Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Underground Acts of Kindness

Underground Acts of Kindness

29 Jul 2011 by Peter Barrett

Don’t know if you’ve noticed but there’s a series of posters appearing on the London Underground, inspired by artist Michael Landy. He asked members of the public to come up with tales of nice things that have happened to them while travelling on the Tube. Surprisingly, given the normally competitive and sometimes unfriendly environment that can pervade the Underground, there were over 100 stories submitted. Here’s a few:

One physiotherapist from Northern Ireland visiting her daughter in London commented: “I was so impressed how Tube staff came to give me directions without me asking. They were always smiling.”

“I was in the pit of a severe depression, sitting on the tube, staring at my knees, trying not to cry. I could just see the man opposite me, folding a piece of paper. The train stopped and in my lap the man placed the piece of paper, which he had folded into a beautiful little white horse. He smiled and left the train. A light appeared in the pit.”

“I’ve been travelling on the tube regularly with my son since he was 5 weeks old and what has enabled me to do this is that regardless of which station we are at someone always stops to help me lift his buggy up and down stairs. People say that Londoners can be unfriendly but my experience of travelling with a small child is exactly the opposite.”

“On a Friday night I boarded the train dressed up ready to go out and thinking I looked the bee’s knees. A woman came up to me, and very kindly, and quietly, told me I had my skirt tucked into my knickers.”

“Between Victoria and Vauxhall, I was weeping. A woman asked me gently, “Are you alright, my dear?” And I said, “No. My father died.” She moved to sit next to me and held my hand. I talked about my father’s love. She talked about losing her son. She closed her eyes, and as she prayed to Jesus, I prayed to Allah, for the strength to walk that chasm where grief resides. At Vauxhall, I left, saying goodbye to a woman whose name I do not know, but who had reached deep into my heart.”

One poster simply states: “I found I was a few pennies short when I went to buy my ticket. The person in the queue behind me spontaneously offered me some change. I was embarrassed but it really helped me out.”

The posters are all along the Central line – Holborn, St Paul’s and Liverpool Street currently, to be followed by Holland Park, Leyton and Hangar Lane – which Landy has used all his life. “I’m intrigued why people are prepared to help a complete stranger,” he said. “I find these acts of kindness really life-enhancing. But I’m not trying to tell people to behave kindly, I’m trying to inspire them.” (There is also a Kindness Offensive group that give out cuddly toys to children on the Tube as well.)

A wise person once told me: “Our character is revealed by how we treat those who cannot help us or hurt us.”

Simple acts of kindness on the Tube. I like it.

To see the posters, click here.