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Columnists

Surfers' paradise

Dixe Wills

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'Go into all the world and be ye Mike,' is one of the lesser known sayings of Jesus. I believe it's recorded in one of the non-canonical accounts of the life of Christ such as the Gospel According to St Keith (whose own extraordinary life repays careful study - it's not for nothing that he's become the patron saint of trees, nacho-manufacturers and dirt) which may explain its relative obscurity. Nowadays the more inclusive English translations render the line: 'Go into all the world and be ye Mike and/or Michelle,' but the sense remains the same - if we were all more like Mike the world would be a better place.

'But whosoever is this Mike, o wise one?' I hear you cry, 'And how can we more like him be?' Well, I can answer this one because his identity was revealed earlier this year. He is called Neil Laybourn, a 31-year-old personal trainer. You may already know this, of course, because it was on the telly, as is fitting for a revelation of such moment.

In case you missed it, the tale goes back to January 2008 when Jonny Benjamin, a 26-year-old man struggling with schizoaffective disorder, was on the brink of throwing himself off London's Waterloo Bridge. Neil happened to be passing by and intervened, calmly persuading Jonny to change his mind.

Press on six years and Jonny Benjamin has become a campaigner on mental health issues. Never having been able to thank the man who stopped him from committing suicide, and not even able to remember his name given his confused state at the time of the incident, Jonny launched a campaign to find 'Mike' on social media in conjunction with the mental health charity Rethink Mental Illness (rethink.org). Soon #FindMike was trending globally on Twitter (twitter.com) and, such is the tentacular reach of t'interwebs nowadays, Mike/Neil was found in a matter of days.

The two men duly met up and both seemed as happy as the other at the reunion. Jonny was naturally pleased to be able to show his appreciation to the man who saved his life and Neil was glad to know that Jonny was doing so well, having wondered about him over the intervening years.

'I didn't feel it was that big a deal, I did what anyone would do,' Neil commented when asked about his intervention. 'I wasn't trying to fix his problems that day, I just listened.'

Now, I'm not one for New Year's Resolutions but I did allow myself a little New Year's Aspiration which was to adopt a less cynical outlook. Cynicism, after all, can all too easily become a default mindset and is apt to make one feel worldly wise and cleverer-than-thou. The story of Jonny and Neil encouraged me in my quest. The do-gooder has long been an object of scorn in our culture, but there's an awful lot to be said for those who just go about naturally doing good. I'm no scholar but I suspect that's what Jesus might have been getting at.