Those three words were the buzzwords of 2018 it seems, a simple statement that means, do something for someone else, for free, without conditions, out of your own kind-heartedness.
Even better, doing something for someone else and not telling anyone about it is up there with paying it forward godliness.
I’m not sure if this counts, as I am about to tell you about it (be it around twelve years later) but it’s a nice story to share and in my opinion is an example of “paying it forward”.
I start my story on a hot summers day, on a Sunday afternoon. I was walking along Station Road, which is a long road that joins the Old Harlow Town shopping precinct to you guessed it, the Old Harlow Mill Train Station.
I was making my way to my then boyfriends house. We didn’t live together at this stage in our lives, he still lived in his family home which garage backed right on to Station Road.
As I made my way down the hill I noted a coach pull up and drop off some teenagers. My attention was drawn to a tall and slim dark-skinned young boy, who I guessed was probably around sixteen, pulling his heavy suitcase behind him.
All the other kids appeared to know exactly where they were going and headed off in the same direction. The boy stood still for a second and then thumbed around for a piece of paper in his pocket. I saw him look at the paper with a confused expression and then he caught my eye contact as I walked past.
I felt an urge to make sure he was ok. I don’t know where it came from, but I made an assumption that he had just been dropped off here and didn’t have a clue where he was. I walked over to him.
“Are you ok? Do you need some help?” I asked. He looked so shy and awkward, my heart went out to him. He pushed the paper into my hand and said “Hotel?”. I realised that the poor thing didn’t speak a word of English and felt a panic that he had no-one here to guide him, he had probably just landed at the airport and was trying to find his accommodation!
I read the name of the hotel and realised that it was the very other ends of the town, in fact, the coach would have driven past it as it came off the motorway. He would have to get a taxi or a bus. I decided that to try and get him to understand a taxi may be too challenging and knew there was a bus stop at the top of the hill.
“You need a bus to take you to the other side of town for that Hotel, go up there, to the bus stop,” I said, handing him back the paper. He nodded sheepishly and started to walk along the way I had pointed.
As I walked on by myself, in the other direction, I felt a pang of guilt in the pit of my stomach. How much help was that exactly? It was terrible to be fair. How would he know what bus route to take when he couldn’t’ even speak English? Also to add, it was a Sunday so who knows when the next bus was going to arrive?? It was so hot, that heavy case that he was carrying…………the poor thing!
As I got to Craig’s gate, I still couldn’t’ stop thinking about the boy.
Craig was quite happily and contentedly cleaning his car in the back garden when I approached the gate. I knew what I had to do.
“Craig, can I ask a massive favour?” I said after we said our hello’s.
He shot me a look that pained him before he even knew what I was going to ask, couldn’t’ I see now wasn’t the time for favours?
“I have just met a young lad that has literally been dropped into the country, he doesn’t speak English, he doesn’t know where he has to go, he is waiting for a bus with the biggest suitcase you have ever seen and I just don’t think the poor thing will make it to the hotel. Can we jump in the car and pick up and take him to the hotel?”.
Craig didn’t need to answer just then. His facial expression said it all. It said “are you having an absolute laugh?” caught between “well if I don’t do this I’m going to look like a right selfish so and so aren’t I?” caught between a rock and a hard place……
Five minutes later we are driving up Station Road, much to Craig’s very apparent displeasure. Thing is, Craig is actually one of the nicest people I have ever meet and there is no way he would not help, especially how I had pleaded for the boy’s case.
As we drove closer to the bus stop I was absolutely thrilled that the boy had found the right one and that he was still there, we could take him to his destination (his mum would be so relieved!).
We pulled up and I wound the window down “jump in, we can take you to your hotel!” I sang out the window with so much enthusiasm I do feel now, looking back that it was bordering on weird (this is what happens when an empath helps, they can’t help themselves!).
He looked surprised, then relieved and proceeded to pick up the heavy suitcase, put in into the boot (with the help of the grumpy taxi driver) and jump into the back seat.
As we pulled away, I knew Craig would not be entertaining small talk with this kid so I decided to break the ice properly but make sure I made it nice and slow so he could at least try to get a gist of what I was saying:
“So – How – long – have – you – been – in – the country??” I asked, through smiles, the type of slow sentence that you use when you are asking for a Jambon Sandwich in France.
The boy’s forehead creased a little and he appeared to look mildly offended.
“I’m from Croydon in it. On a course”.
I kid you not. He used those very words.
I don’t know what was worse. The utter, utter humiliating realisation that I had judged this poor guy to be not only a foreign person that couldn’t speak English and was incapable of catching a bus and getting himself to a hotel or the look of pure exasperation directed side on from my other travelling companion.
There is a morale to this story!! I love to tell it, because not only is it so funny, but also because it’s a wonderful example of how we should never be quick to judge a situation but mostly, it doesn’t matter if that boy was new to this country or on a work course and was from the heady heights of Croydon. He needed some help and we did that, we paid it forward.
We didn’t converse much after the Croydon bombshell but he did give me a wonderful smile as grumpy bags handed him his luggage and I just knew that if I ever had a child and a nice couple had helped like that, I would have been a very happy mum.
So do it guys, pay it forward. Just don’t tell anyone.
Until next time,