Lost & found – the kindness of strangers

Recently, Brian Hayes, an elderly gentleman who was holidaying with his family in the town of Nerja, on the Spanish Costa del Sol, went missing. He left their holiday home to take the rubbish out and failed to return. He disappeared without phone, money or water and in temperatures above 30C. He is thought to have become confused and wondered off in the wrong direction. Happily, Mr Hayes was found 34 hours later, extremely dehydrated and very hungry, lying out of sight at the side of the motorway after having suffered a fall which left him immobilised.

Various newspapers in this part of Spain, and in the UK, reported the story: elderly man goes missing – police involved – 34 hours later found injured but alive by a busy road – spotted by a lorry driver – OK now. But that was only half the story. What they failed to report is the kindness, support and willing involvement of the local community.

Almost as soon as the family realised Mr Hayes was missing, a neighbour posted on a local Facebook buy and sell page asking people to look out for him. Readers immediately responded to the post with many shares, messages of support and, even more importantly, offers of practical help. The family knew they were far from alone. As well as the police involvement, complete strangers, of various nationalities, got together to look for Mr Hayes. They checked the nooks and crannies of the Capistrano area where the family were staying, checked places nearby, walked the coastal cliffs, looked on the beaches, followed river beds, walked into the mountains, searched gardens and forgotten little streets. Posters with Mr Hayes’ photograph were needed, but it was a weekend so the local print shops were closed; people printed the posters at home and shared them around. When he was found, they were as happy and relieved as if he was one of their own. In short they cared. They genuinely cared.

This is just one story but it’s representative of what happens in communities around the world. Communities care; they welcome, they look out for each other day to day, and they shore each other up when the going is tough. No one’s saying it’s easy but that’s life – all it needs is the will to make it work. Whilst we sometimes despair of what’s going on in the wider world, and may feel powerless to change it, we’re not. We can all make a difference by engaging with others in simple ways to show we care. By sharing kindness, we inspire others to do the same. And kindness, as we know, conquers just about everything.