The kindness of strangers. Yes, it’s a well-worn phrase which may seem to sound like a cliché. But, when you’re on the receiving end of such kindness, there’s nothing trite or hackneyed about these four words. Sometimes these kindnesses are relatively trivial, say, in the form of a door held open or an assist with heavy packages. At other times, compassionate outreach and caring from people we’ve never met feel like a remarkable gift from the heavens, and powerful reassurance that we aren’t alone in times of truly dire need. Small and large kindnesses from strangers can be deeply moving, as we hear from Rita Lussier.
Rita Lussier is a writer who lives in Jamestown, Rhode Island. You can read her stories at ritalussier.com
On this cold morning, I’m remembering a steamy summer’s day in New York City. While waiting with my daughter for the movers to arrive at her old apartment, Meredith packs her fragile belongings into a handcart and heads out to walk the five blocks to her new apartment. Good idea, I think. Until the phone rings.
“Mom! I lost the keys!”
The old keys to her old apartment? No problem. I’ve got a spare.
But the new keys to her new apartment? Somehow they slipped her grasp. Our only way of getting into her new place is now lying on the sidewalk. In Manhattan.
Back with me in the old apartment, Meredith waits for the movers. “But how will they get into my new apartment?” Good question.
I head out on the path she had taken with the handcart, staring at the sidewalk, looking for shiny objects. No luck. I call the realtor hoping there are spare keys. No answer.
I keep walking. I make it into her new building. I take the elevator up to the apartment and try the door. Locked, of course.
I call the superintendent. Jose meets me at the doorway of the apartment with a shared sense of purpose as if this were his own move, his own daughter. Did I mention we just met?
He begins with a ring of keys from his office. He tries each one but none of them fits. The movers are coming!
He pulls one skinny wire-looking thing after another from his toolbox, trying them all in the lock but none of them works. The movers are coming!
Next up: a drill. Sweat dampens the back of Jose’s shirt. On to a bigger drill. Shards of metal fly through the air. An even bigger drill finally gets us in. And not a minute too soon. The movers are here!
I believe that lost keys will be found and if not, that the realtor will call back and if not, that the superintendent will find a way to get the door open. I believe in believing, walking out into a sweltering New York City afternoon, putting one foot in front of the other, following one thought to the next, staying in the trusting place, believing that even when circumstances are dire, strangers are kind and a way will appear. And it did! Thanks to a wonderful human being named Jose.