When Hannah Thornton overheard two men chatting and laughing together on a train, she felt she had to let them know how much they had inspired her.
Morris, one of the men, was on his way to an army reunion (he served nearly 60 years) while Bill, the other man, was on his way to meet two old school friends after 30 years apart.
Ms Thornton, a 23-year-old marketing and communications co-ordinator at South Yorkshire Housing Association, was particularly interested in their chat because her job involves working with Age Better in Sheffield, a charity which aims to end loneliness in the city.
In her note to the pair which included her contact details, Ms Thornton wrote: “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!”
She also mentioned that Age Better is always on the lookout for volunteers. She heard from one of the men, Bill, the very next day.
Not feeling your best and don't know how to make it better? Get in touch 💛 pic.twitter.com/vJJ4cGCxkH— Age Better in Sheffield (@AgeBetterSheff) February 1, 2018
Ms Thornton told the Press Association: “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.
“I didn’t expect anything to come of the note at all, and so I was so shocked to find an email waiting for me when I got to work on Monday morning.
“The subject title was ‘Girl on the Train’ and I thought, surely not?! But it really was Bill! I was completely overwhelmed that Bill had taken the time to get in touch with me, and share his life so honestly and openly. What a wonderfully kind man!”
Ms Thornton, who was on her way to a family funeral in Wigan on February 2, shared both of the letters on Twitter on Friday.
In his reply, Bill, 63, described a day dedicated to doing things for others, and seemed pleased to have received the letter from Ms Thornton.
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
On his way to catch the train, Bill had given some cash to a homeless woman and was approached by a news team from BBC Radio Sheffield to talk about why he had donated. He was also asked to describe his volunteering at an educational charity in Rotherham called Grimm & Co .
Of his experience on the train, Bill wrote: “[Morris] was 80, I hope I am like that when I am his age. He was a really engaging and lovely person to talk to… I didn’t manage to open my paper or look at my iPad once, I wish every trip was like that.”
Bill went on to compliment Hannah on her work for Age Better, saying, “I unfortunately was recently widowed, so have an experience of being lonely… although not alone as I have two teenage sons living with me.”
Ms Thornton said she was struck by the “genuine shared desire for the conversation to continue between the two men, who had only known each other for a few short minutes.”
She said: “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.
Well done Hannah. Your story has inspired me to look into Age charities in Liverpool to see what I can do myself. The elderly have to many amazing stories I’m always happy to put my book down on the bus to have a conversation, it may be the only one they have that day.— James Andrews (@ScouseBoyJim) February 10, 2018
“In this case, there was no sense of obligation to pass the time of day and move on, and there was no half attempt to appease the other individual.
“What there was, was a genuine connection and respect between the men who felt brave enough to share their stories with one another.”
She added: “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.
“I suppose the message to take away is that we should never underestimate the power of small acts of kindness.”