It was a different time. A time when we could mingle. A time when we could travel. A time when we could explore new places and meet new people. A time that seems like a lifetime ago. A time before Covid 19.
I am not always a grateful traveller. There are some journeys that are just too long, too exhausting, too stressful. Yet on one trip I found a balm, a sanctuary, a place of refuge that welcomed me in, took my weariness, frustration and disappointment and turned it into delight And it reminded me just how amazing life and people can be.
This particular evening I had three hours to fill until my train connection. I was beyond tired and what I needed most was to rest. I spied a coffee shop and thought I could kill some time there. I crossed over the threshold and instantly felt better. This was no franchise, no homogenised corporate money-spinner; instead, it announced itself as a magical place, like the home a child would dream of growing up in.
I crashed down on a comfy sofa, and a friendly face appeared and asked: “what would you like?” I must have blurted out something like “to stay here a while and not have to move”. It was silly really; I knew they must be near closing, so late was the hour. “Of course” came the reply, “stay as long as you like”. I couldn’t believe my luck, and as I ordered some tea and cake, I explained that I had come here for a meeting that hadn’t gone at all well and ended much earlier than I had planned. Extremely disappointed, I now had a considerable gap until my train home, and there was nothing for me to do even if I had had the energy or inclination.
“Not to worry,” my host told me “just relax, read a book or magazine from our collection and fill up on whatever you need”. After my tea and cake, my new friend came over and said “look why don’t you lie back and have a nap, and we’ll wake you up in plenty of time to catch your train. You look exhausted”. I felt in the safest place on Earth. I was home again. I was soon fast asleep.
I have never had the opportunity to go back but in these difficult times the warmth I received from these strangers, who could have so easily treated me as a quick transaction instead of an in-need fellow human, speaks to me of the love and compassion we are all capable of. Each of us has the power to help one another. We can be a “mindful and compassionate first responder” to someone when they really need it. We can reach out and help each other get through the hard times, the exhausting times and “gap” between now and a better future.
I am the grateful traveller. Thankful of all those men and women who during my incredible lifetime’s journey had gone out of their way to show kindness, when it was least expected but most needed. Perhaps as we come out of this crisis, we will be more aware and more grateful for all those people who make our lives so much better yet who we barely notice. And perhaps we can be one of them too. We don’t all need a uniform to serve. Let’s be mindful of those who are exhausted and looking for our help, let’s create a little bit of magic for them too.