Paying It Forward

As I mentioned in my Dublin post, I was the beneficiary of a stranger’s kindness recently.  I like to try and ensure that I ‘repay’ such kindness by assisting someone else if a similar fashion and, this week, a few flashes of serendipity have allowed me to do so.[1]

Earlier in the week, whilst transferring from one train to another at Baker Street, I came across a blind chap standing by a set of platform gates, which were closed due to over-running engineering works.  It transpired that this unexpected barrier had thrown his memorised journey to work into confusion because he usually just changed trains here  each day (via a 20ft tunnel connecting the platforms), so he had no mental map of the rest of the station.  I once worked with and assisted a deaf/blind chap who had memorised numerous tube journeys, with its own set of remembered door positions (to be in line with exits), so I had a fair idea of this chap’s predicament.  I offered him an elbow and we made our way to the ticket hall, with me calling out steps and corners whilst trying not to whack him with my folding bike.  Once there, I was able to enlist the help of a station assistant who took over and made arrangements for the chap to get to work.

Thursday was a long day for me and I was eager to be on my way home when I jumped on my bike and pedalled out of my office car park heading for the train station.  Joining the main road, I was greet by the sight of three caped crusaders on fully-laden bicycles heading in the same direction so I fell in belong side them and said hello.  The two women and the chap all introduced themselves as being from Ontario and Oregon (Katrina’s name I remember but I can’t recall the others) so, after reciprocating, I asked the obvious question: what on earth are two Americans and a Canadian doing cycling around a London suburb in superhero capes.  It turns out that they are one of many groups worldwide who cycle around from community to community simply volunteering to assist charities and community programmes.[2]  With night drawing in, they were looking for somewhere to camp overnight but, being just yards from London Heathrow’s north runway, they were having trouble finding any where to do so.  After considering the ploughed fields alongside the M4 motorway, I suggested they follow me to the local churchyard where there was sheltering trees and grass on which they could pitch a tent.  After a chat and exchanging email addresses, I left them to chase up the church warden for permission to camp and headed for the station.  I guess the church warden was amiable enough because, as I cycled past the next morning on the way to work, I could see tents and bicycles through the trees in the church yard.  The last I heard was that they were heading for the West Country and Wales. 

[1] For those not familiar with the concept of Pay It Forward, it is based on an idea for a school assignment that occurs to the young protaganist in Catherine Ryan Hyde‘s book of the same name.  Following the book’s screen adaptation and the resulting movie, the idea of paying it forward instead of paying folks back gathered momentum and there are a number of web sites and organisations that are using the concept in various ways.

[2] I tried to find mention of such activities and the ‘Haul Of Fame’ reference they suggested I looked for but sadly I can find no reference on the web.

my lo-fi ears are listening to National Express/The Divine Comedy

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