An Act of Kindness

A few days ago I took an online travel writing workshop offered by Pink Pangea. I’ve been looking at their website a lot lately; they offer some writing retreats that I would love to sign up for. Until then, I got a chance to interact with their founder, Jaclyn Mishal virtually in an online webinar workshop. I was thrilled to discover that it was really a workshop. We were given questions to answer in our journals about our goals, our support networks and other things that were good to give thought to and write down.

Then, we were given a bigger writing exercise: 5-6 minutes of writing about an act of kindness in our travels. I wondered how many people couldn’t think of one? I wondered how immediate some people’s stories came to mind? This is what I wrote:

The woman in the Charlotte airport looked like the epitome of an old, eastern-European peasant woman. She had on dark, layered skirts, a head scarf, and sturdy black shoes. She didn’t speak English. If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was a costumed character in a Candid Camera skit. 

She handed me a piece of paper and I inwardly groaned. What was she going to ask me for? It reminded me of notecards I’ve been handed on streets in different cities in the world: ‘I’m deaf.’ Or ‘I’m mute.’ Basically I’m whatever… immediately followed by a plea for money. But this woman’s note was written in English, allegedly written by her daughter, asking if someone would please call her if her mother handed them this note. Her mother was traveling alone and didn’t speak English. The daughter lived in Texas. Her mother was traveling through Charlotte. Would I please call this number and ask for Diane?

I was hesitant. What type of scam was this? Would she somehow hack into my phone? Make a purchase on it? Steal it? What was this actually about? Why me?

Then I thought, maybe it’s all legit? She seemed to need help, and she had made it through security and had a plane ticket in her hand. We were at the gate, flying to Europe.

I thought about all the times strangers have helped me when I travel. Offering directions, advice, food, water, a shared table, shared rides or anything else they were kind enough to offer a stranger. So many strangers have shown me kindness. Maybe they’d been hesitant or skeptical, too. Now it was my turn to show that kindness; to pay it forward. To take a chance.

So I dialed my phone.

That was as far as I got with the writing exercise. Time ran out. I could be satisfied to end the story right there. Instead, I thought I might share it here. I enjoyed hearing the other stories the people in the workshop wrote during that six minutes. A few shared and we were all invited to give feedback. I really enjoyed it. It convinced me I want to go on a writing retreat and maybe take another online writing workshop. Sometimes I love to just sit and write from a writing prompt. Maybe some of you do, too?

Anyway, here’s how the rest of the airport story played out:

The woman traveling didn’t know where her luggage was. She hadn’t retrieved it at baggage claim, her daughter told me. She was worried. So I took this woman up to the gate desk to talk to the gate agent and explained as much as I knew. They looked her up in their computer and were able to call a translator to the desk. They tracked down her luggage and called her daughter again. By then, we were boarding. I’d only played a small part in a team effort, but I was glad I’d been able to help.

It takes a village. I’m just glad that more often than not, there IS a village…

Do you know what you’d write given the topic: an act of kindness?



16 responses to “An Act of Kindness

  1. this is such a heartwarming tale… and it’s so true that in our lives, many people have helped us out when they didn’t have to and it is such a lovely thing to be able to do the same… thanks for sharing

  2. Loving your post today 🙂 For me it is the little acts of kindness throughout the day, week, month and year. I know for me they make my day and hope they make their day too. Happy Day – Enjoy!

  3. How kind of you to help! I’m sure it meant the world to the woman and her daughter. ❤

    Doesn't it suck, though, that we have to be skeptical, and weigh the risks before lending a hand? I would love to help everyone who needs it, but the reality is that there are bad people who take advantage of other people's kindness, so for our own wellbeing, we do have to make careful choices.

  4. Good story, Juliann. And good for you. It never hurts to help someone. (Sadly, there are people out there who take advantage of our natural tendencies to want to help.) I suspect that Karma repaid you. 🙂 –Curt

  5. What a great story, Julie. I totally understand and can relate to your skepticism and I recall being in a similar position at least once or twice in my life. Most often, I’m called on by middle-aged or elderly Chinese folks and the relief I see in their faces when they realize I can speak their language always make me feel like it’s better to take the chance to at least hear someone out before deciding whether or not to help. But it can be hard in today’s world. I’m glad you were able to help the woman at the airport. 🙂

  6. Ah well done Juliann. I’d have probably, like most, walked on by. It’s the little things I think. Here in Jersey I’ll always try to help visitors, maybe if they’re struggling with directions. The island’s not very big so quite often I’ve given folk a lift to wherever they’re trying to get to, rather than direct them.

  7. This was such a feel good piece and made me smile. All I could think about was how “brave” you were being for trusting. And that’s a shame.

    • Thanks, Vancyne. It is a shame, because once I decided to help this woman, I knew I was potentially risking something happening to my phone, when all she really wanted/needed was a little help.

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