The Kindness of Strangers

For all my adult life I’ve taken pride in my ability to function independently. When traveling I make my own arrangements and tote my own bags. In foreign countries I find my way around even when I don’t speak the language. Thus it was with some chagrin and a deep sense of irony that I found myself totally lost in my home state of Indiana on a recent trip to visit relatives.

The telephone directions I’d received seemed clear and simple, so I set forth with confidence on what should have been a fifteen minute jaunt. Over an hour later I did finally arrive at my destination – but only with the help of a stranger.

Paved roads had given way to gravel by the time I pulled off onto a country driveway. As I pulled out my cell phone to contact my waiting hosts, I became aware of a man walking toward me from the house. I nodded at his inquiring look, but kept my door locked and windows shut while I tried to describe my location to the voice at the other end of the line. Finally, in frustration, the voice said, “Let me talk to this guy you mentioned; maybe we can sort out where you are.”

OK, the guy looked harmless enough – an older man in work clothes with thinning hair. I rolled down my window and handed him the phone. Extensive discussion ensued, with streets and roads named that meant nothing to me. My ears perked up, however, when the man said, “I’ll bring her,” and handed back the phone. ‘My car has no reverse,” he said,” but if you’ll back out and let me turn around, you can follow me in your car.”

Ok, worth a try. It couldn’t be far if he was willing to act as lead dog. So, off we went – over the river and through the woods, literally, then through main streets and back streets of a fair-sized town and out into the suburbs – a considerable distance, especially with gas at $3.50 a gallon. My eyes were glued to his back bumper, where the license plate read “Purple Heart Veteran.”

Arriving within a block of my destination, I got out of my car, thanked the gentleman profusely and pressed a bill into his hand -“for gas money”- though he tried to decline it. Off he went, going forward, while I backed up to turn into my cousin’s driveway -safely delivered, with a tale to tell about the kindness of strangers.

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