We’re taught as kids to stay away from strangers.
But I’m going to let you in on a little secret…strangers are the absolute best.
Don’t believe me?
Example 1: Last year my sister and I met up for a brief 18 hours in London. I hadn’t seen her in a while and I wasn’t sure when we’d be together next so naturally when I put her on the train to the airport I was the tiniest bit emotional (a complete mess of near-hysteric tears). Standing in the middle of London Tower station during morning rush hour with all my bags, I was trying to wipe the tears from my face as inconspicuously as possible when suddenly – I felt an arm go around my shoulder. Two strange women saw my distress and came over to give me a hug, ask why I was crying, and (after smothering me with love and reassurances) provide me with a granola bar for breakfast.
Example 2: My first time on the underground I got completely lost. I’m talking trains going by, people pushing past and me just standing there, regretting ever having come to London. I asked someone for directions, and what happened next completely baffled me. This young guy, probably around my age, grabbed me by the hand and pulled me through the crowds on to the right train. He escorted me all the way to where I needed to go. I thanked him profusely and he turned to go – right back the way we had just come from. HE NEEDED TO GO THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION! The absolute legend took time out of his day to help a stranger find her way.
Example 3: Towards the end of my hike last year I screwed my knee. I couldn’t hike any further so I took a little trail towards the highway. Upon stopping at a house to ask for directions, I found myself invited in. This lovely family allowed me to pitch my tent in their backyard and fed me dinner. The next morning my knee wasn’t much better and they proceeded to bring me into their home, introduce me to their absolutely delightful children, and feed me 3 warm meals. They allowed me access to their bathtub and wifi and most importantly – their bookshelf. 5 million cups of milky tea and countless deep and meaningful conversations later, I hiked out (3 days after my initial arrival) with a full belly and a supremely content heart.
The world is full with incredible strangers.
As I’ve mentioned (maybe once or twice) I’m hiking across Ireland next month for Mental Health Ireland. In an attempt to further my audience I’ve taken to Twitter and with the help of Irish hashtags, something incredible has happened. People have started contacting me to offer accommodation along the trail. The first to reach out were the kind owners of Bluebell Cottage Tipperary ( https://www.facebook.com/bluebellcottagetipperary/). Gordon saw a tweet of mine and sent me a message offering a night (or 2 if I’d like to “put my feet up for a day”) in their Airbnb cottage. As I’m apparently incredibly emotional these days (I swear, I’ve no idea where all these blasted tears are coming from), I had a wee cry over this incredibly generous gesture.
There’s currently a campaign sweeping across Ireland called Sound Effect – people are sharing their ‘sound experiences’, kind things that others have done for them. An absolutely brilliant campaign highlighting the good even the smallest random act of kindness can do. Seriously, if you’ve got a few spare minutes and need a good heart-warming read – go look at some of the posts on the hashtag. It makes me absurdly emotional and overwhelmingly happy. So of course, being the Irish Twitter wiz I am, I tweeted about the Bluebells kindness using the hashtag (I’m really getting the hang of this whole ‘social media’ thing). Within an hour I had received 2 additional offers for accommodation along the trail.
It continuously amazes me, the kindness of strangers. Perhaps it’s because I’m not necessarily accustomed to no-strings-attached-kindness (but we’ll save The History of my Shitty Friendships for another post). It just completely blows my mind that there are people out there, people who have never met me, who are opening their homes to me. Offering me warm meals, a shower and some friendly company.
I like to think that perhaps they admire what I’m doing? I’m not one to think highly of myself, but I’m decently proud of the adventure I’m about to begin. Speaking up, telling the truth about what mental illness really looks like, pushing myself to the limit in so many different ways – and it’s all for a great cause. My greatest dream for this adventure is to inspire others to step out of the shadows and stop being afraid to speak up about their struggles.
I’ve yet to begin my trek and already I’m blown away by the kindness of Irish strangers.
I can only imagine what awaits me on the trail.