Simple Decency

Fifty-plus miles; hot summer sun; plenty of hills: a harder ride than I’m used to. It’s good to know I can do it; I’d like to do it again when it’s not so hot and I’m not so tired before I even set out.

I was, again, struck by how quiet the South Oxfordshire lanes immediately north of Watlington / Wallingford are – it’s recommended cycling territory and, riding aside, remarkably pleasant if you’re at all partial to a spot of rural England looking like rural England ought to.

English countryside looking like it should on a warm summer's day.

English countryside looking like it should on a warm summer’s day.

A talking of archetypes, not far from Nettlebed I witnessed an older bloke who appeared to be not quite in full possession of all his faculties, walking down the main road with his back to the traffic. I’m not sure if he looked distressed or not; he certainly wasn’t safe there. (I’ll apologise now if I’m misjudging him.)

Just before I came across him a car had pulled in to the side road I was emerging from. As I drew level with the guy in the road, the driver of the car got out and called across to him, offering him a lift to Nettlebed. I looked back and it looked like the lift was being accepted.

I would place a reasonable wager, on the basis of how he called out, that the driver didn’t know the bloke in the road and that he was acting purely out of simple decency: a classic ‘good Samaritan’.

I hope I’d have done the same if I’d have been the driver. In the few moments between seeing the bloke in the road and the driver calling out, I had started to try and think what’s best to do – it was obviously not a good situation. The problem was resolved before I’d thought any more than that. If you like, the driver got me off the hook.

I don’t know if helping a fellow human is innate and that we’ve learned to be wary or if it’s the other way around – we need to be taught to overcome natural wariness and be forthcoming in offering to help.

Innate or learned, perhaps wariness isn’t an issue. I don’t know if acts akin to what I witnessed – acts of simple decency, basic human kindness towards a stranger – are as rare as it’s tempting to imagine, or if that’s a media-generated illusion. I hope and suspect it’s the latter.