As Bonnie and I and the dogs left our apartment for a walk this afternoon, with only one day left before we leave London for four days in Paris and then home, we were both feeling very sad to be leaving. I was reaching in my pockets to make sure I had doggie bags with me when behind us I heard a voice call out, “do you need a couple of pounds?” I turned, and a man even older than me who we’d never seen before, said, “I could spare a few quid, if that will help.”
“No, no,” I said…”we’re fine, but thanks!” And then we stopped and talked for a few minutes. His name was “Harry.” When he discovered we were Americans he said,”well then, thanks, Yanks…you saved our fannies in the war!” He had a great sense of humor, and when we said we were sad to be going home, given our love of London, he replied, “well, hopefully you can come back again next year…until then keeping laughing, it will keep you young and get you through anything in life, won’t it.” We talked a bit more, and as we walked our separate ways I got a bit weepy.
I write this story only because it is simply one of dozens of friendly and civil encounters we’ve had with complete strangers during our summer in London. Oh, I know there are kind and friendly people everywhere, including, of course, in the United States. But the amount of civility, the number of people who’ve shown us, complete strangers, so much kindness and generosity of spirit during our stay, has truly impressed us. There is a deep sense of caring about everyone else that seems to permeate the British spirit and it manifests all around one when one is here. A sense that, “we are all in this life together and should look out for one another.” I found it had a “pay it forward” effect on me. That is, if I found myself on the undergound when it was standing room only, I was always on the lookout for an old person, or pregnant woman, who was standing so that I could get up and offer them my seat. Or I would find myself offering to help an obvious tourist with directions.
Looking forward to seeing our old and dear U.S. friends soon,