This is a story I have kept to myself for the past 5 years, it is unbelievable, but it is totally true.
Around that time, 2010, life was pretty crap, I had earned lots of money but it had turned me away from being the gentle, thoughtful and kind person I know I am into a obsessive money-making machine, sure I did all the good stuff, taking the kids to school and playing in the garden, but I was never there with my family, my brain was continually plotting where the next pot of cash was coming from.
I guess I also felt like this degree of earnings was expected, work yourself into the ground, give us the cash, we don’t love you without the cash.
I didn’t feel loved.
So, one day, I decided to stop that making money at any cost nonesense, rethink and plan to build my business up my way, it would be lean for a few months, but hey Dad was back, Husband was back.
Three months later and I was asked for a divorce, grounds? No money.
What a kick in the teeth.
It was then that I needed to find out whether I could be loved for being me, money free, just me.
I was, I still am, I met a girl, a wonderful girl who wanted to be with me, it didn’t matter about the money, what mattered was giving out love and respect and happiness and all the stuff which costs nothing.
Money was tight at the time, and as a divorce was happening, a very costly divorce, I needed to keep what I had in reserve in reserve. I was living hand to mouth, I was earning little and I was paid weekly on a Thursday, a pittance really, each Wednesday my bank balance was down to virtually nil, but would be topped up overnight ready for the Thursday.
On the Wednesday in question, I left work, which was a hour away from my girlfriend, I had no money, I had little fuel, fumes really, I wasn’t sure I’d make it, but I had to, somehow. Most of the journey was motorway, I would stick to 50 mph, and I would coast the downhill parts.
It worked, at least it worked until the last 10 miles, then the car stuttered on an uphill slope leading off at my junction, I was stranded on the hard shoulder, no fuel, no money for fuel, new girlfriend.
What to do?
I phoned the recovery company I had, not the one with the two letters, or the three letters, the one which started with Green and ended with Flag.
They arrived promptly, I told the mechanic that it was lack of fuel, that I had no money for fuel until I got paid, could you give me a splash of fuel, just to get me 10 miles up the road, I get paid tomorrow? No, that’s not company policy.
Cool , thanks.
I can get you off the motorway, onto flat ground, he said, it may start then.
He did, it didn’t.
He waved me goodbye, see yu sucker.
There were some retail units there, a DIY store etc, and Tesco. I plucked up the courage and wandered over to the Tesco forecourt and wandered in with my head drooping and my shoulders hunched, I was desperate.
There was a queue, I lined myself up and in no time, I was facing a cashier, a tiny Indian woman, I coughed embarrassingly.
‘I wonder if you can help, I’m desperate you see’
I explained and pleaded for some fuel ‘would the manager give me £5 worth of fuel, just until tomorrow’
‘I’m sorry’ she said sympathetically ‘they won’t’
‘Ok I said’ I now had to phone the new girlfriend, risk that perfect relationship, all 2 weeks of it. I turned to go.
‘They won’t’ the cashier said ‘but I will’.
My spirits soared, a complete stranger was helping me with no strings attached.
I told her that the car was over the road and I couldn’t get it here, she told me to grab a green can from the top shelf, they were £5 and holds £10 worth of fuel, I did, I filled it up, went back to her, she’d gotten her purse and paid for it for me.
I thanked her more than I have ever thanked anyone before and since, I told her that I’d be back tomorrow once I had been paid, she replied, don’t worry, pay me back when you can.
I did go back, the very next day, she wasn’t on duty so I left £20 in an envelope taped to a box of chocolates as a thank you.
But it doesn’t end there, no.
Two weeks later and I find myself back at the Tesco filling the car up, I go to pay, and Mira, I found out her name, was on duty.
She smiled at me, asked me how I was, and I her, then she said ‘you have been very naughty, you paid me too much’.
She went and got her purse and insisted that I take back the extra £5 I gave her.
I felt humbled, close to tears.
No only that, and six months later, I bumped into her again only this time she wanted something from me, a portrait of her family. We fixed a time, we fixed a fee, I told her I’d do it for free, seeing as she had helped me, she said no, so I gave her a very cheap price, she reluctantly agreed and we spent a wonderful few hours in the sunshine taking some shots of this wonderfully warm and friendly family.
Come time to leave, Mira took me to one side and told me that she’d checked out my website and that what I was charging her was too low, a third of the price of a normal portrait, she gave me that cash, that full amount.
So here’s the thing, this world of ours is ours, all of ours, we have difficulties in understanding each others cultures and each others traditions and religions, within this world we are being forced, I suspect, to not get along.
Where is the newsworthiness in a nice story? Bad things sell newspapers, but the kindness of a stranger, regardless of colour, creed or belief cannot stand against what human beings truly, deeply are.
And that is caring and kind and decent.
All we need is a chance to show it.