When I was 16, I did a good deed. I totally forgot about it, and was only reminded of it a few months ago when the person that I had helped approached my dad to tell him what a good person I am, how I had helped her in her time of need and how she will always remember my kindness. My dad had no idea what she was talking about and so asked her what had happened.
I was in the pub with my dad one afternoon when I was 16 (I was supposed to be at school but let’s ignore that detail). Sitting at a table nearby, on her own, was a frail old black lady, with wiry white hair. I noticed that she was crying and I went straight over and asked her if she was ok. She told me that her best friend had passed away. I gave her a cuddle and held her hand while she told me stories about the mischief and adventures she’d had over the years with her best pal. I got her a cup of tea and stayed with her a while until she had stopped crying and was laughing, remembering good times with her friend. I ordered a cab to take her home, walked her to the taxi and told the driver to make sure she gets indoors safely.
I totally forgot about this – my dad forgot about this – but Mercy, the fragile little lady from Liverpool never forgot.
We didn’t see her for several years (she was drinking in a different area) until she came into the local pub over Christmas. After relaying the story to my dad, she approached me to thank me for my prior kindness and at first I thought she had mistaken me for someone else, but then when she held my hand I remembered it, the memory came back to me. I gave her a hug and bought her a drink, and commented on the amazing, colourful, somewhat falling apart cardigan she was wearing. I told her I really loved it, and that it suited her tremendously. I told her that I really admire how, despite being in her late 80’s, she wears such unusual clothes, bold prints, big dangly gold earrings, chunky men’s watches, vintage sunglasses and huge, glamorous, floppy sun-hats. She really is the most fashionable woman I’ve met. She said to me,
Just because society says I’m old, that doesn’t mean that I have to be boring.”
I laughed and told her she was my hero, and went on my way. My dad has always admired her because she usually goes to the pub with a man named Peter, who is of a similar age but is white (and totally British, he wears tweed and does the Guardian crossword). My dad asked them a few years ago if they were married, and they laughed and said no, but they had been friends since they were in their 20’s. My dad could only imagine how much grief she would’ve got for being friends with a white lad, and how much shit he had to put up with for being friends with the only black girl in town. But their friendship has lasted for nearly 70 years despite all prejudice and adversity, and my dad and I really respect them for that.
Yesterday I popped over to the pub to see my dad and my brother, and my dad said,
Oh, Mercy was in earlier, she gave this bag to me and told me to give it to you.
I looked inside the bag and there was the amazing, colourful, somewhat falling apart cardigan that Mercy wears so often. I nearly cried. I couldn’t accept it, it’s her favourite jumper!! When I saw her later in the day I thanked her but said that I couldn’t accept it. She said,
No, you’re right, you can’t accept it right now because there’s a button missing. I hope you know how to sew – it is very important that you know how to sew. I was a seamstress for many years but I trust that you know how to fix a button, and if you don’t, then you must learn. So, here is the button. I think the jumper will look good on you so wear it well, my girl. And thank you again for your kindness when I was down, I am forever grateful to you.
What a total sweetheart. It’s easy to forget that there are some good people in the world. And Mercy is certainly one of them.