It was Anzac Day, 2010.
My housemate and I were awake and raring to go at 4.30am, ready to make the trek into the city and attend the dawn service at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne.
We got to the train station with plenty of time to spare, relieved that others rugged up in layer upon layer to keep warm in the fresh, autumn morning were also waiting patiently on the platform – reassuring us that a train was coming.
Unfortunately, sometimes we all get it wrong.
Metro had not long taken over the public transport system and a royal screw up was made. The train didn’t arrive; there wasn’t one on the way either. I started to panic a little as the time ticked by. Five o’clock. Five ten. Five fifteen. We were going to miss the service and couldn’t help but feel so disappointed that despite being so prepared, we weren’t going to make the big event.
Then a stranger stepped in.
Overhearing our distress, he mentioned he was going to drive to a nearby train station to try his luck there and we were welcome to catch a ride. The echo of “Don’t ever accept a lift from a stranger” no doubt crossed our minds, but was diluted by our desperation to make it to the city on time. So off we went with this stranger named Simon.
The next train station also got us nowhere – literally – so Simon offered to drive us all into the CBD. Again, we accepted and soon found ourselves illegally parked (alongside every other person who had driven that day), half walking-half jogging to the Shrine to arrive with 10 minutes to spare. Success.
Simon soon discovered his friends had all hit the snooze button that morning and left him to fly solo, so we
wished him luck and went on the hunt for the best view told him of course, he could hang out with us if he was willing and enjoyed yet another moving dawn service (and a hot gunfire breakfast) together; from strangers to allies within one short hour.
Despite having the choice to take off once the service was over, Simon offered us a lift back home and with clear blue skies and the buzz of camaraderie in the air, we took the scenic route through our beautiful city to end up right back where we started. We thanked him wholeheartedly, wished him well and parted ways.
I never even learnt his last name.
Anzac Day is a time to reflect; a time to mourn; a time to celebrate; a time to remember. But it’s also a time to realise that sometimes, we all take the good in our lives for granted and perhaps don’t offer our hand to those in need as often as we could. I’m not talking about bold declarations to save humanity – I mean, there’s nothing wrong with those either – but the little things can make a world of difference too, whether it be helping someone pick up their dropped groceries or paying someone a compliment when they least expect it. When strangers come up to me and tell me I have a beautiful smile, it genuinely makes my day – so why wouldn’t I want to make other people feel that way on a daily basis?
When I’ve recounted the story of ‘Simon Who Saved Anzac Day’ to others, more often than not they’ve joked that we’re lucky we weren’t abducted or attacked; that we were taking a risk accepting a lift with a stranger. I completely understand their concern and you’d be naive to not carefully consider going anywhere with someone you just met, but at the same time, it’s kind of sad we have to be so careful and that we can’t take people at face value. Sure, I see the occasional story of goodwill pass by my newsfeed every other day, but do I see it in my community? In the streets I walk everyday? Not as often as I’d like – but I am a part of that. This change needs to start within myself.
This is just my thought for today. Do with it what you will, but I sincerely thank you for taking the time to read my blog. It means the world to me, and I don’t tell people that enough.
I’d also quickly like to mention that I had the privilege of being featured in the news a couple of times this week to speak about my great-great-uncle, Albert Jacka VC – a true Australian hero. You can read about him and how proud I am of Uncle Bert here and here.
(Whilst on the topic of the Anzac Spirit, I’d also like to mention my wonderful neighbour who, once he found out I was related to Albert Jacka, took it upon himself to print out hundreds of pages of Jacka’s military records and leave them on my doorstep. Best. Neighbour. Ever.)
I joined 80,000 of my closest friends (I just hadn’t met yet) at the Shrine once again this year. I can’t even begin to describe what it is like to stand amongst thousands upon thousands of people in the silence of dawn and literally be able to hear a penny drop as the crowd pays their respect to our ancestors; to those who made the ultimate sacrifice so we could live freely and securely this incredible country. It will never cease to amaze me.
I snapped a few photos from my morning in the city on my phone (hence the questionable quality), including a few of the incredible 5,000 Poppies Project that turned into an incredible 250,000 poppies – what a brilliant tribute. I hope you enjoy them!
Lest We Forget.