You never know who you’re going to meet when you take public transit. So it’s a wonder these three people found each other.
When Hannah Thornton took a train from Sheffield to Liverpool, she overheard a conversation between two elderly strangers.
The men, named Morris and Bill, were getting along swimmingly, talking to each other as if they were best friends.
Thornton, 23 years old and on her way to visit her grandmother, didn’t want to interrupt their conversation, but she wanted to show appreciation for their ability to get along.
She wrote them a letter and offered them an opportunity.
According to Thornton’s Twitter bio, she is a marketing and communications coordinator at South Yorkshire Housing Association which frequently works with Age Better in Sheffield. This organization aims to end loneliness in the city and she thought it would make a perfect volunteer opportunity for these men.
“We encourage people all the time to be neighbourly 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,” her note said.
She included both her Twitter handle and e-mail address at the bottom, should either of them be interested in contacting her.
She heard back from Bill the very next day.
“I felt compelled to write the note because I was so overjoyed to have been in their company and I wanted them both to know the impact their conversation had on me,” Thornton told The Free Press Association.
The woman didn’t expect anything to come of the note, and so she was shocked to receive the email when arriving at work.
“Yesterday was a very bizarre day for me. On my way to the train station, I gave a homeless lady some money. A few yards further on … a reporter … stopped me and asked why I gave the money,” he said.
“…He then asked me ‘Do you volunteer?’ and I said ‘I volunteer at an educational charity in Rotherham called Grimm & Co.'”
“…Then I got your note and your ‘invitation’ to volunteer. Bizarre the 2 incidents coming together. I would like to know more about what your volunteering is about and could probably offer one day a week … I have an empathy for the challenges facing older people.”
Bill mentioned that since he had been recently widowed, he understood being lonely, although he was not alone as two teenagers live with him.
Between Bill’s kind deed on the way to the train station, his openness about personal aspects of his life, and his desire to join Thornton in the fight against loneliness, she couldn’t have been more impressed with him.
“I was completely overwhelmed that Bill had taken the time to get in touch with me, and share his life so honestly and openly,” Thornton said. “What a wonderfully kind man!”
When Thornton shared her letter and Bill’s reply to Twitter, the post received over 40,000 likes.
This time last week I got the train to my Grandma’s and shared part of my journey with 2 lovely men. They’d never met before but instantly hit it off and laughed like they’d been best friends for years.
I scribbled a note to them as I got off the train…and I got a reply!!😍🤗 pic.twitter.com/eWA7hiNEim
— Hannah Thornton (@hannah_shef) February 9, 2018
Soon, reassuring comments came pouring in.
This restores any lost belif in humanity. Three very special people intertwined in this story. 😊 Wouldn’t the world be a much nicer place to live in if more of us conducted ourselves in this way? Thank you for sharing this, on behalf of humanity. 👍😊
— Geo (@GeoffMarine) March 1, 2018
It’s people like you who make the challenges of growing older slightly less painful and frightening in an ever changing world. You and your generation truly are the future ~ one that I hope is as happily full as you wish. 👍🏻
— sofa_surfer (@the_sofa_surfer) February 17, 2018
After over 600 comments and 7,400 retweets, Thornton felt compelled to send another tweet, thanking everyone for their kind words and support.
Completely overwhelmed and heartened to see how many people have been inspired by Bill and Morris’ train story!
Reading your comments has been lovely, and now I just have one small request – please take action! Say hello, or pass on a smile, you never know what could happen! pic.twitter.com/uZJXjBJAo4
— Hannah Thornton (@hannah_shef) February 10, 2018
For Thornton, though, the biggest surprise was still the friendship formed between these two strangers.
“So often people engage in small talk with others because they feel it is the polite thing to do. Or, worse – they don’t engage in small talk at all,” she said.
“… I’d love it if every single person reading this story could go out into their community and do something kind for someone else to help them feel valued, and noticed.”
It feels like today has been a dream! Check out the video below to see the moment that Bill and I met in person for the first time since our train journey!
— Hannah Thornton (@hannah_shef) February 12, 2018