The kindness and honesty of strangers

In recent months the people of Malta have restored in me a real sense of optimism

14 August 2016, 12:34pm
With hundreds of people bustling through the Marsaxlokk market, she unknowingly dropped her credit card
With hundreds of people bustling through the Marsaxlokk market, she unknowingly dropped her credit card
I am an Irishman who retired to Malta five years ago after many years in international education abroad. I presently live in Marsaskala.

A friend of mine recently accused me of being the eternal pessimist. In so many ways, he may be right. As a retired professional, I don’t find there is much to be optimistic about when I look around the world today. I often ponder what a mess we have left to the next generation. However, in recent months the people of Malta have restored in me a real sense of optimism. This new-found faith is the result of two incidents which occurred in the last three months.

The first took place at the market in Marsaxlokk. My niece was visiting from Boston, USA and as part of our Malta tour, I took her to the Sunday market. She loved the colour, diversity of stalls and amazing variety of food/goods on display. She also commented upon the unique spirit of the sellers.

She paused at a stall to buy some Malta honey. Unknowingly, she accidentally dropped her credit card. Hundreds of people were bustling through those stalls that morning. We had walked onward for about 15 minutes before she became aware of her loss.

She initially panicked and feared the worst. I tried to calm her down and reassure her that Malta was very different from other countries where the likelihood of recovering such items would be nil. We returned to all the stalls visited until eventually we got back to the honey sales stall. There, a smiling Maltese lady held up her credit card and told her she had dropped it. My niece was overwhelmed when the lady said, “Hey, don’t worry, this is Malta. If the card was worth one cent or a million euro, we would return it to you.”

Two days later my niece left Malta after seeing many beautiful places, but I know her strongest memory will be the honesty of the Marsaxlokk sales lady. I am sure she has told relatives and friends back in the States about that amazing experience in Malta which renewed her faith in humanity. Holidays are not just about sightseeing. In this cynical world, the people of Malta have done something far more important. They have renewed my niece’s faith in the natural goodness of people.

The second incident occurred on August 9th when I helped a friend collect his daughter and school friends at Malta Airport. They were visiting from the UK. We collected them and their suitcases at the airport and returned them to his home in Kalkara.

When we reached his street, we noticed that the road had been blocked off by a building crane, thus cutting off access. This meant we had to park our cars some distance from the house and carry the suitcases in the early afternoon heat. In the process, my wallet, containing all my credit cards, ID card, driving licence etc had disappeared.

An hour later, I realized the wallet was gone. I immediately rang my bank to cancel the cards. I am not a great supporter of banks, but the HSBC lady who answered my call was amazing. She calmly cancelled my cards within a matter of minutes and reassured me about replacements.

However, it was her humanity which impressed me most. She took the time to say how sorry she was, hoped the wallet would turn up and reassured me that I had done everything I could. Then, I went to the airport to ask if they had found anything. The airport staff once again were courteous and helpful and advised me to speak to airport police. When I reached the station, a young police officer named Chris was very helpful and drafted the police report which his colleagues duly followed up the following morning.

After a sleepless night, my mobile rang at 7am the following day. To my relief, a kind cheerful young woman from Kalkara informed me that her mother had found my wallet open in the street. I was so relieved and went to meet her that afternoon. Whilst the money had been taken, all my cards were still inside. The kind and honest lady, Mrs Margaret Grech of 103 Rinella Street, Kalkara, had noticed the wallet lying open in the street and rescued it. Her daughter returned the wallet to me at Kalkara church and I’m sure witnessed the relief upon my face. These good people are such an example to the community and Malta at large for their wonderful honesty.

These two incidents demonstrate for me the truly special nature of Maltese people. Their honesty is something heart warming and truly unique for which Malta should be genuinely proud. Also the kindness of others in times of adversity, like the HSBC lady, the airport staff and police officers are equally important when you are dealing with a stressful situation. To all these wonderful people, I can only say a sincere thank you, you make the world a better place!

Eamonn Hogan