Selina’s London Experience

A funny little thing called kindness

By Selina Tan

I sauntered into the dark, Hogwarts-like dining room which was packed with food items but void of people and wondered to myself if anyone actually bought the breakfast + dinner meal package.

Several days after checking into the Commonwealth Hall for students pursuing a summer program at the London School of Economics, I decided that it was time I tried out the hostel dinner. The only thing however,  was that I was oblivious to the fact that I had to purchase a red ticket worth 6 pounds which entitles the ticket holder to a meal. Flashing an innocent enough smile, I put a tray atop the counter and gleefully asked for my dinner.

The lady behind the counter was unmoved. She said in a matter-of-fact tone, “You must present your red ticket.”
I must have looked confused because she proceeded to explain, albeit impatiently, that meal tickets were sold at the lobby.

Which was completely fine by me. I nodded and turned to leave when another lady came up towards us. She was slightly bulky, and had jet-black hair.

“Nah, give the girl her dinner, it’s ok,” she admonished her colleague in a sing-song voice that well revealed her African-American roots. “Did you hear, give the girl her dinner.”By then, I must have appeared quite lost because I found myself fobbing them off to indicate that it really wasn’t really a big deal.

Finally, she glanced at me. If warmth could ever be tangible, in that brief moment, I think I saw its true colors.”Girl, go get some dinner, don’t worry about it,” she enthused and beckoned to the  lady behind the counter, who filled my plate with fries on top of everything else I wanted. It was plentiful, by an Asian student’s standards.

Needless to say, it was generous, considering she could have let me walk away as easily as I had come in.I haven’t become a different person, simply because I wasn’t a penniless, desperately hungry foreigner.

But in a pensive mood, I am inclined to imagine that once upon a time, she might have been that person. Someone who isn’t stranger to the unbridled vulnerabilities of life, and with that rush of familiarity, didn’t stop to quantify how much or how little that meal would mean to me.

I went to the lobby after dinner and paid up anyway

For this minute of compassion she so unhestitantly extended, I remain immensely thankful.

And so I keep the red ticket safely in my possession, just so I always remember this special lady I met in London.