I love travelling. And there are enough reasons why to fill a book. My favourite souvenirs are memories of the kindness of strangers. But this is a story of kindness closer to home, quite literally, on my doorstep.
Thunder rolled, rain hammered against the glass and lightening lit up the bedroom. Midnight passed and I was still awake. Sleep eventually crept over me and I fell into a dream.
I wasn’t sure where the voice was coming from. I wasn’t even sure where I was. That’s how my dreams work. Mostly my dreams are fantastic and vivid creations formed by a wild imagination.
‘Please help me. HELP!’
My eyelids flew open. I waited. I listened. Raindrops splashed against the window and the curtains flapped in the breeze.
I leapt out of bed and went to the window wrapping myself in a curtain to hide my nakedness. I heard a man call.
‘Dan, wake up. There’s someone outside calling for help.’
‘I’m coming,’ Dan shouted.
We dressed with haste. Dan handed me my coat as I slipped on boots. A plastic mouse trap gripped the open pocket of my jacket. I was startled though grateful there was no mouse attached.
Across the street from our house, next to the Lamborghini tractor, a man lay on the ground. Two men and a woman were with him. There was a small tin box in a puddle on the path.
Someone said to call an ambulance so I ran back to the house and made the call. The ambulance lady wanted to know what was wrong so I ran out the front door to check and report back. Everyone had disappeared, even the box had vanished.
‘He’s gone,’ I told the emergency operator ‘They’ve all gone.’ I was sure she thought I was mad.
I looked up and down the street. I saw only shadows of cars in the loom of street lamps. For a moment, I thought I’d imagined everything. I was drenched. I dashed down a dark footpath and found the man being carried by three men. Someone thrust a torch in my hand.
‘We’re taking him home. I don’t think he needs an ambulance. He’s got Motor Neuron Disease. He must have tripped and was too weak to get up.’ Said one.
(If you have done the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, you probably know that ALS is also known as Motor Neuron Disease)
I told the operator that Steve was cold and wet but he didn’t want an ambulance. Steve said his wife was at home and she would look after him. The operator she said she would stand the ambulance down and asked me to tell Steve’s wife to call back if an ambulance was needed later.
When we got to the end of the path, one of the helpers said he was going home. He was cold, wet and barefoot. Our group had become five, two men, two women and Steve. Steve’s wife wasn’t at home, but his son James was. By now Steve was shivering uncontrollably and needed help to remove his sodden clothing. Dan was sent upstairs to alert James. It was two in the morning when Dan knocked on every bedroom door, calling for James. James took so long to respond we weren’t sure he was there at all and we couldn’t leave Steve on his own. Considering that four dripping wet strangers were standing at the foot of his stairs, James was incredibly calm when he appeared on the landing.
James was brought up to speed and our shrinking group of strangers who met in the night, left together, reassured that a nurse was coming over in the morning. The other woman in our party was dressed in soaking wet pyjamas. We shared our experiences of hearing Steve’s call for help as we turned back into the dark footpath.
‘Is this your torch?’ I asked. It belonged to the man wearing a hi-vis jacket. He turned right and we said goodnight. Now three, we crossed the road to our house. I held back to see where the other woman lived. It was two doors down.
Dan and I took off our wet clothes and made tea. The alarm would go off in three and half hours. It was bedtime for the second time that night. As I lay in bed waiting for sleep to come, I thought about our move from the boat to this house. Exactly three years ago. I thought about our neighbours who rarely speak. And then I thought – these people may not care to talk, but they show that they care.