What are your favourite nostalgic memories about kindness? Here some of our readers share theirs...
I was travelling on my own with a large suitcase on London's tube in the Seventies. No wheels back then of course and, as I hauled the case onto the down escalator, I could feel myself over-balancing. Then a smart man in a suit grabbed the case and put it safely upright again. At the bottom my knight in pin-striped armour strode off into the crowds having saved me not only from possible injury, but severe embarrassment – which for anybody British is just as important, as reader Shirley Mew knows...
“I had run out of petrol in front of the dockyard gates at going-home time. A blast from a hooter signalled the end of the working day. Suddenly, I was surround by a tide of workmen, to say nothing of the ever-increasing queue of cars and buses unable to get past me. I was mortified and didn’t know what to do. Two workmen took charge and decided to push me and my car to the nearest garage. Arriving there, they said a cheerful goodbye and disappeared giving me no chance to thank them properly. That was over 50 years ago and, I still feel a rush of gratitude for being rescued from a most embarrassing situation by two complete strangers.”
In 1968 Lorraine Lane and her mum found themselves stranded at the end of their holiday on the Tunisian island of Djerba when floods in England and sandstorms in Africa meant planes were grounded. “Mum and I were without money to buy food as, at that time, you were limited on how much you could take out of the country on holiday. We were rescued by a lovely German family who fed and watered us for the two days and wouldn't give us their address so my mother could send them the funds they had so kindly spent on us. I would still love to know who they were.”
Angels perhaps? That's what Oonagh Gleeson suspects of her mysterious benefactor when, six months pregnant, “I went to visit my mother in hospital and took my two-year-old daughter with me. Her ward was on the top floor and all went well until we discovered, on leaving, that the lift had broken down. My toddler was screaming but I couldn't even lift her. From nowhere a man in a white jacket appeared, picked her up and carried her down the four floors. He put her down and vanished before I could thank him!”
But not all strangers disappear... “I was trying, unsuccessfully, to manoeuvre a case and myself onto a train at Cologne station and accepted the offer of help from a kind gentleman. I then found that our seats were opposite each other,” emails Patricia Wallis. “As we got chatting we discovered we had booked a number of the same coach excursions and, as we seemed to be the only singles in the group, sat together. I returned to the UK before him but as soon he was back home he rang me at work and asked for my home address as he had something he wanted to send to me. It was a CD of a German song we had often listened to on our coach trips. The following weekend he arrived on my doorstep in Sheffield and one year and a week later we married and were together for 33 years until he sadly died of cancer.”
Yes, the whole of our lives can be changed in a moment – and that is what also nearly happened to Diane Shearn... “In 1968, my husband and I, together with our tiny daughter and baby son, were on holiday in Torquay. We were about to cross a zebra crossing as an oncoming bus had stopped for us. Suddenly a man across the other side of the road, bellowed at us, 'Stay where you are!' His attitude made us freeze on the spot. Then we realised why he had shouted! What he could see from his side, (and what we could not) was a car driving at speed and about to overtake the stationary bus. That dear man literally saved our lives. When I look at my wonderful grandchildren, I often think that without that stranger, I wouldn't have them, or indeed any of my family.”
And after our families, of course, we cherish our beloved pets: “In 1988 I was walking my boxer, Pepper, along the banks of the Thames and met a gentleman walking his labrador,” writes Christine Surridge. “As dogs do, they started playing, but Pepper, being chased, raced towards the bank and – plop! She disappeared into the river. The bank was steep and the drop was deep. I was terrified as I knew I wouldn't be able to reach her and the tide was quite strong. Try as she might, Pepper couldn't get a grip on the steep bank. Then the owner of the Labrador raced to the bank, fell on his stomach and, having shouted to me to hold his legs, managed to haul Pepper up out of the water. Never before or since have I been so grateful to anyone!”
Can a stranger bring you luck? Vera Larking thinks so... “On April 9, 1955 we were on a packed train on our way to our honeymoon. My husband was in the army and got talking to another young soldier who had just come from another wedding. When we got off the train he gave me a small silver horseshoe from the other couple's wedding cake. Last year we had our 60th wedding anniversary and I hope they celebrated theirs too – and that the young soldier had lots of luck. To this day I have that little horseshoe in my purse.”
- For more true stories and nostalgia, pick up the latest copy of Yours magazine