This talk of clean-up after city riots also reminds me of the events in London and other major cities in the UK last August. After a particularly nasty night of rioting on the streets of London, the following morning saw an organised clean-up effort by volunteers, word spreading mostly via social networks, and evidenced by the large turn-out of many people meeting up with brooms, rubber gloves and bags, all ready to clean up the mess caused by the few.
In a period of uncertainty where not even my friends and family in London could be guaranteed a safe night, this was a genuinely wonderful act of kindness by decent people out there.
Something more personal happened to us back in the winter of 2010. Back then, we were affected by some of the heaviest snowfall in living memory, which caught the local councils off guard somewhat. Although our main roads remained gritted and cleaned out by snow-ploughs, our little cul-de-sac remained untouched for the whole duration of the snow period, resulting in the formation of thick ice. Fortunately, our neighbours decided to get together and get out our spades, shovels and salt and clear out our own path along the street for our vehicles to use. Although eventually the council did get around to clearing our street definitively, the actions of our able neighbours that week did help boost morale.
When I need my faith in humanity restoring, I go to work. Spend an hour or two in a mental health unit and you'll see countless small acts of generosity, patience, and compassion. Staff treating patients with gentleness, patients supporting each other with enormous courage and selflessness and patients even watching out for staff when the going gets tough.
The person who has nothing yet shares their last cigarette, the person who forgets their own trouble when someone else needs a hug, the annoying macho nurse on his knees cleaning the eyes of an old man with tenderness, the person who suddenly turns round and asks "So how are YOU?" and you know they actually care and want to know.
Sometimes I think the less people have the bigger their hearts.
I just want to say how touched I am by this particular post.
Having worked in a similar environment, I too see some wonderful things as described here. The level of camaraderie and friendship between patients in a ward bay, among relatives of different patients, among staff of all disciplines and specialties, and between anyone in contact with anyone else present, is something to behold. Personally, there have been many moments in the past where just talking to someone - staff member, patient, relative, visitor, even someone waiting for the lift - and sharing our personal experiences and stories, has been the heartwarming highlight of my day, and on at least one occasion, has comforted me during times of particular difficulty.
Finally, I was reminded of this old advert for British Telecom back in the 90s, and something I had found particularly inspiring as a teenager, and which I still find inspiring today.