This is a story of a family from Syria who got to experience the full force of Canadian kindness.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs, 4.8 million Syrian refugees have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, and elsewhere since 2011. 6.5 million people are still displaced in Syria. And Canada has resettled over 29,000 of those refugees since November 2015.
One such Syrian family was traveling in Ontario recently, on their way to stay with family members. The family of seven arrived at Toronto’s Union Station with their five children — two of whom require strollers — many heavy bags and a plastic bag of cash that they hoped would get them through their journey.
Next began a series of interactions with around 50 Canadian good Samaritans.
Valerie Taylor, a psychiatrist at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, saw the family at Union Station, and a young woman was helping them with directions. They were lost.
Taylor recounted her adventure in chaotic Canadian kindness in a Facebook post that’s been shared over 28,000 times:
As Taylor recounted to the CBC, she approached the group and asked, “Are you new here?”
One of the five kids, an 11-year-old boy who spoke English, said yes. It was through him that Taylor found out the family was from Syria and was trying to reach family in London, Ontario.
Taylor said they helped the family purchase train tickets for what they thought was the right train.
Other people started to notice their large group too, according to Taylor’s post. Folks stepped in to help the family carry bags. They helped find them seats on their new train.
Basically, strangers offered this family some good old-fashioned human kindness.
“No one had to be asked to help, no one had to think about the right thing to do. This is what you do.”
These Canadian folks not only helped this family find their way, carried their bags, coordinated some smartphone map research, and waved down transit employees in the process, but when they figured out that all that effort had landed the family on the wrong train, even more folks sprung into action.
After realizing the mistake, they discovered the family could take a different train, but it was expensive.
New tickets cost far more than the family had on hand.
Again, Taylor recounted the chaos that ensued — a chaos of kindness — to CBC: “All the other people on the train started helping again — people were trying to give money, somebody was calling their friend who spoke Arabic.”
Just as Taylor was about to pay for the family’s tickets herself, a voice rang out: “Stop!”
It was a transit worker. After hearing about the situation, GO transit, a regional public transit system in Ontario, was sending a charter bus for the family — free of charge.
Taylor didn’t catch the name of the family amid the chaos of the day. She watched them get on the bus, and the story seemed to end there … but it also didn’t. Because look at Twitter!
Taylor said the experience made her feel proud to be a Canadian, watching brand-new Syrian-Canadians board a bus to see their family.
As Taylor describes it in her Facebook post: “It was almost overwhelming, the way people wanted to help. It has been one of the most moving experiences.” And, as she told Buzzfeed in a later interview, “No one had to be asked to help, no one had to think about the right thing to do. This is what you do.”
As Taylor went on in her Facebook post: “The number of people who on a random hot july Wednesday during rush hour who tried to help a family of strangers who are our newest Canadians. Lots of bad things happening in the world right now and not enough compassion. Compassion is better.”
What an amazing example of a group of average folks coming together to do a series of kind gestures.
Here’s to more stories of the magic that happens when countries open their borders and their hearts.