The Kindness of Strangers

A little thought and a little kindness are often worth more than a great deal of money’ – John Ruskin

There’s been a lot of bad stuff going on in the world recently; planes being blown up, concert goers being shot etc, and much as I tend to give myself a hard time, I like to think I’m one of life eternal optimists and I have to believe that there’s still some good in the world, however small or how ever hard you have to look it’s there, I know it is.

So a few weeks ago on a wet Wednesday in Newcastle Steph, Ang and I were out for some pizza. After a couple of glasses of wine we all traipsed home, Ang on the bus and Steph and I on the metro. I was just buying my ticket when Steph slides over to me and said ‘why are you buying a new ticket, just use that one’. Turns out, there’s was a pre-bought day ticket sitting right there on the machine. I’d just assumed it was rubbish, and in fact I was cursing whoever left it there for not having the decency to throw it in the bin. I never thought for a second that it was someone doing something nice, something nice for someone they didn’t know, someone doing something nice for me as it turns out.

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Apparently that’s a done thing on the Metro. If you’re done with your ticket and there’s still some journeys left on it, you put it on the machine for the next person, much like if you’ve paid all day in a car park you give your ticket to the next person you see pulling in. It makes sense really, the ticket has served it’s purpose for you, you’ve gotten your use out of it and had your money’s worth, so why not pass it on to someone else. It wasn’t even about the money, I could easily have bought myself a new ticket, but the fact that someone was kind enough to think that someone could get more use out of their ticket really made me smile. It made me think about the person who left the ticket there, where had they been all day, why was their journey ending in the centre of town? Would they be happy that it was me who got their ticket or when they left it there were they imagining someone who didn’t have enough change or was having the worse Wednesday of their life?
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 That’s the thing with random acts of kindness, you don’t have any control over who takes you up on your offer of kindness.

As an experiment a year or so ago, Dave and I decided to tape a pound coin to a vending machine at work with an anonymous note. Mine said ‘Hey! Monday’s are rubbish aren’t they, have a treat on me’. I even typed it on a label so no one would recognise my handwriting. It took a while for it to disappear, every time I passed the vending machine that morning it was still there. Not surprising really, if I saw one there I would probably leave it for someone else. By 2pm though it was gone. I never heard who used it but it did make me wonder how selfless my act of kindness was. After all, I wouldn’t like to think someone just took the pound and pocketed it as profit. I’d like to think that someone who was in meetings all day or was having a really crappy day, or was even hungover from the weekend would take it and it would brighten there day. But I’ll never know, and maybe it’s best that I don’t. At least this way I can at least pretend that I made a difference to someone’s day and that maybe they paid it forward.

With all this in mind, I had a multi zone ticket when I took the metro to work this morning. It’s not something I normally do and I got a lift home with Dave after work so by the time I arrived at Central Station my ticket was still valid for the rest of the day but utterly redundant to me, so instead of putting it in the bin, I left it on one of the machines. I hope it was picked up by someone, anyone, and used and if even momentarily, it made their day that little bit easier.

And to whoever left me my metro ticket that wet Wednesday night, I really, really appreciated it.

One thought on “The Kindness of Strangers

  1. I don’t use the Metro much but if I do I always buy an all day ticket since I want to return, I could be done with it before the afternoon so it does seem a shame to waste it, I’d give it away but I wouldn’t leave it on a machine, knowing my luck and the jobsworths of ticket inspectors would be lurking somewhere to ask for my ticket! 😀

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