Thankful for the Kindness of Strangers

Thankful for the Kindness of Strangers
My new addition to my purse whenever I travel on public transportation: a bag.

Last weekend I traveled across the country for a memorial.  It was an emotional weekend, but in the midst of it my heart was happy to be reminded of the kindness of strangers.

 

I prepared for a weekend of travel.  I was traveling by myself, and prepared myself for all sorts of possibilities (I’m a planner in that way).

 

When my outgoing flight was delayed by 2.5 hours, I was a little bit disappointed, but okay.  I had extra time to sit and read a book in the airport.  And as a mama who rarely has a quiet minute to indulge in reading a book of her own, I really didn’t mind too much (the disappointment came in needing to change the post-arrival plans I made with a friend).

 

The flight out, however, ended up being difficult for me.  The flight was turbulent.  So turbulent that the fasten seat belt light never went out.  Beverage service didn’t come.  The flight attendants never stood up.  We just bounced.  The plane jolted and bounced for the vast majority of its 2.5 hour flight.

 

I’m prone to motion sickness under the best of conditions.  This was not the best of conditions.  By the time I got off of the plane, I felt completely miserable.

 

I made my way to the nearest bathroom, where I proceeded to get sick.  This was not at all fun, but I felt slightly better afterward, and assumed that the worst was behind me.

 

I made my way to the local public transportation train and proceeded to board the train to my final destination.

 

Then, things got really bad.  The train did not smell pleasant.  It mostly ran underground, so I couldn’t fix my eyes on a horizon.  The train swayed and jolted as it ran down the tracks.

 

My body was not ready for the additional movement.  I knew I was going to be sick again.

 

The train contained no trashcans (trust me, I looked).  I had no containers with me.  The train was moving, and I wasn’t sure what to do.  I was going to be sick.

 

Then I spotted a lady who had two Chinese take out containers inside a plastic bag.

 

I walked up to her and stated, “I’m really motion sick.  I’m going to be sick any second.  May I please have your plastic bag?”

 

She looked at me like I was crazy and scooted a bit farther away on her seat.

 

I pleaded, “Please.  I’m going to be sick.  There’s no trash can.  I don’t want to get sick on the floor.  May I please have your plastic bag?”

 

She still looked rather concerned, but she slowly removed her food and then tentatively handed me the bag.

 

I thanked her, and then promptly turned around and emptied my stomach into the bag.

 

At this point, all sorts of people starting to move away from me (who can blame them, really; they had no idea I was motion sick).

 

But a good number of people, including the lady who gave me the bag, looked at me with caring eyes and asked if I was okay.  Someone offered me a bottle of water (I thanked her, but declined as I had my own water bottle).  Several people smiled tentative smiles of understanding in my direction.

 

I was away from home.  I was extremely motion sick.  I had just thrown up while standing in the middle of a train surrounded by strangers.  But people were kind.

 

I felt thankful for everyone who showed caring.  For people who stepped outside of the barrier we frequently keep between us and people we don’t know, especially in a big city, to extend offers of help or even a smile.

 

I remembered again how important it is to reach out and show kindness to people myself.  Both to live kindness as my own practice, as well as to demonstrate this habit to my children.

 

Be kind to one another.  We’re all experiencing being human together.

 

 

Have you had a time when you’ve benefited from the kindness of strangers?

2 thoughts on “Thankful for the Kindness of Strangers

  1. Lesley

    Airports and airplanes are the worst place to expect kindness from strangers and staff. I have been in so many situations traveling with small children alone , feeling overwhelmed and desperate for any help. It was never offered. I will never forget my experience at DIA coming back from adopting my eldest. I was coming through customs loaded down with way too much luggage and exhausted from a 24 hour international trip with an infant.

    Two young girls from Tajikistan in full Muslim dress stopped to help me. They were so kind and generous. They did not even know if they would be allowed to stay in the US as their sponsorship fell through. I don’t know how I would have even made it to immigration without them. I will never forget the immigration officer who looked the other way when he discovered the baby formula and cheerios in my diaper bag. Instead of taking me to have my luggage searched, he walked me past security and the inspectors right to my husband on “the other side”. I have tears in my eyes as I write this. I have never been so grateful to anyone, for his empathy in “breaking the rules”.

    I don’t know what it is about traveling and commuting. Surely those around us are kind and helpful in so many other situations. I think the crowds, noise, smells, motion through space, tax our senses so we shut down and don’t really notice our surroundings. I think we are often overwhelmed, fearful, and tired ourselves in these places so in our “survival mode” we don’t have that bit of extra to offer.

    I now look for moms and other people in need when I travel. I am glad you had some support and aid during your trip. What a bummer you were so sick. Getting sick when traveling and far from home is the worst. We don’t even need to discuss that.

    • I’m so glad those two girls and the kind security officer were there to help you. That sounds really hard.

      It’s difficult enough to travel with an infant without the added stress of heightened security.

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