Monday, March 7, 2011

Benevolent Strangers

photo credit

When I was eighteen years old I stayed up all night to study for finals. As soon as my exams were over I boarded an international flight from Paris to Salt Lake City, on my way to visit my mom for Spring Break. During my layover I went to get American cash out of an ATM and accidentally punched in my security code incorrectly... three times in a row. As a security measure the machine "ate" my card. I can only look back on my eighteen year old, distraught self and think, poor girl. Trying so hard to be a grown up, but so young and overwhelmed. I called my dad collect from a pay phone and burst into tears. I was hungry, exhausted, and I didn't have any money.

When I hung up the phone, momentarily comforted, a stranger tapped me on the shoulder. "I'm sorry I overheard your conversation," he said. "But if my daughter were in your situation I hope someone would take care of her." He handed me a ten dollar bill. "Get something to eat." I didn't want to start crying again so I bit my lip and nodded, and then hurried away.

In January I found myself sleepless and at my wit's end in the Salt Lake airport facing unknown delays, and a toddler with the stomach flu. Jeremy was trying to rock said toddler to sleep, and I was in charge of keeping an eye on the other two. "You're exhausted," a fellow passenger observed. "You know, my grandkids are the same age as your girls and I'd bet they'd like to play with some of the little games I have on my cell phone." This merciful grandmother then proceeded to entertain my children for over an hour. She could have read her magazine. She could have moved to a different, quieter part of the lobby. But she elected to stay put and help, giving when she had absolutely no obligation to give.  

I think our culture encourages us to mind our own business- the stranger danger anxiety and what not. But sometimes it's good to not mind your own business. We can help a young mother carry her bulky stroller down a flight of stairs. We can help an elderly woman store her carry-on in the overhead bin. We can invite the hurried shopper to go ahead of us in the check out line. We can notice the burdens other people are carrying.

There are still Good Samaritans out there. 

And what a difference one benevolent stranger can make!

1 comment:

  1. I agree! They can make such a difference--the other day as we were in the (long) checkout line in Costco, Michael blurted out, "I have to PEEEEE! NOW!" Not wanting to get out of line, I told him he would have to hold it for a little bit longer. The lady in front of me turned around, smiled and said, "I have three grandsons. I can watch your cart for you while you take him to the bathroom, if you'd like." Maybe there's something about being a parent/grandparent that helps you notice the needs of others, even if they are not your own children/grandchildren.

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