skip to main content

A Random Act of Kindness


Settle in, I’m going to tell you a true story, shared specially for Random Acts of Kindness Day …

Many years ago, when using Drama in safety training was unheard of – by me, at least – I was setting off on my first adventures as an actor. It may help to give a bit of background at this point: I had just emerged from 2 years’ training to be an actor. During this time I had scraped by, teaching music lessons to children and delivering pizzas. In short, by the time I got my first professional audition, I was flat broke. No savings, no credit cards, no nothing! 

I borrowed some money to attend the audition (in a children’s theatre production of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe – yes I have been Aslan!) and a week later I was informed that I’d got the part. To say I was thrilled is a weighty understatement. Only one drawback: I was utterly skint and had to catch trains from northeast England to the west coast of Scotland and then be able to feed myself for a week before receiving my first pay packet. Not to worry: a close friend lent me the money for travel, plus £70 to live on for the week. Very grateful indeed, I set off from Darlington on an Autumnal Sunday afternoon on the Glasgow train, £70 tucked safely in my pocket … or so I thought.

Halfway to Glasgow, the guy who had been sitting next to me got up and seemingly went to use the facilities…and didn’t come back. I foolishly thought nothing of it until we began approaching Glasgow about an hour later, whereupon I got up, put my hand in my pocket, only to find the £70 gone. After a frantic initial search, it hit me – I’d been pickpocketed. Disaster. I felt so stupid. I mean, what kind of idiot puts their only money in the world into an obviously loose-fitting trouser pocket?

At this point I was pretty shell-shocked and also very worried. How was I going to feed myself for the week? Here I was joining a bunch of strangers to work with them for the first time, eager to make a good, professional impression … and I was going to have to beg them for help so I could eat.

Having changed stations at Glasgow and shamefacedly reported it as a crime, soaking up the raised eyebrows and shaking heads of British Transport Police’s best, I climbed aboard the branch line train to Ayr. By now it was a very damp, chilly and foggy Sunday evening as the train trundled ponderously through the Scottish countryside. Alone, penniless and frankly clueless, I must have looked a picture. 

At this point, something happened which is the whole point of this article. Halfway through the journey, a white-haired lady conductor approached me to check my ticket. Having done this (at least the ticket hadn’t gone too!) she looked at me and must have read my face. She very gently asked what was the matter (I must have looked really miserable!) so I told her, as she shook her head and sympathised.

Having shared her sympathies, she got up to open the doors at the next station. She then returned to me, with money she wanted me to take. I immediately felt like a conman – you know the type, they tell similar sob stories to the one I’d just told her, just to get money off unsuspecting and naïve people. I felt thoroughly ashamed and began vigorously refusing to take it, but the more I protested the firmer she became. It ended up in the farcical scene of me childishly refusing to open my closed fist to take this money – it was £50, and this was many years ago.

Finally she took hold of my hand, opened my fingers and said, “I’m retiring tomorrow and I’ll get my money then. This is yours and you must take it.” With that she placed it into my palm, smiled and walked away, leaving me speechless and – I’m not afraid to admit – trying to contain my emotions.

At the next stop – not the end point at which I was getting off – she left the train, stood on the platform, turned and waved at me and was gone. 
In retrospect, it all seemed to happen in a whirl, like a piece of magic – which of course it was. I’m ashamed to admit I never found out her name. I couldn’t pay her back then and couldn’t trace her now, decades on.

Many years later, I wrote down the story in poetic form, in which I was finally able to give her a name. It seemed to fit somehow. The poem is from my book “Moulded From Ferrous – Selected Early Works”, reproduced here courtesy of Black Light Engine Room Press.

It’s the most extraordinary act of random and unwarranted kindness I’ve ever experienced. The only thing I could do, it seemed to me then and now, is to do for others what she did for me – pay it forward. In my humble opinion, it’s our social responsibility and you never know the difference that random acts of kindness can make to lost souls who need a hand.

St Agnes of The Rails

I once met a lady saint
aboard the Glasgow to Ayr train.
On a demonic Autumn night
my darkling darling shone a light.

Swishing her sparkly Scotrail dress
she spotted a boy in distress,
pirouetted to my side
and upon her landing glide

she rested down right next to me,
put her hand upon my knee,
looked me in the eyes and knew.
“Now then, what can we do for you?”

And the pocket a bastard had emptied
she filled up with generosity,
and as we pulled into Ayr
she shook her whitened hair

And fairy dust sprinkled its way
through my skin, where it lives to this day.
It wakes me up and fills my sails -
blessed by St Agnes Of The Rails.


Share this story

Experts in experiential learning

Our team is made up of facilitators, coaches, experienced actors, script writers as well as specialists in HR, employment law, safety and strategy.

Meet The Team
Our People