Sunday, 13 April 2014

Empathy is 'Blurring The Line Between Self And Other'

After a hard day's work and a rush through the friday night traffic I got home around 7pm. By 8:30 I was on my way to Basingstoke for a weekend of socialising with friends and stopped at a Shell station for fuel. When attempting to pay I inserted my debit card in the reader and it was promptly declined. I insisted there were ample funds in the account and suggested the teller tried inserting the card a second time. Declined again.

I asked directions to the nearest cash point and was told of a location 10 minutes walk away. Walk because I was told in no uncertain terms to leave the car at the station.

To say I was annoyed is an understatement. The inconvenience and delay I faced when I was sure it was the station's card reader at fault made it that much more irritating.

As I went to the car to get my jacket a young chap ran out of the shop and called me over. He offered to pay my bill and told me I could transfer the money later.

"But it's a fair amount of money, £42" I replied.

He said "that's Ok, no trouble" .

As we walked back into the shop I gave him my iphone to enter his phone number. We exchanged numbers and he paid my bill. I offered to transfer the money there and then but he said he was running late and on his way to meet his girfriend in Farnham.

James, a person I had never met before was trusting me to the point of incredulity. Despite my insistence he gave me a few minutes to transfer the money he again reitterated how late he was and that I could do that later.

We went our separate ways and I felt humbled and at peace with the world. The selfless act of a total stranger had turned an annoying incident into a pleasent one.

Later that evening, after telling my friends about James' act of kindness, I texted him, thanking him again for his kindness and asked for his bank details.

To my surprise James didn't reply until next morning. This is what he wrote:

"Morning Joe, not a problem at all, doesn't hurt to be human, just hope you got to where you needed to be. (account details) Have a lovely weekend buddy..."

I transferred the money and sent him a message of gratitude, to which he replied:

"thank you Joe, really appreciate that mate, couldn't just leave you stranded. Hope you have a good weekend mate, take care"

I had a wonderful weekend, thanks to James generosity. The prospect of walking through dark alleys in a strange neighbourhood at night in West London to an unknown cashpoint wasn't my idea of a good night out.

James, a stranger who offered to pay my bill so as not leave me stranded, has reinforced my belief in humanity.  Kindness really is all around us.

Thank you James, once again, for being kind, generous, and most importantly, for demonstrating the special human quality I admire the most.




  1. What a wonderful chap! And I'm sure it helped that you have an honest face. :) Are you now going to keep more cash in your wallet as a precaution?

  2. But cash is outdated GB! How do you pay for your transactions in the Congo? I wouldn't have thought you carried cash in your wallet. And where would you keep your wallet? Maybe I should just build up a collection of credit/debit cards learn from past mistakes :)

  3. That was an inspiring beginning to my dreary, snowy, cold day. Maybe I'll search for a random act of kindness to do today.

    1. I'm glad it has inspired you Nessa :)

  4. Stories like that give me a little bit of hope in the species.

  5. Replies
    1. Hahaha, NB,, this was true :P

  6. That was a fair amount of money! Once, I had to panhandle, actually ask people for money for gas to get to the next station where the check reader worked. When I got about $3.50, I pumped that and went on to the interstate on my way home and stopped at the first station and got gas. Here, we have to pay before we pump. I don't think I have ever been so grateful to anyone as those three men who helped me. I realized all of a sudden that I could probably get enough to fill up my tank since in less than two minutes I had gotten quite a bit of change and one dollar bill in a short amount of time. But, I only needed a bit since there was plenty of money in my checking account, just none in my purse.

    1. you would have been able to hop from one station to the next until you got home for free! Most people are kind and decent social beings :)

    2. "Here, we have to pay before we pump."

      Here in Oregon, we don't pump because it's illegal--they have to pump for you.

  7. What a story. I don't know how it is where you are, but if someone gets access to your debit account here, they can clean it out, which could lead to all kinds of problems even if you're able to get your money back. On the other hand, your credit card liability is limited to $50, you won't be having any bounced checks or auto payments, you can challenge a purchase if the merchandise proves to be faulty, and if your account is hacked, the company will send you a new card via overnight delivery. This is why I hate debit cards, but I am sure to pay my balance off every month on my credit cards.

    1. Not so here Snow- it's safe to give out your account number and sort code. With that information all one can do is pay into that account, not withdraw funds.