The Kindness of Strangers

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a penchant for leaving and losing things: Keys, wallets, planners, phones, gloves, hats, shoes, purses, brief cases, even suitcases. I’ve left these items and more in taxis, airplanes, ATM vestibules, on top of cars, outside of buildings, at the edge of swimming pools, on football fields, in stores, on top of deli counters, and any other place you can imagine.

I hate this habit of mine. Honestly, it drives me crazy. I feel horrible when I’m with a family member or a friend and we have to spend time re-tracing my steps because I’ve lost something. And yet, try as I may – and I do try – the tendency to drop, leave or misplace possessions continues.

Recently, I hit a grand slam in the losing category. I managed to step off of my commuter bus (the 166 to Leonia, New Jersey) without my backpack, which contained my laptop (aka my brain), my planner (aka my memory), and all of the important papers of my life. I realized this grave mistake as I walked into the house.

Frantic and furious at myself, I immediately got on the phone and started calling. First, I called NJ Transit lost & found to file a report. Next, I contacted the bus dispatcher, who put out an alert. Then I contacted all the bus terminals. Finally, I stood by the bus stop for an hour, hailing every bus that passed with the hope that some friendly driver had unearthed it. No luck.

By 9:00 PM, I began to surrender. This was it. I’d committed the ultimate blunder. I started to rehearse confessing the mess I’d made to my business partner and my husband.

Then, the miracle happened. “PING!” I received an email, a Facebook message on my blackberry. “Are you missing anything?” the sender asked. Some wonderful, thoughtful, kind person had discovered my backpack under her seat and decided to take it home.

And that’s when it hit me. This ongoing, irritating, pathetic habit of mine once again had given me a gift. I was experiencing The Kindness of Strangers. In fact, I’d experienced the Kindness of Strangers hundreds of times because of my losing habit. Almost every time that I’ve dropped, left or misplaced something, some kind soul has gone out of his or her way to return it to me.

While I still wish that I could stop leaving, losing and forgetting things, today, I have a newfound appreciation for this maddening aspect of my personality. May you also know the Kindness of Strangers. Because of my foibles, I know there are a lot of kind strangers out there.