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Beautiful Thing

March 20, 2012

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.


21 Comments leave one →
  1. Steven Wiggins permalink
    March 20, 2012 1:04 pm

    Thank you. I needed that.

  2. Ian permalink
    March 20, 2012 1:06 pm

    Nice story. If things like that were reported everyday on the front pages of newspapers we would all have a better and clearer understanding of humanity, which would in turn lead to greater kindness. But no, its war, scrounging welfare claimants and the daily fanfare of general hate.

  3. March 20, 2012 1:29 pm

    One time I stood with my g/f just off Tottenham Court Road, looking at a map, and someone came out of their house to give us each a cup of tea, in a mug. “Just leave the mugs over there when you’re done”. That was over thirty years ago and I still talk about it.

  4. March 20, 2012 1:44 pm

    I went to an NHS vigil last night and a complete stranger/new friend gave me a lift home despite it being out of her way.

    A bus driver once let me on for free because his bus was half an hour late and he could see how cold I was from waiting.

    People are generally nice! You’re right, Ian, we should hear more about acts of kindness.

    ps I now really fancy some spicy vegetable noodles.

  5. March 20, 2012 1:57 pm

    I was stuck in London one New Years Eve many years ago having missed my last train to the north. To get out of the cold, but with only a couple of quid in my pocket I trotted off to the nearest pub. “Pint of bitter please'” I requested. “You look lost” answered the landlord. After telling him of my temporary plight be poroduced a plateload of sandwiches and sausage rolls. He even provided two or three more pints… which I gratefully accepted. Then it was off to the station to try and get some shut-eye before catching the milk-train home. Yep! It’s not a bad world really.

  6. March 20, 2012 2:22 pm

    Reblogged this on LucyFurLeaps.

  7. Dan Manning permalink
    March 20, 2012 2:23 pm

    These businesses were most likely bribing the refuse collectors so they would pick their rubbish without having to pay the council business rares for a commercial rate pick up.

  8. March 20, 2012 2:26 pm

    Thank you! I feel better for reading that. I’ve re-blogged it in an act of recycling kindness 😉 so hopefully a few more people will get the benefit too.

  9. March 20, 2012 3:00 pm

    There are joys and kind people in this world for sure…thanks for sharing this delightful story.

  10. Michael Brook permalink
    March 20, 2012 3:36 pm

    Great story. It is so good to see that such things happen. There are many kind people in this world – it’s just that few of them are politicians.

  11. March 20, 2012 4:19 pm

    I’m sure this story is meant to be positive but I think the effect is spoilt by the reference to “doing a shitty job” at the end. It’s actually a very valuable job and one of the few that influences everyone’s quality of life every day. If I was doing this and taking pride in my work, I don’t think it would lift my spirits to see my occupation referred to in a such a unpleasant way.

    • March 20, 2012 4:25 pm

      If you’re sure the story is positive why not receive it in that way? I hope any refuse collectors reading this will be able to recognise that this does not call the value of their job into question, but recognises its difficulties and unpleasant, smelly aspects – especially given the hours involved and salary.

  12. March 20, 2012 5:23 pm

    Yes. There was a big society when that jumped up little nob Cameron was learning the Eton Boat song. While they were all pulling together on the river, we’ve always be pulling together. it’s the only way to live.

  13. Sonya permalink
    March 20, 2012 7:02 pm

    Agree that it’s these stories that need widely reporting. Random acts of kindness

  14. March 22, 2012 5:46 pm

    You want to know what’s really cool – I was just in New York and the people there are doing this kindness thing like crazy –
    It is such a different place from my first visit in the 1970s – and I don’t care if its Mayors good policies or 9/11 aftermath –
    the people are just wonderfully friendly…and generous.

    Thw world is so much better than the media dominance tells us…

  15. March 24, 2012 1:03 pm

    Reblogged this on Crasser Than Thou and commented:
    A beautiful anecdote of selflessness in South London that I just had to share.

  16. March 24, 2012 1:14 pm

    Yes, that’s wonderful. All the different flavors, and well-told. (One can hear the woman’s voice with great clarity.) K.

  17. April 11, 2012 1:16 pm

    What a lovely piece – we need more of this. We hear so much about people acting badly that we forget that most people are kind.


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