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One example (out of many… too many to list) :

When I was at London’s Euston station with my children last month, we were going down the escalator that led to the tube station when I saw a little old lady with a very big rolling suitcase and dressed in her best, standing around the escalator, looking a bit confused. She looked like she wanted to go down the escalator, but with that huge rolling luggage case, I didn’t think she could.

As I walked nearer to her, I watched her standing there and looking hesitant, but my hands were full (with luggage and having to hold my little girl’s hand, as she is not yet able to go down the escalator by herself) and I knew I would not be of much help to her as she clearly needed help with her luggage. I started looking around for someone near me whom I could ask to assist the old lady – although I had not spoken a single word to the old lady as yet.

There was a bespectacled man of about 40 years of age, maybe even 45 – suited and booted, and carrying a business briefcase – who happened to be next to me, walking in a purposeful and somewhat brisk manner, intending to take the escalator down to the tube station. I looked at him and caught his eye, and I was on the verge of saying something to him about it, but nothing came forth as I made a split second decision to turn and glance at the old lady’s direction for a second or two, before turning to look at him again.

Well it turned out that was all that was needed. He took the cue straight away, and without me having to exchange a single word with him OR the old lady throughout this, he immediately went up to the old lady and asked her if she needed help. She looked very relieved and grateful, and responded to him. They exchanged a few words as he helped her carry the luggage down the escalators with her following next to him, and then directed her to the taxi stand, which was apparently where she intended to go next – the taxi stand at Euston station was at the same level as the tube station, both at the “basement 1 level”…always seemed strange to me.

I remember once reading in some psychology article (I am a bit of a psychology buff) where it said research has shown that bystanders are often more likely to reach out and help/contribute in a crisis situation if you go up to them individually and ask for their help – rather than shouting “Help!” loudly at no one specific and then waiting for someone to come forward. This article was fresh on my mind when this situation happened at Euston station that day… and boy does the lesson stick.

And that was that.

Me and my children, the man, and the old lady, we all went our separate ways after that. I’m not sure the event mattered enough to the man or the old lady for them to remember it quite as much as I do.

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