Over and over again the warning of not talking to strangers is resounded as people make their daily commute, whether it be walking city streets or the subway system.
As a woman who helps those suffering from loneliness, Hannah Thornton is one of the rare people that sees the negative consequences of what happens when the world shuts off that empathy to even say “hello.”
So when two strangers befriended each other on the same train she was taking to Liverpool, she couldn’t contain her happiness at the joy they shared with each other.
Thornton listened in on the conversation as Bill, 63, and Morris, 80, got to talking just a few seats away from her.
Being a volunteer at Age Better, a nonprofit dedicated to encouraging friendships among the elderly community in the hopes of reducing isolation, she couldn’t help but write the two men a note midway through their conversation and hand it to them before she departed from the train.
“I had to let them know they had such a positive impact on me,” Thornton later said, recalling the encounter. “They’d never met before but instantly hit it off and laughed like they’d been best friends for years.”
“We encourage people all the time to be neighborly and to share a smile or a nice word with another person, so it’s been lovely to hear you both doing an abundance of that!” Thornton said in her note, finishing by adding the two men “seemed very young at heart” and told them about her charity.
And though she hoped her words would be remembered, she never expected a reply.
“Thank you for the note you gave me as you left the train yesterday,” Bill began. “You made 2 Old men very happy.”
Bill said in his note to Thornton that Morris had been on his way to an Army reunion, and that the day was even a bit “bizarre,” as he considered the timing of her note.
Before getting on the train, Bill said he was interviewed by BBC Radio Sheffield after he’d given money to a homeless woman.
He admitted to the reporter that he volunteers at an educational charity and that giving back was his way of healing the grief that comes with being recently widowed.
The conversation, it seemed, was just another form of healing.
“He was a really engaging and lovely person to talk to. I didn’t manage to open my paper or look at my iPad once,” said Bill. “I wish every trip was like that.”
Thousands have now viewed Thornton’s original note and the heartfelt response, with dozens pledging to volunteer their time serving Age Better — including Bill.
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