Yesterday I wrote about being a Good Samaritan as two events in the news occurred very close to me, one with extremely bad results and one with extremely good ones.
Just a mile or so from where I live yesterday morning, a man jumped off a bridge onto the M1 motorway at 10.50am. Whether he was struck by a car or not, he was obviously very seriously injured. The motorway was very busy as that particular stretch always is but a few cars who witnessed the event stopped. One brave man got out of his car to help the injured man and was sadly struck by a very fast moving car. The road was closed off for hours and helicopter ambulances arrived but sadly both the jumper and the brave, kind hearted hero died from their injuries.
Despite the tragic news, it is nice to know that even on the impersonal motorways, there are one or two people willing to help complete strangers.
One prominent case of someone helping a stranger with great results has culminated with the #findMike campaign. On 14th January 2008, Jonny Benjamin who had spent a month in hospital due to a recently diagnosed mental illness went to Waterloo Bridge in central London, feeling hopeless and ready to commit suicide into the the cold river below.
By chance a stranger noticed the events and he came over to talk to Jonny. The stranger said “Please don’t do this… you can get better. Let’s have a coffee and we can talk about this”. Struck by the normality and kindness of the man, he climbed back over the bridge railings where he was taken into care by the police.
For 5 years both men have wondered about the other. Jonny thought about the stranger almost every day of his life whilst the stranger often wondered how the man was and whether he had recovered or perhaps followed through with his plans at a later date.
A few weeks ago Jonny launched a campaign seeking to be re-united with the man who had saved his life. He did a number of interviews and his campaign was backed by many celebrities and even the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg. Greatly helped too the tweets by Stephen Fry who apart from being an all round genius and comedy great, famously suffers from severe depression.
Last week the fiancee of the stranger saw the tweet and it was clearly evident that she knew the man who was the target of a twitter storm around the world.
A few days ago and on national television, Jonny got to meet the man who saved his life, Neil Laybourn. Johnny was very emotional at the meeting but the two hit it off together very well as if they had been friends all their lives. Neil said that he was just glad that he had been able to help someone before joking that Jonny owed him a favour whilst Johnny said ‘I feel like I’ve won the lottery. It means the world to finally have the opportunity to say thank you,’ says Jonny.
The two men have promised to now keep in touch and Johnny is working on a documentary which is expected to air on BBC later in the year.
While the two cases couldn’t have had more polarising results, I’d like to think that I and many others would do what Neil did even if events could turn out for the worst as they did for Spencer Bell.
Next time you’re in London or another big heartless busy city, just think that there is probably a hero just a few feet from you, even if neither of you yet know it.