Last night I observed a beautiful thing. I wanted to share it with you, since we’re surrounded by ugly.
I was walking down a fairly empty South London street. It was nearly midnight. Just in front of me, a rubbish compactor truck pulled over. Two men jumped off their floating platforms at the back and one from the passenger side up-front and started throwing bags into its gaping maw.
Then, like a well-rehearsed ballet, a man emerged from the 24hr corner shop. “Evening”, he said and handed one of the men a plastic bag with a couple of bottles of soft drink. The cook from the Chinese takeaway next door, showed up holding a couple of large food containers. “Thanks, Ann” said one of the men. The bakery appeared closed – blinds half-rolled down. A man crawled out from underneath and lobbed at them a paper bag brimming with jam doughnuts.
The rubbish collectors hardly broke their stride. The food and drink were stored at the front and within seconds the truck had disappeared round the corner.
I stood there, puzzled. I think I may have been smiling. Ann noticed me. She doesn’t know my name – to her I am “mixed vegetable noodles, extra spicy” – but she is fond of me all the same. “All right darling?”, she broke my trance. “Yeah. Fine… Thanks. Does this happen every night?”. She seemed amused by my ignorance. “Every night, sweetheart – and why not? Costs very little to be nice.”
The Big Society. No speeches; no fanfares; no empty rhetoric. Just a recognition of togetherness. Unrehearsed solidarity from one group of people, doing a shitty job for little money, to another.
Kindness is not expended. It is merely recycled.