With the coronavirus epidemic now sweeping the world, it is little wonder that many of the people in each country are in a state of shock as to what is happening all around them. But among the reports of shoppers, selfishly raiding the supermarkets to hoard whatever they can, there are numerous stories of others acting out of kindness to help those more vulnerable than ourselves.
I’ve found this to be true whenever people have experienced some misfortune, great or small, that very often there is someone who will lend a helping hand. I’m sure some of us have had days when an unexpected meeting with a complete stranger leaves us with a smile and a feeling of gratitude for the encounter.
An example of this happened last year, when Vi and I decided to take a short break to the coastal towns of Malahide and Portmarnock, outside Dublin.
It’s our preference whenever we can, to leave the car behind and travel a long journey by train or coach, allowing us to relax with the aid of a coffee and the chance to catch up on the book we have been meaning to read. I know it doesn’t always work out like that, but on this occasion it did, in spite of a misjudgement on our part.
The plan was to travel from Belfast to Dublin on the train, then catch the Dart service to Portmarnock where we planned to stay in the White Sands Hotel, and visit Malahide Village the next day. Well, you would think that if you’re staying in Portmarnock, that’s the station where you would disembark?
No, it’s not. For some reason I have yet to fathom, the station is placed a long way – especially on a hot, sunny day – from the village. We arrived at a deserted station, very clean and pleasant, but no office, staff, bus or taxi service. Only an empty car park that indicated no form of transport was available to take us and our cases to the hotel. Added to our difficulty was the absence of a signal for our mobile phones, that would have allowed us to contact the hotel to seek help.
It was not to be. A lady on a bicycle passing by, advised us that we should walk down the road to the coast, turn left, and that would take us straight into Portmarnock. It was only about two miles to the village, she said, and, of course, it was a lovely day for a walk.
But trudging two miles trailing a couple of cases, was akin to each of us pulling an Indian rickshaw. By the time we walked into the centre of Portmarnock, we both needed a drink and something to eat. As luck would have it, an oasis in the guise of a very welcoming coffee bar, appeared a short distance away. It was there we headed to recover from our unexpected hike, before the next part of the story occurred.
Shortly after we left the coffee bar, a black car did a U-turn on the road, pulling up alongside us. The driver, a pleasant-looking, middle-aged lady, lowered the passenger-side window and called out: ‘Where are you people going?’
A little taken aback by a stranger wanting to know our destination, I approached the car. ‘We’re looking for the White Sands Hotel,’ I said. ‘I think it’s on this road.’
‘Oh, no! You can’t walk all that way. It’s at the end of the village. Here, get in the car and I’ll take you there.’
On the way to the hotel, Mary, our benefactor, told us how she’d spotted us earlier, trudging along the footpath hauling our cases. On that hot day, we must have presented a sad sight to her eyes, but by the time she stopped the car, we had disappeared. I realised that must have been around the same time we found the coffee bar, when she lost sight of us. But as good fortune would have it, a half hour later as we resumed our journey, Mary found us again on her second run through the village.
It was likely another mile, or so, before she left us at the hotel entrance. Despite our thanks and insistence, that she at least join us for coffee, Mary wouldn’t hear of it. She was leaving the next morning to visit her sister in England, and she had a lot to do before then. Yet this lovely lady had found the time to go out of her way to help two weary travellers.
After a very enjoyable break, exploring Malahide village and its castle, we learned one important lesson. That if you want to go to Portmarnock, take the Dart service from Dublin to Malahide station, situated in the centre of the town. From there it is a short bus journey to the door of the White Sands Hotel in Portmarnock.
Our story ends with another kind lady. Vi met her at reception as we were checking out of the hotel, and when she heard Vi asking about taxis and bus times to get us to Malahide, she insisted that she would take us to the station. Somehow, the offer wasn’t so unexpected this time, and one we were happy to accept.
It was a memorable journey, if for no other reason, it showed us the kindness of strangers who simply wanted to help others, because they could.