Ben Keenan: The kindness of strangers

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On my way to work one frozen morning I suddenly realised I had neglected to feed a friend’s cats. One textbook three-point turn later and I was on my way when, a few miles down the road, I was stopped by a row of cars with their hazard lights flashing. Stepping from my car it was clear that there had been an accident and, with no sign of an ambulance, I went to see if I could help. A man had been seriously injured and his car was in several pieces but surrounding him were 11 people.

Each one of them had removed their coat and put them on the man to keep him warm. Some of them were talking to him in a comforting and reassuring tone, some were searching their cars for blankets and more coats and the rest were on telephones giving the detailed GPS co-ordinates to the ambulance, thanks to the technological advancements of modern day smart phones. Thanks to the Bury branch of the Red Cross, I had recently been signed off as a qualified first aider but as I stood there and surveyed the scene, the only thing I could do to help was to offer my coat to a lady whose own was keeping a hurt man warm. I felt deeply moved and inspired at the care being given to the man by 11 complete strangers who all stayed by his side even after the paramedics had arrived to give the man expert care and take him to West Suffolk Hospital.

So, although the three landscape gardeners, the family on their way to a horse show and the elderly couple en route to buy a Christmas tree might not have spent a day with the Red Cross learning how to help the injured, to some people it is in their nature to help others and that moves me very much.

So, to all the members of the emergency services, and to everyone reading this, take care of each other and I hope you and your families have a wonderful Christmas.