British Columbia·Point of View

The kindness of strangers: Helping a family that was robbed while on vacation

Jane Burnes and her brother were travelling to the UK with their mother for her 90th birthday when everything went wrong. 

Do you have a story about the kindness of strangers? Get in touch with The Early Edition

My mother, Isabel, and brother John outside Windsor Castle pre-robbery. (Submitted by Jane Burnes)

CBC Radio One's The Early Edition is asking listeners to share their stories of kindness from strangers for a series that runs on Thursday mornings.

This week's story takes place in 2016 in the UK. Jane Burnes and her brother John were travelling there with their mother Isabel for her 90th birthday, when everything went wrong. 

Dear Stranger,

I met you at the Marks and Spencer department store in London. My brother John, my mother Isabel and I were looking to pick up some basic, necessary items like socks, underwear and toothbrushes.

You were the first sales clerk I saw and had a name tag that read 'Beth.' I was exhausted and laughing at the same time as I told you that all we had, was what we were standing in. 

When we had arrived in London from Canada that day, we had headed straight to Windsor Castle. All of us were excited to get into tourist mode, so we locked up our rental car and went to enjoy the castle. 

When we came back we opened the trunk of the car to put something away and none of our suitcases were there. The bags had been stolen, and there was no trace of them.

My brother John and mother Isabel outside the Hereford Cathedral. (Submitted by Jane Burnes)

I slammed the trunk door shut, and opened it again. I couldn't believe it. We were all in shock. We had locked it up properly! It was the middle of the day! How could this happen?

Luckily we had our passports, credit cards, money and one camera on us. But other than that, all we had left were the clothes on our backs. 

It was the first day of our trip, and there was absolutely nothing we could do except file a report with the police. But we still had a week of exploring ahead of us. All we could do was carry on without our belongings. 

Accepting kindness

Back at Marks and Spencer, I told you told that nearly everything we owned had been stolen. You didn't even hesitate. You took us under your wing and guided us around the store. You took us to all the right spots, figured out our sizes with a glance, and made suggestions of what we might need.

Do you have pajamas? Anything specific your mom needs? Shirts?

"We don't want you to be in England without having some clothes ... This was awful. How could this happen in our country?" you said as you dragged us around the store, offering more and more. 

There wasn't anyone else around. There weren't even any customers to impress. There weren't any other sales people. You were doing this only for us

You insisted the store was going to cover the costs of everything we needed.

I told you we would be happy to pay for everything. But you would have none of it. 

A snap shot of the countryside around Hereford, England from the Burnes UK trip in 2016. (Submitted by Jane Burnes)

Then I realized, sometimes when people are insistent, you have to just say 'thank you' and accept the kindness you're given. 

At this point I was crying because it just changed everything. Within 24 hours we'd gone from a devastating incident that we were still in shock about, to something that I still can't really believe happened

I never saw you again, Beth. But I never forgot you. And neither has my mother. 

Thank you,

Jane Burnes.

If you have a story about the kindness of strangers, email The Early Edition at earlyed@cbc.ca

Jane Burnes was traveling to the UK with her brother and mother. They were celebrating their mom's upcoming 90th birthday. And that's when a stranger came into help. 6:48

With files from the Early Edition & Laura Sciarpelletti.