LONDON– We arrived in London, dirty and tired from 12 hours of traveling. At first, the buildings and scenery looked similar to things in the United States. We took a bus to the hotel. Besides the cars driving on the left side of the road, the highway we were on, looked almost exactly like the interstate in the United States.
But after a few minutes, the rolling rural scenery began to look like that of a storybook. The hills were beautiful there were even sheep on one hillside—probably about fifty. Even the trees seemed to have a different character than American trees. Their branches were knotted and crooked like something out of Lemony Snicket. Everything is so much greener here than in Indiana at this time of year. Flowers are even blooming. This cheery scenery appropriately paralleled the attitudes of the British people we met.
The British people we met were so kind. I think sometimes in movies or books, the description makes English mannerisms feel cold and unemotional, but I did not experience this. It is true, that British people are more reserved and quieter than Americans, but from my experiences this reserved quality did not seem to come from callousness, but actually from a heart of consideration.
Not only is a reserved demeanor less obnoxious than an outspoken one, it also creates the opportunity to be more aware of those around you. Our first afternoon in London, we were walking down a crowded small street, trying to find some lunch, when I saw a woman hold up a small red suede Mary Jane shoe. She handed it to a man with a baby carriage.
“Oh thank you, lady. Thank you,” he replied with genuine appreciation. “That’s so kind. God bless you.”
It was a lovely interaction to witness as one of my first tastes of British regard for one another. Several other natives supported this example. Two of them were our tour guides. Later that day, we took a bus tour around the city, and our tour guide was so congenial. He stepped onto the bus and introduced himself and the bus driver right away. He told us a little bit about himself, and one of the first things he said to us, was that he understood we were tired from traveling and would understand if we happened to doze off. I was so surprised and grateful.
I was not grateful because I planned on sleeping (the sights were too exciting to miss), I was grateful because it is nice to be in the company of an understanding individual. Instead of stepping on the bus and going through his daily presentation, he connected with us, by relating his experiences traveling to America from the UK, and letting us know that he understood our weariness.
Another tour guide showed us around the Imperial War Museum. The museum is such a sight. It is filled with tanks and airplanes, and a two-story Holocaust exhibit. Our tour guide showed us around the first and second floors of the museum. After introducing himself he started the tour by thanking us for introducing him to Ernie Pyle. Not many British people know much about Ernie Pyle because his work was not published in British newspapers, but upon hearing our class was about Ernie Pyle, this tour guide took it upon himself to read “Brave Men.” He said he was thoroughly enjoying it and was waiting for another one of Pyle’s books to be shipped to him. After taking the time to learn about Pyle, he was able to put the tour information in the context of Pyle’s work. It was extra work that he didn’t have to do, and I really appreciated it. After our tour, he offered to stay and give us directions or answer any other questions we might have, he even tried to refuse our tips.
It was this unnecessary kindness that we often found in British people. Their consideration for others is a good model.