nottingham will now never forget the stranger who was turfed off at 3am and stranded and was later found by police and her mother in a park, semi naked after being raped.
This story has been reported very widely by the press over the last couple of days. The rape victim, a 22 year old woman was turfed off the last bus because she was 20p short of the fare. Despite begging and pleading with the driver to let her on, she was told to get off. The bus driver would not wait for the girl to run to the cashpoint opposite the bus stop to withdraw the money she needed for the fare home either. Instead, she telephoned her mother, and whilst walking to her pick up point, she was dragged into a park and violently raped – so horrific was the attack that her mother didn’t recognise her first of all due to her injuries.
It is an incredibly sad story. Some commenters may say that she should have made sure she had enough money to get home. I know that has been the one thing I have always been told by my parents. But how many of us, in the throes of a good time (she was celebrating the end of her law exams) have spent more than we realised? The poor woman, the victim is not at fault here. Only the rapist.
However, Det Ch Insp Griffin who led the investigation has come out to say, about those passengers on the bus: “It’s difficult to speak for those people. Knowing what they know now they would perhaps wish that they had given her 20p.”.
Would you, without knowing what the consequences might be, give the bus fare to a young woman at 3am?
This sorry situation got me thinking – how often do we pass by a situation where someone might be in need, only because we don’t know them? And if we do it regularly, is that the type of society we want to live in?
Recently, I fell ill on a packed commuter tube and knew I was going to pass out. I was struggling to get out at the next stop thinking that if I was going to pass out, it would be more convenient to do it off the train. I was incredibly lucky that a fellow passenger saw my struggle, saw that I was looking very green and helped me off. I was then even luckier when I did pass out on the platform, that another, different passenger saw me falling and caught me before I hit my head on the concrete and did myself some damage (or get trampled on by those who were getting off at that stop).
This guy didn’t know me. But he led me to a seat and as I came round asked me my name and whether I was ok. He made me sit there whilst he gave me water from his bag and calmed down. He offered to hop out of the station to get me a sweet tea. He wouldn’t let me get on another train until I had some colour back in my cheeks and I assured him I was ok.
Let me reiterate. This man was a total stranger. I still don’t know his name. He might have been late for work or something important. He probably had a million better things to do at 8.30am than sort out someone like me. But my word am I grateful that he did. He made what was a horrible morning more bearable, and he made me believe in the kindness of strangers again. Granted, my story was not going to end in the same way as the poor rape victim in Nottingham, but helping someone ill on the tube, giving a 20p bus fare to someone in need – it all leads to the same thing. A much nicer place to be.
I’m fed up of ignoring the people around me and minding the gap between myself and strangers. Life is so much sweeter and so much safer when you give someone a helping hand – don’t you think?
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