Jamie was lost in LA and his anxiety was growing. Then a stranger stepped in
This story is part of the My Unsung Hero series from the Hidden Brain team about people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else.
In 1998, Jamie Spurway flew to the U.S. from his hometown of Glasgow, Scotland. He was 19 years old, headed to California for a semester studying abroad. It was his first time traveling overseas by himself, and he was a little nervous.
Luckily, he met a young Irish couple along the way. They were going to Venice Beach, which wasn't far from Jamie's final destination of Newport Beach. They decided to make the final leg of the journey together. There was just one problem: none of them knew how to get to either city from Los Angeles.
"I think we maybe took three or four, maybe even five different bus journeys, possibly going in different directions each time," Spurway said.
Each time they asked bus drivers for directions, they'd end up more confused.
"So we're getting more and more flustered. We probably hadn't packed much food or water, you know, just not very prepared in every respect," Spurway said. "It's not just that we were kind of tired and hungry. There was certainly a level of anxiety growing in our minds as well."
Eventually they decided to find a map.
They bought one at a gas station and stood outside, trying to make sense of it. "We could not have made ourselves look more conspicuous if we had tried," Spurway said, laughing.
For about 15 minutes, the group stood outside examining the map. They were on the verge of giving up when a young woman approached them. She was wearing a T-shirt that said "God Answers Prayers."
"Now, I'm not a person of faith," Spurway said. "But I admit that in that moment, I did have a sense of, 'Well, has this person been sent from heaven?' Because she just looked at us and said, 'Do you guys need any help?'"
The three tired travelers told her how they had gotten lost on the way to Venice Beach. They expected her to point them in the right direction, but instead she offered something even better.
"Why don't you just get in the car, and my mother and I will take you?" Spurway recalls her saying.
Relieved, Spurway and his new friends got into the woman's car.
"On the journey, they discovered that I was going to need to travel to Newport Beach the next day," Spurway said. "So they said, 'Well, why don't you just come back and stay with us overnight?' So, not only did they drop off the Irish couple in Venice Beach, they then drove me back and I stayed with them for a night."
The two women gave Spurway dinner, and the next morning, they helped him coordinate a ride to Newport Beach.
"I think at the time I was probably conscious of being really grateful, but I don't think I've really appreciated just how unusual that level of generosity was," Spurway said. "I really would like to be able to reach out and thank them, because it's a big, big thing that they did for one little Glaswegian lost in L.A."
My Unsung Hero is also a podcast — new episodes are released every Tuesday and Thursday. To share the story of your unsung hero with the Hidden Brain team, record a voice memo on your phone and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.