Utterly reckless or just the right thing to do?
So the other night I did something most of you would consider very, very dumb. In fact half way through doing it, I myself thought I was an idiot. In short, I stopped and gave a man a lift.
I was driving around Whitmore Square in Adelaide around 9:30 at night – probably not known as the friendliest of places after dark – and as I turned down my street I saw an older gentlemen pulling one of those rolling overnight cases and clearly asking someone else for directions.
I’m not sure what happened, but the next thing I know, I’ve U-turned, pulled over and yelled out to him as he was making his way across the Square and asked him if he needed a lift.
If I’m honest I thought we’d probably have had a discussion first about where he was going and what he was up to, but before you could say holy-axe-murdering-stranger he was sitting alongside me having balanced his case on the child-generated car detritus in the back seat.
It turns out he had just arrived from Ballarat and was on his way to Whyalla to visit one of his 14 siblings (apparently dad used to ride a bike and ‘got around’ a bit) and needed a lift to St Vincent de Pauls in Franklin street where they were holding a bed for him.
Unfortunately for both of us it took a while to find the building (thanks google) and when we did, it didn’t look like anyone was home.
So there I was, half past nine at night with the alarm set to go off at 4:30 for work the next morning, with a strange man in my car who was quite happily telling me that he used to live in Adelaide years ago and apparently one of his older brothers was quote unquote a ‘bit of a dickhead’.
Finally he decided it was back to the Salvation Army on Whitmore Square (near where we started) and we said our farewells.
Now I’m not telling you this for any pats on the back – far from it as frankly my mum left me in no doubt as to how stupid I had been and ‘anything could have happened’, but honestly it was quite a lovely experience.
I met someone from a completely different set of circumstances as my own, and I kind of felt selfishly good that an elderly gentlemen wasn’t wandering around the damp streets looking for somewhere to stay and that I had helped him.
Looking back, did I do the full risk assessment analysis? No, not at all. Should I have put my safety first and driven by?
Well perhaps some of you think so.
But as I climbed into bed that night I couldn’t help but feel that there must be an awful lot of good not being done anymore, because we are all so damn fearful of ‘them’ and what’s ‘out there’, seeing everyone as a potential Ivan Milat who’s out to get us.
Speak to our parents and they quite often talk about hitch-hiking around the country or even overseas and our national icon, the swagman, shows our country’s former affinity with the itinerant traveller who left their fate to luck and the kindness of strangers.
Is today’s less trusting society the price we pay for universal and sensationalised media coverage, congregating in urban areas, the breakdown of community and the speed at which we all have to get about doing our own thing.
Perhaps I was lucky, perhaps naïve, but to be honest it was nice to visit a gentler time, if only for a quick trip around our city.
And to Roy, wherever you are now, I wish you all the best and hang in there with your brother.
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