If we only had a heart

26 Jan

The famous Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz used to say he’d be tender, gentle, and awfully sentimental if he only had a heart. This is also true for Londoners.

Photo by Brian Negin on flickr

I spend a lot of time raving about this city to family, friends, and anyone who will listen. It’s a great place to be. It’s a great place to live. But it never ceases to amaze me how city life can so quickly drain all kindness and emotion from a person.

They looked the other way

Everyone in this city has busy lives. I get it. The tube isn’t always reliable, taxis aren’t always available, and it’s usually quicker to walk than take the bus. We are constantly rushing from one place to another, and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. But where do we draw the line? When does our 2pm meeting begin to take precedence over an elderly lady who needs help with her groceries or a blind Londoner who needs guidance to the nearest crosswalk?

Sadly, I witness more acts of appalling selfishness than I do kindness. Sure, there is that occasional person who will always help out in any way he can, but most of us simply avoid eye contact and look the other way when we are really given the chance to help someone.

I was riding on the 393 bus from Islington to Camden one day when a woman who must have been in her mid eighties stepped on with three bags of groceries. She only came up to my shoulder, and a lifetime of laughter and tears were shown through the wrinkles on her face.

The bus was completely packed. Many passengers including myself were forced to stand. By my calculation, there were approximately 30 seats on the lower level of the bus which were all occupied by young, healthy commuters. Imagine my shock when not a single person volunteered to give their seat to this sweet lady. Instead, they raised their newspapers to cover their faces so they wouldn’t have to watch her struggling to keep her balance whilst holding her weekly shopping in her arms.

Photo by Ian Kershaw on flickr

This is just one of many examples that I witness on a daily basis. I could have chosen to talk about the blind lady at Baker Street who was pushed and shoved all the way down the platform until I led her to the nearest exit. Or perhaps the man who was recently killed in front of a full bus of people after being kicked in the head too many times by a fellow passenger who was upset by the amount of space he was using. Once again, a bus full of people and no one offered to help. Not even the bus driver.

It’s a double standard

If the aforementioned lady was our grandma or someone who was dear to us, we would be disgusted to hear that no one volunteered to give up their seat for her. If the man killed was our brother, we would beg for witnesses to offer their testimonies in court. So why do we think it is acceptable to treat other people’s loved ones this way?

I am convinced that some of us are innately selfish, while others unknowingly become this way when they move to a city like London or New York. I admit it’s sometimes difficult to share this cramped city with 7 million other people. I get just as frustrated as you do when I’m caught behind the world’s slowest moving person on a narrow pavement or get stuck underneath a hairy man’s armpit on the tube (I’m only 5 feet tall, so this happens a lot). But let’s not forget that we’re all human beings. We’re no better than anyone else, and we all need help sometimes.

To my fellow Londoners: I would like to challenge you to make a difference this week. Use your Starbucks fund to buy a sandwich for a homeless person. Sacrifice your seat on a train for someone who needs it more than you do. Take a blind person by the hand and lead him to his destination. You’ll still make it to work on time, and you’ll feel better for doing it. Follow these steps and you’ll be on your way to earning a heart without having to visit the Wizard. After all, it’s quite a long journey from London to Oz.


Posted by on January 26, 2011 in Lynsey Free


3 responses to “If we only had a heart

  1. Chris seagraves

    January 26, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    Brought tears to my eyes .

  2. Stefanie Soehnchen

    January 27, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Thank you some much for writing this down. I thought it was only me thinking this. (Really nice intro by the way…)

  3. glenda free

    January 29, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Fantastic!!!!! Loved it! I always feel like I’m there!


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