December 24, 2019
I had difficulty thinking of anything to write which would be appropriate for Christmas. Good news and happiness are in short supply, and the state of American Christianity is depressing. Then I stumbled across notes from our travels which suit the season.
There are many examples of, to borrow a line, the kindness of strangers. People have helped us find the right bus or subway or otherwise given directions. Once a driver we encountered at a gas station drove ahead of us for some distance to lead us to a highway entrance. The two outstanding examples involve money.
Several years ago, in Florence, as we left a church, we were surrounded by a group of young girls. I had, foolishly, put my wallet in a front, pass-through pocket of my jacket . The girls pushed things at us, ostensibly to get us to buy something, but in reality to disguise a hand in my jacket pocket. After they stepped back, I noticed that the wallet was gone and exclaimed, brilliantly, “my wallet is gone.” The girls, apparently not wanting to look guilty, had not run away. A man who had been sitting with a friend on the steps, came over, reached up under the back of the jacket of the oldest girl, retrieved my wallet and handed it to me. Obviously he had seen this routine before. As I thanked him in imitation Italian, he returned to his friend, not expecting a reward.
Two years ago, we were at Heathrow in London. When, at the beginning of our tour, we had taken a cab from hotel to airport, we had paid with a credit card. On our return, casually assuming that we could do the same, I didn’t bother getting cash while at the airport. We queued up at a taxi rank and, when our time came, were informed by the loader that no taxis there would accept cards. As I prepared, with much grumbling, to return to the terminal, a man in the queue stepped forward and handed me a £50 note. Amazed, I tried to decline, then asked for his name and address so that I could repay. He waived both aside.Two glimmers of light in the darkness.