The power of the generousity of humanity in times of strife is truly remarkable. Countless of times we have witnessed around the world the support, strength and selflessness of humanity in helping each other in times of hardship.
Recently, I was at the receiving end of such selfless acts. Though my experience was in no way as dire as other hardships faced by those around the world, this in no way lessens the sense of gratitude I have towards those who reached out to help.
It has restored (not that I ever lost it – but perhaps reminded and emphasised it) my faith in humanity. Perhaps, I wonder, with the growing sense of atheism and agnosticism in young people today, maybe it is worth having faith.
On a recent holiday to Thailand, on my way to the airport for my return flight to Australia, there was yet another protest causing major traffic disruption. What we had initially thought to be bad traffic turned out to be outrageously bad traffic. We managed to move our car no more than 3km in the space of 1 hour. It soon became obvious that this was much more than a traffic jam. The traffic on the other side of the road ceased (as in no cars were travelling on that side). People had turned off their car engines to stand outside as there was such little traffic movement.
It turned out that the local community that the main road (and pretty much the only route) leading to the airport passed through was conducting a demonstration. They had barricaded the main roads (all 6 lanes!) around the police station. By the time we inched forward closer to the site of demonstration, there was no way through other than to drive through a local temple and exit through the back gates. However, despite the goodwill of the locals and monks nearby, the demonstrators had by then barricaded the small roads, blocking any exit from the temple area. Cars, taxis, minivans, and large passenger buses were all stuck in this mess of a traffic jam (most of which were headed to the airport). The only route of travel in the entire suburb was by motorcycles. Only motorcycles seemed to be able to travel freely across their barricades.
The people maintaining the barricades and who seemed to be in charge of the demonstration were young adults. Apparently, they were protesting about an alleged shooting of an innocent by the police. In a way, it was amazing to witness such activism among young adults in the community.
By then, we had been travelling for 2 hours with little progress. It was clear that the demonstrators weren’t going to clear the barricades anytime soon. A Thai cop was at the barricade we were stuck at and said there was nothing we could do. Apparently this has happened before in this community and thousands of passengers missed their flights.
It was now 2110hrs and I had an international flight set for departure at 2220hrs, and we were still no where near the airport. Out of desperation, we spoke to two young men who attended the gym our car was ‘parked’ next to. After explaining the situation, they volunteered to help take me to the airport. It was thus that I was sitting on the back of a motorcycle of a man that I barely knew, with my suitcase and duffle bag in my lap, and my handbag over my shoulder. With a sense of fear and desperation, I quickly said goodbye to my dad, leaving him with the car waiting to be let through once the demonstrations were over.
We sped through the barricades and onto a near empty motorway save for motorcycles bearing passengers like me. We must’ve looked quite the sight, as even those attending to the barricades chuckled as we went past. As we moved past the suburb of the demonstration we came across cars that had entered the motorway at a later point. It was then that I realised that I had literally put my life in the hands of a man I barely knew in an attempt to catch my flight. As we sped by, I became aware that neither of us were wearing helmets, my balancing of my luggage on my lap and shoulder was insane, and that we were travelling much faster than most of the cars on the motorway. My glasses constantly felt like they were about to be windswept off my face with the speed were going at. Being Thailand, I guessed that we must’ve been travelling at least at 100km/hr (very much likely more than that!).
Finally, we reached the airport. It was then that I was further impressed by the generousity of the young man I just met. Refusing acceptance of any form of money, all he asked for was for me to accept his business card and let people know about his tour guide business.
I cannot express the depth of my gratitude for such acts. Furthermore, I was not the only case, as several other passengers also arrived on the backs of motorbikes after leaving their other form of transport behind.
Even at the airport, the staff I encountered were understanding, patient, and helped alleviated my panick and distress. The airline had kept the check in gates open a little bit later with a 10min delayed departure time once they heard the news of the demonstration and havoc it caused. As it affected the major route to the airport, many passengers were still ‘no show’.
If it weren’t for generosity, human kindness, and empathy, I, and many others would’ve missed their flights.
My little experience was in no way as disastrous or potentially life altering as those faced by others around the world. However, it gave me a glimpse into how people band together to help each other in times of strife. From the locals helping lead cars through the back streets, to the monks who attempted to assist by letting cars cut through their temple, to those locals with motorcycles, and the understanding staff at the airport.
Perhaps I am overly touched by this experience, however, I feel that it has restored my faith in humanity. Their is nothing more generous and altrustic than reaching out to help others just for the sake of helping with little expectation of anything in return.