Yesterday evening I went shopping and (as usual) bought more than I could, comfortably carry home unaided! As I neared my home I put my bags down to rest. A gentleman asked whether I needed any help. I gratefully accepted and he helped to carry my shopping right to my front door.
The above incident made me think about the whole issue of trust. Yesterday evening my good Samaritan could have turned out to be a chancer and run off with my shopping (all £15 worth of fresh vegetables and milk)! However something about his manner made me trust him instinctively and, as I said my trust was well placed.
On another very different occasion I was lost and asked for assistance in finding a railway station. I got chatting to the guy who assisted me and he confided that he had, only recently been discharged from prison. During our walk we went down some quiet side streets and I must admit to having felt nervous at the thought of what my new found companion might do. What did he do? He took me to Purley station and went on his merry way with my thanks ringing in his ears.
In both instances (even the latter where, as I say I felt nervous) my instinct to trust others was rewarded and both individuals went out of their way to assist me.
What is all this waffle leading up to I hear you ask? Society is based, ultimately on trust. A community can not function unless the majority of the population operate on the basis that their fellow citizens are not intent on stealing their property or doing them violence. Sure a society can, for a while be maintained by brute force or a combination of vilence, bribery etc. However history shows that such societies can not exist indefinitely and (when they do collapse) they leave an ugly oder behind. Take, for example the former German Democratic Republic. Once the system collapsed horrific stories emerged of neighbours informing on one another and of husbands informing on wives etc. The whole basis of trust which, as I say should underpin society was undermined.
I am not advocating that we all go around blithely assuming that everyone is actuated by the milk of human kindness, that we should all start to leave our front doors open when we go out to work and that we should start to ask strangers to mind our valuables willy nilly. There are nasty individuals out there and we should be mindful of them. However the vast majority of people are decent, do not mean us harm and are (often) only to happy to do their fellow citizens a good turn. So by all means warn your teenage daughter not to get into an unlicensed cab (in fact I’d positively encourage you to do so)! But don’t induce in her the idea that all men are potential rapists and that she should be terrified to speak to strangers (however benign they may seem).
Have I had bad experiences? Yes but I’ve found that my judgement (9 times out of 10) has protected me from any ill consequences. For example I remember asking for help, in Victoria station and the person from whom I was requesting assistance asking whether I could lend him money in order that he might retrieve his luggage from the luggage lockers in the station, (he swore that he would return to assist me after he’d retrieved his cases, however my judgement kicked in. I refused to give the gentleman any money and beat a hasty retreat)! Always trust your judgement!