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.

0 thoughts on “The Kindness of Strangers

  • Hello Katherine. That’s a touching story -or a series of stories. Thank goodness for decent minded people. Have you thought about chaining your possessions to your body before you lose something valuable that you can’t get back. In the meantime, let’s hope there’s enough good natured people out there to feed your need.

    That reminds me. On the way to Helsinki in 1995, I dropped in to London for a day. I went on one of those wonderful double-decker bus tours where you can get off at any place and then get on the next bus that comes along. I stopped off at many wonderful places. One was St Paul’s. After a few minutes looking around, I realised I left my bag on the bus. It had my passport, diary, etc. I managed to get it back after a couple of hours from the depot where someone handed it in. Maybe I need to chain my stuff to my body -at least when I’m overseas.

    Les Allan

    • Thanks for your story, Les. And yes, I’ve sometimes thought that chains, or magnets, or alarm systems could help prevent losing stuff as well.

  • Thanks for sharing this. I too am losing and misplacing things. Just a week ago I was taken to lunch at Remi, an excellent midtown restaurant. I went back to my office and worked the rest of the afternoon, still feeling happy about the meeting and doing future business with this client. Then at the end of the day the phone rang: the restaurant had my wallet. I’d put it down after tipping the coatcheck person. This was the oddest feeling, as I didn’t even know I’d lost it, so had none of the frantic anxiety associated with losing something. I was more incredulous – that I’d managed to go the rest of the day without noticing, and that the restaurant had been so responsible in getting word to me.

    • I like this story — you got to experience the surprise and relief of a good deed without having to weather any anxiety beforehand. 🙂

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