Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Kindness of Strangers

One of the Daily Post prompts this week was on the kindness of strangers and to discuss when the last time a stranger did something kind of you.

I'm not sure when the last time was, but I have been blessed, in my life, with a lot of kindness coming from strangers.  

The first that always comes to mind is my "angel," an older gentleman who saw Paul and me standing by the side of the freeway hoping a highway patrol car would come by.  We got a flat tire driving home from San Francisco.  It had been raining and the ground was soft and when I tried to jack up the car, it slid off the jack.  So there we were, a kid and his Mom, dead of night.  Highway.  Miles from the nearest phone (this was long before cell phones.  

A car passed us (well a lot of cars passed us), got off at the next offramp, and came back.  He went over the overpass where we were and stopped on the road opposite our car.  Only to get to that road, you had to cross a large wet grassy field.  I sent Paul to talk to the guy to ask him if he could call Walt, but he insisted on driving us to a phone.

Let me tell you, it's very scary to get into a stranger's car.  It was especially scary when he refused to let us off at the next offramp, where there was a phone booth.

What he did do was to let us off at the next offramp, where there was a restaurant.  He asked if I had any money (it happened that I did not) and he gave me money and told me to buy Paul something to eat.  I hoped to copy down his license plate number so I could return the money but there was no back plate.

I have always thought of that guy as our angel who rescued us in the middle of the night.  As it turned out, Walt was at a theater party, not home, so if he had tried to call him, he would not be able to reach him! (When he didn't answer at home, I remembered about the party and called him there. Here I thought he would have been all worried about us, and he didn't even realize we were in trouble!)

The day after David died, I obviously was not at work.  I was office manager for an ob/gyn office at the time and one of our patients found out about David's death.  This was a transgendered man who still had to come to our office for pap smears and was one of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet.  When he learned about David, he went out and bought books on death, dying and the afterlife to give to the staff to help everyone help me handle the death.  One of the books, "Hello from Heaven" was one of the absolute worst books ever written stylistically, but in a strange way it helped me a lot to read it, not only with David's death, but with Gilbert's, 10 years before.

Then there are some wonderful people who read this journal.  A woman sent me a waffle iron when she learned I did not have one.  A friend sent me an ice cream maker for the same reason.  I was astonished to open a package and find the items out of the blue like that.

A friend with whom I have never exchanged gifts sent me a wonderful book off of my Amazon Wish list one Christmas.  I still treasure that book and the love that prompted its delivery.

One of the biggest "kindness of strangers" things was, ironically, from Peggy with whom I had only exchanged e-mails.  First she sent a huge basket of flowers after Paul died and then feeling helpless to do more, she came to the United States to spend 6 weeks taking me all over the place.  We went to Disneyland, to Lake Tahoe, to Seattle and to lots of places.  She not only would not let me spend a penny, but she even bought our groceries while she was here and took us out to dinner a couple of times.

It's a shame the friendship forged during that wonderful kindness ended so painfully 11 years later.

But I try to "pay it forward" and when I have the chance to do something kind for someone, I think about my "angel" of the highway, the guy who bought the books on death, the friends who sent unexpected gifts, and even Peggy and hope that I'm doing enough to pay back these wonderful kindnesses.

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