Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Kindness of a Stranger

Point Reyes, California

On our flight from Atlanta to San Francisco we sat next to a lovely older woman who was going to visit her son and his family in California. This woman was such a dear person, and also quite lively and fun. She found out that my husband is a trained aviator, and when our plane had to turn around before taking off to check on an issue, she quizzed him on what could be going on. She told us wonderful stories of her life as a married woman, and it turned out she had lived in the area I grew up in when her husband was a professor at Syracuse University. She was delighted when we told her this vacation was our belated honeymoon, and also a one-year anniversary celebration.

It was a long flight and so my husband and I decided to split one of the lunch options available for purchase on the flight. When the flight attendant came around, our lovely friend insisted on treating us. She even tried to get us to order a glass of wine (it was a little too early for both of us for that!). It was such a thoughtful thing to do and so unexpected, and she treated our gratitude with just a humble wave of her hand, and then told us a story.

She said that when she and her husband (who has now passed away) were newly engaged, they went out to a fancy dinner together in New York. They were living in Manhattan at the time, and when they went to the restaurant they discovered they had to wait in line to get a table--it was surprisingly crowded and busy that night. She said they struck up a conversation with a middle-aged couple in front of them, and when it came time to be seated, the four of them decided to sit together. She said they had a wonderful evening and when it came time to leave, the older gentleman refused to let this young, engaged couple pay for their meal. And this wasn't a simple lunch or casual dinner--it was an expensive, fancy New York restaurant, and this man wouldn't take no for an answer.

She said that right then, that night, she and her husband decided that in their married lives together, they would never pass up an opportunity to do something unexpected and kind for a younger couple, that they would try to pass on the love shown them that evening. And they did. One time when traveling in South America, they came across a couple about to get married, and the man couldn't afford a wedding band for himself. Our friend's husband took off his own and said, here, take mine.

That story brought tears to my eyes, and I felt so thankful that my husband and I were now a part of this wonderful legacy. It is all too easy to forget the kindness of strangers. How much more difficult is it to mirror that kindness, to pass it along, to take an event that happened when you were young and let it inspire your actions for the next 50 years? We will never forget this wonderful lady. As my dad said when we told him the story, it was a "little blessing from the author of Christmas."


  1. Oh I absolutely love this story! It brought tears to my eyes. so sweet!

    xx Amy

    Leopard and Lillies

  2. This gave me goose bumps the whole way through. How beautiful!

  3. what a wonderful story Kate! thanks for sharing!

  4. I believe your father is right!

  5. I LOVE this. Something kind of similar happened to david and I. When we were first married, we recieved a check in the mail from some friends of ours that were a few years older. It was super generous, and they said that the same thing happened to them when they were first married, and they promised to do it for others. Now david and I have done it for several couples when we can, because we know how much it meant to us!

  6. Well said by your dad! (You can tell he's a writer!)

    1. I know. I thought it was beautiful too.

  7. What a beautiful and touching story... we should all strive to make positive differences in each others lives. Sometimes it's far too easy to ignore that "stranger" next to you, but you never know how you might change a life... or have yours changed.


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