Fri,29 Sep 2023

Unexpected helper, the kindness of strangers

by Maxine Room CBE, Black Leadership Group Associate Director for Leadership Development, Coaching and Mentoring

Standing at the bus stop near London City Airport with one other person waiting for a bus. I am not used to buses anymore their unpredictability when you are in a lonely place is slightly unnerving. I was born in London and used the bus every day to get to Secondary School and it never worried me but times have changed. I am older now and perhaps feeling wiser but more vulnerable and my biases come into play.

So headphones in at the bus stop listening to Trevor Nelson’s Magnificent 7 from the night before I covertly observed my companion at the stop. Lots of bags and working clothes.

We sized each other up in the way that strangers do and I am ashamed to say I was worried. And then it happened, one of my earphones fell out before my eyes and rolled away on the ground down a drain. I looked on in horror which quickly turned to resignation. I would have to replace them no thought of cost but just inconvenience.

My companion then sprang into action looking down the drain with me. He said, “I can get it for you.” I looked on in disbelief as he hauled up the drain cover asked me to hold it up reached down into the drain and retrieved my headphone that had been sitting on a crust of leaves. He suggested I clean it before putting it back in my ear, good advice!

I thanked him profusely and we got talking. He had just finished work as a painter and decorator and had been shopping hence all the over-filled bags. He asked me what I did but that’s another story. The bus came, we got on I offered to pay but he refused. I asked if I could take his picture as I wanted to remember his kindness and share with others. He agreed!

My reflection was that if I make judgements and my prejudices come into play even with all the work I do, what is it like for others who do not have my skills and experience? More work to do on myself.

Kind stranger