A Samaritan for the New Year

Delacroix - The good samaritan

The Good Samaritan

There was a great story on the BBC this Christmas. It concerned the writer, Bernard Hare, who’s mother was dying in Leeds.

I got to the railway station to find I’d missed the last train. A train was going as far as Peterborough, but I would miss the connecting Leeds train by twenty minutes.

I bought a ticket home and got on anyway. I was a struggling student and didn’t have the money for a taxi the whole way, but I had a screwdriver in my pocket and my bunch of skeleton keys.

I was so desperate to get home that I planned to nick a car in Peterborough, hitch hike, steal some money, something, anything. I just knew from my dad’s tone of voice that my mother was going to die that night and I intended to get home if it killed me.

It changed for him when the guard wheedled his story out of him. He went off and came back.

He touched my arm. “Listen, when we get to Peterborough, shoot straight over to Platform One as quick as you like. The Leeds train’ll be there.”

I looked at him dumbfounded. It wasn’t really registering. “Come again,” I said, stupidly. “What do you mean? Is it late, or something?”

“No, it isn’t late,” he said, defensively, as if he really cared whether trains were late or not. “No, I’ve just radioed Peterborough. They’re going to hold the train up for you. As soon as you get on, it goes.

“Everyone will be complaining about how late it is, but let’s not worry about that on this occasion. You’ll get home and that’s the main thing. Good luck and God bless.”

The whole story is brilliant – do read the whole thing.

But a couple of things really stuck out about the story which I think we will need to start hanging on to in the coming months and years as government provides less in the way of help and more people will need to be around to help.

Firstly, the conductor saw it as his job to care for people. He didn’t hide behind a rule book or pass on by. He helped Bernard by listening to him and then doing what he could to help him in his need to see his dying mother. In other words he treated him as a human being.

We need to find ways in our daily lives and in our jobs to do the same. This encounter transformed Bernard (and the conductor probably never knew how much he had done for this angry young man).

I have written before about bureaucracy and how much more difficult it has got. How more and more are hiding behind it and fearful of it.

Secondly, we should never forget that rules are there to assist people and help them and not purely to stop people. This story saw a man reach out to help where the rule book didn’t go. The conductor saw a human being in front of him and in compassion helped him.

The coming few years will either make people harsher and more selfish or it will allow us to discover and become more caring and helpful. I do pray that it is the latter.



4 comments on “A Samaritan for the New Year

  1. Paul Barnard57
    January 5, 2011 at 11:29 pm #

    It’s a great story but it is only when i read the full article i found out this was in 1982. don’t want to get all pesimistic but i really think it is much less likely a) the inspector would try and b) the driver would agree now (more than me jobs worth mate!).
    and if they did then i think the private train operator wouldn’t agree with the principle and they would probably both be sacked for their good deed!

    Definately agree with the ideal of helping each other out though.

    and as you said in your beaurocracy post “roll on the revolution!” i for one am hoping for a year of strikes and civil disobediance! (not because i think they will be fun or good or anything, because i think they are necessary!)

    • Will Cookson
      January 6, 2011 at 8:29 am #

      Paul, I hadn’t realised you were a closet Tory – I thought you were a Labour supporter! The tactics you are espousing will really damage the Labour party (especially when the charge that Ed Milliband only won via the unions is likely to continue to stick).
      The student protests received a bit of support (but didn’t change the outcome) because the children of the middle classes were targeted.

  2. Jean
    January 6, 2011 at 11:37 pm #

    Ah, Paul, the voice of youth. I think the story points to better times and attitudes we need to return to. Yes, the good deed seems outrageous now, but it’s not the deed at fault – it’s our attitude. It was Thatcherism that made us ‘want it and want it NOW and on MY terms’, so that if the same good deed happened now, the delayed passengers would scream for revenge and want to see heads roll. This has shaped the thinking of this generation. I’m not suggesting that everyone now is selfish, but I do think that we now expect selfishness to be the norm, we shrug and move on.
    Blame culture and litigation rule now. Kids not allowed to slide on ice in schools for fear of being sued. Primary teachers not allowed to cuddle a crying child for fear of accusation.

  3. Paul Barnard57
    January 9, 2011 at 8:18 pm #

    i’m not a Labour supporter but i am definately not a tory supporter! think its safe to say i’m to the left of both of them!

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