As a traveler, I have stumbled across some of the planet’s most generous people. Humans in Tibet with nothing, but who offered me heaping portions of yak butter tea and cookies for an entire afternoon. A kind family in Venezuela that took five of us college students in for a weekend because robbers were chasing us. Brazilian kids who stopped swimming to help us change a tire. Hawaiians who ceased their barbecue to help tow our car out of the sand.
If you ask most travelers, their lists of experiences involving the kindness of others is exhaustive. There’s nothing overtly special about this brand of interaction.
Yet, I am always floored by the sheer human-ness of others. Maybe it is because I grew up in Los Angeles, where so many are out for themselves and the basic tenets of humanity seem to have disappeared with the Atkins Diet. I suppose I have stopped expecting people to hold doors for me, or let my car over a lane when I’ve had my blinker on for a good two minutes.
But when someone does something merely to be nice, it takes a moment for the act to register.
Just this weekend, a dear college friend’s boyfriend (Dan) funded a Manhattan weekend for me, just so I could celebrate my friend’s birthday. He went all out, flying me from SFO to NYC, putting me up in Hotel Giraffe, purchasing meals, a decadent spa treatment, more meals, drinks, and ultimately he planned a massive surprise party for her. As my friend shined, surrounded by her friends and family, I watched Dan’s eyes twinkle with the joy that abundant giving allowed.
It seems to me that if we all had ridiculous amounts of money, we probably would use that cash to make others happy.
Interestingly, now that I am back in Santa Cruz, I notice people’s generosity more profoundly. Today at the farmer’s market, a transient man was sitting on the curb and when my kids walked by, he greeted them. Nikko, always one to engage, said hello; and the man offered him a sticker. We sat next to the man to eat some snacks, and the kids ran off to get water. On their way back, Nikko tripped over an older man’s foot and slid across the concrete.
His screams punctuated the market. A vendor offered us a cup of ice. When we went back to sit near the transient, he filled the cup with water from his jug, giving us more than he left himself. I didn’t think anything of it until another man who had been sitting quietly near us, stood to leave and gave the transient man the remains of his crepe and the transient wolfed down the savory treat. Suddenly I was once again reminded of how the more we give, the richer we become.
Since returning from New York, I find myself wanting to repay Dan’s generosity in some way. And all I could come up with was to give kindness as much as possible to those around me–my kids, my friends, my husband, strangers. I figure if that’s all I have, why not allow it to be free.