I believe the world is full of kind people. Here are four of my own memories of particularly kind people I had never met before, but who helped me nonetheless.
1. The German Dog Walker. Years ago my brother and I travelled to a small town in Germany. We managed to figure out the train from the airport to the small town, but we struggled with directions to the inn where we would be staying. This was the age before smartphones, so all we had was a written address and a map. We saw a tall, middle-aged, lanky lady walking a tall, lanky Irish Wolfhound-looking dog. We asked her if she knew how to get to the inn. She hardly spoke any English (and there was hardly any English around in general), but she motioned for us to follow her. So, dragging our suitcases behind us after a very long day of travelling, we started walking. I remember that every so often the dog would turn around and look at us, perhaps to see if we were still there and/or to keep encouraging us to follow. Well, we walked and we walked…until we arrived at the inn! The lady and the dog had walked us all the way there. To this day I wonder how much they both had to veer off their walking route in order to help us out.
2. The Museum Ladies. I was so excited to see Gunther von Hagen’s “Body Worlds” exhibit, where actual human bodies are preserved using the process of plastination. I remember there was a section of the exhibit where just the capillaries remained of animals and various body parts: they looked like 3-D objects made out of intricate, bright red webs. There was a chicken–just its capillaries remaining–and as I studied it my vision began to shrink toward a point, with darkness around the edges. I started to feel a little woozy. Next thing I knew the right side of my face felt pressed up against something, and I could hear a female voice asking me over and over, “Can you talk? Can you talk?” I opened my eyes and realized I had passed out in the middle of the museum! Two middle-aged ladies were crouched beside me, coaxing me awake. They summoned a museum staff member. I ended up being completely fine, and I still wonder why I fainted. I’m not good with blood, so maybe seeing all those capillaries was somehow subconsciously overwhelming? In any event, I’m grateful to those ladies for making sure I was okay.
3. The Coffee Man. One day I was at a coffee shop and before I could place my order, an older gentleman stepped up beside me and said, “I’m not coming on to you or anything, but can I please buy your coffee? Someone did that for me recently and I’d like to…what do they call it? Pay it forward?” I said yes and told the man that he totally made my day. And I’ve since paid it forward, too.
4. The Restaurant Couple. My husband and I were at a Greek restaurant one evening on a date, and we were just finishing up our main course when our waitress said, “You don’t have to worry about your bill. Another couple has taken care of it.” We were shocked. Complete strangers volunteered to pay for our entire dinner?! The waitress said the couple wanted to remain anonymous but we looked around, trying to decipher which couple it might have been. We never found out.
Some months later my husband and I were on another dinner date when we noticed a group of three young people at a table nearby sharing a number of appetizers. My husband looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and asked me in a hushed voice, “Should we pay for their bill?” I didn’t hesitate, remembering that anonymous couple in the Greek restaurant. “Yes!” I whispered back. The more I snuck glances at them, the more I realized they looked like students, who would probably be extra appreciative. So my husband asked our waiter to put their order on our bill, but to please keep us anonymous. The reaction from that group of young folks when the waiter told them they didn’t have to pay their bill was priceless: their mouths gaped open and they kept voicing their surprise. They all left the restaurant with huge smiles on their faces. And my husband and I did, too.