A Story to Tell: The kindness of strangers
Michael and Inga
Inga Tolley, South Australia and Northern Territory Regional Meeting
Topsy Evans has supplied this introduction to Inga’s article.
Inga and Michael Tolley were founding members (54 years ago!) of our Eastern Suburbs Meeting in Adelaide. They are both now well over 80. Michael is very frail and needs assistance to walk even if he has his walking frame. So, imagine our surprise when they announced at Meeting that they had decided to visit Inga’s brother in Kenya! They have now returned, much to our relief, delighted with their trip. Inga has written this account of their return journey.
ESLM Friends think we need stories like this to remind us that care for strangers is not a monopoly of “us”, but of people everywhere, whatever their faith.
We spent the most wonderful three weeks holiday with my dear brother and his family by the coast in Kenya together with other members of our family (we were eleven in all) being so lovingly made welcome. We had the best experiences which included seeing so many wonderful animals in the Tsavo East National Park in spite of the drought at the time.
We departed from Mombasa to Nairobi and then onto Doha where we rested for two days before we were to catch our flight home to Adelaide on July 23 at 01:10. Just before we were due to take our taxi to the airport Michael had a tummy upset, and it was clear that he wouldn’t be able to manage the long flight home, so we aborted this flight.
The next day I was able to contact the company we had insured with, and they were very helpful in recommending where to get medical help for Michael. Then it was a question of trying to get another flight home ASAP. This proved to be anything but easy as not only were there very few flights available due to the large number of people now travelling, but then I found that my mobile phone was not working properly. Although I could receive emails and phone calls I could not make any calls, use the internet or send emails! Add to this it was weekend, and the large difference in time zones between countries I needed to communicate with. You will not be surprised that I didn’t get any sleep that night trying to think of the best way forward and was very tired.
At about seven in the morning I got a call on my mobile, telling me that it was from the National Broadband Network saying that they had noticed that there were many people wanting to get into my system, and they wanted to make a time for them to come and fix it at home. Just as I had done that my brain started waking up and I realised I had been scammed! I immediately phoned the bank from the hotel phone, but you’ve guessed it I was too late, the bank then blocked our account, so now there was no chance of getting any money!
I decided that I would try and contact the Australian Embassy. I took dear Michael down to the front desk of the hotel we were staying in and got him comfortably settled, as I thought that it might take a little while to explain and try and sort things out. I noticed that there was another man so nicely dressed in his long white robe also sitting waiting. I then paid the little that we owed for our stay so far, and managed to book for another night as well, as I felt that we would certainly need that. I also explained my predicament and how I would appreciate it if they could help me by phoning the Australian Embassy in Doha, and make an appointment for us. One of the staff thought that it would be possible for me to use my bankcard on their ATM, so I asked him if he would come with me and see, and you’ve guessed it, it was to no avail.
We then took the lift up to our room on the 21st floor, and this man who was also sitting in the lobby joined us in the lift and pressed the button to the 26th floor. He was very friendly and introduced himself as Rashid, I can’t remember his surname, and said that he had heard a little of what I was saying, and if there was any way that he could help he would be glad to do so, saying that he worked nearby in Qatar. I gave him my mobile number, and thought no more about it.
Imagine my surprise when I received a phone call from him about an hour later asking me if we would like to leave that evening the 25th, he was able to book us on a flight to Melbourne with a connecting flight to Adelaide, I said that I might have problems in getting the money right away, he said that there was nothing to pay! I did ask if it were possible to have a wheel chair for Michael. About half an hour later there was a knock on our door, and I let the receptionist in. She had an envelope for us, which she said was money for us from Rashid, and he had paid for all outstanding money we owed at the hotel, the money was for a taxi to the airport and some spending money! He would drop in the tickets for us a little later. Needless to say I thanked him so much and asked what I might be able to do for him, he said “Please think of yourself as a daughter of Qatar, we will always welcome you.” The receptionist said that he had observed how lovingly I cared for Michael, and how respectful and thankful to those who I was seeking help from, he felt the least he could do was to help to us! I was reduced to tears.
When we arrived at the airport, image my surprise at finding that I was also allocated a wheelchair! Doha airport is huge and I was very tired by then so I was actually very grateful. I did feel a bit of a fraud in Melbourne and Adelaide!
I am still overwhelmed by this kindness and incredible generosity! This is stuff you read about in fiction. Is it being the recipient of being “Paid Forward?”
So we arrived safely back in Adelaide, and were driven back by a kind young taxi driver who had come from India originally. Needless to say we were very tired, and I got out first to open up the doors etc, and the driver got out the luggage and helped Michael. When I had unpacked everything, I realised that I had left a small bag with the books and items we had used in the plane, all items that were easily replaceable should we wish to do so. Imagine my surprise when the doorbell rang at about 10 am the next morning and there was this kind taxi driver with the bag!