It is particularly depressing watching the news with my 13 year old daughter Molly at the moment.
There are the appalling and deeply worrying situations in Syria and Iraq and the recent abhorrent attacks in Paris and Sydney. There is the ongoing fight against Ebola and the terrible toll it is taking in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Then closer to home, with under 100 days until the general election, there are political arguments on every news outlet as each party is desperate for any coverage they can get. So they are all propagating daily headline grabbing horror stories about education, the NHS, benefits, tax and of course immigration.
Molly is of course old enough to watch and understand what is going on in the world, and we have some interesting and sometimes quite difficult discussions about world events. However, it was a joy to actually be able to discuss a story with a very positive outcome this week, one which has restored my faith in humanity during these troubled times.
On January 25, 67-year-old Alan Barnes from Gateshead was mugged while he was putting the bins out. Alan broke his collarbone during the attack when he was thrown to the ground by his contemptible and cowardly assailant. The incident terrified the poor man so much that he has been unable to return to his home since the attack.
Muggings like this are unfortunately not an unusual occurrence in this day and age, but this one seemed even more dreadful due to the fact that Alan is disabled, having suffered with sight and growth problems since birth. But it is the reaction of 21 year old beautician Katie Cutler, also from Gateshead, which has shocked and delighted us all. Katie heard about the mugging and was so disgusted by it that she decided to create a fundraising page to raise £500 to help Alan. She was completely unprepared for what was to happen next.
The media broke the story and the nation, as well as good hearted folk across the world, decided they wanted to help Alan too. At the time of writing the donations have just passed £300,000 with the total increasing minute by minute!
I went onto the page to donate and was incredibly moved by some of the comments from ordinary people who were, like me, outraged by the mugging and inspired by this young Gateshead girl. People are giving anything they can, however small, to feel part of something positive and motivating.
And the pleasure for me is the fact that Katie Cutler created the fundraising page for absolutely no selfish reason whatsoever. She’d never met Alan, even though she lives in the same town as him, she didn’t do it as a means for self-gratification and she certainly didn’t do it to court celebrity.
In an era when so many young people are desperate for any kind of celebrity for any reason, it is humbling to see a lovely young lady undertaking an utterly selfless act which has completely exceeded any targets she had imagined. Her selflessness has hit a chord not only with me, but with over 23,000 other people who have donated to help Alan and celebrate Katie’s innate kindness.
Therefore, amongst all the terrible news reports, I was thrilled to be able to discuss this particular news story with Molly. I hope that she will be motivated by such generosity of spirit and I really hope that she will recognise that Katie is exactly the kind of person to inspire young people today. And as opposed to the wannabe celebrities who so often adorn our front pages, it is Katie’s altruistic personality that is being celebrated, and in my mind, this makes her a true British heroine!
NOTE TO SELF: Please visit www.gofundme.com/l0dt9o and donate to Alan’s fund.