The Nice Thing About Strangers

Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.

To Be Grateful

I’m waiting in line for three ticket machines in the metro station. Of course, I get to mine, and it doesn’t take cash. Or cards. So I turn, tugging my suitcase along, joining the line for a different machine. A woman with red hair meets me and holds out a ticket. I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed because I’ve just arrived, I’m in a crowd of tourists, and I’m carrying too much stuff. Nabokov wrote in Despair, “I had a suitcase with me and it hampered my movements, for I belong to the class of people who hate carrying anything.” This is very me, but I have to balance that sense against my need for things such as shirts and self-tanner.

The red-haired woman is giving me a day-pass for the metro. I’m so slow on the uptake that I don’t even take it, so she presses it into my hands and walks away, helplessly looking skyward. When I finally grasp that it is a valid ticket, a free ticket, I feel so ungrateful. I hustle down the steps and find her on the platform. We have so few shared words, but I know how to say “Thank you” and I say it over and over. She has the same pass I did. So she must have left a friend somewhere, then wanted to pass on the free travel. Perhaps this was so.

In the train, we try to talk. We both think of things to say, and then give up the ideas after a few blank blinks from the other. I manage to communicate that we have the same color of eyes and she nods, “Yes, yes.” Finally, she pulls out her phone and shows me photos of her two children. She points to one and says the child’s name, then the other. I repeat them, but I’ve forgotten them now. Darling little kids, a boy and a girl.

At her stop, I thank her again. She stands at the door, holding her bag in front of her, and watching herself in the reflection in the train window. I hope she is feeling happy about helping me. I hope she is happy with her act of kindness. It was a gift as well how she pulled me from my distractions, it is a gift to be able to say thank you.

–Budapest, Hungary.


19 comments on “To Be Grateful

  1. Brezilyada Bir Türk
    September 7, 2016

    Very nice.

  2. evelyneholingue
    September 7, 2016

    You’re so right about the gift of saying thank you. What a great story, Paige! It reminds me of a young woman who offered to pay for my groceries one day. I had left my wallet at home because I was back from the gym where I never take more than what I need. On my way home, I stopped to get small items at the grocery store and quickly apologized at the cash register when I realized I had no cash and no credit card with me. Immediately this woman right behind me offered to pay and handed me a ten. I refused and she insisted saying that if I was there at nine a.m. I could only be a neighbor. “What are neighbors for if they can’t help each other?” she said. I still refused, arguing that I would return to the store later and I left. When I was on the parking lot I realized that I had not really thanked her but mostly protested agaisnt her offering. I felt ungrateful and was glad when I saw her walking back to her car. I waved and said, “Thank you so much.” She smiled back and said, “Of course. Anytime.”
    I drove home, happy for both of us.

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      September 8, 2016

      Evelyne, This is so lovely! I’m glad you were able to see her in the parking lot. We so often need that moment to do some justice. I love hearing the varieties these kindnesses can take. 🙂
      Have a lovely week-

      • evelyneholingue
        September 9, 2016

        Agree, Paige. Enjoy your weekend too. 💐

  3. Tomi
    September 7, 2016

    Just stumbled across your blog… Such heartwarming reads… Trying to resist the urge not to read every single post in one sitting! Maybe there’ll be one about London (where I’m from)… The mystery of it all!

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      September 8, 2016

      Tomi, this has been sort of amazing to me. I’ve had so many new readers in the last two weeks. Do you remember where you found me? 🙂 I can’t remember where I’ve been… Hehe. 🙂 Welcome, and thank you!

      • Tomi
        September 8, 2016

        Hi Paige! Yes, I found you on the ‘reader’ section of the WordPress app! There was an excerpt of one of your posts and now… here I am! Haha! Thanks for the welcome! 😊

      • thenicethingaboutstrangers
        September 12, 2016

        Thank you so much! It’s been totally amazing that in the last few weeks (when I was seriously preparing to close up shop), I have been greeted by so many new bloggers and readers. I guess that changes my early-retirement plans…

  4. It is lovely that people want to be helpful and letting them in is really being part of building community, one interaction at a time. The is a lovely post. Thank you.

  5. lifeloguesite
    September 8, 2016

    A wonderful page on the chance encounters of life.Very well articulated and expressed.A word of courtesy to the unknown helping hand is sweet and the struggle to get familiarise is adorable.Well done,my compliments

  6. uponablackstar
    September 8, 2016

    And now it is a gift to us to say thank you for such a beautiful piece. Thank you.

  7. Darlene
    September 8, 2016

    I will never forget the woman who assisted me at the train station in Madrid when I had way too much luggage and there were no luggage carts. I thanked her over and over. She said she had been helped out in the past and was just willing to pay it back. (or forward I guess) These people show up like guardian angels sometimes.

  8. thrivingthursday
    September 8, 2016

    It’s really great to know that there are still people out there who are willing to help wholeheartedly and make this world a better place. There’s still hope, when we almost stop looking for it. I’m glad you shared this story. I had experienced a similar one some time back. I’ve written about it on my blog too. Goes by the name of helping hands. Do check it out! 🙂

  9. df1325
    September 11, 2016

    It’s things like this that make me smile. Great post!

  10. Bookworm
    September 17, 2016

    I love this account. It restores my faith in humankind! Moreso, the way in which you write seems natural and unconvalted yet the warmth you felt from such a gesture is gracefully transferred to the reader. Beautifully written and uplifting! Thank you

  11. Bookworm
    September 17, 2016

    I love this account. It has restored my faith in humankind! Moreso, the way in which you write seems so natural and unconvoluted, yet you gracefully transfer the warmth you felt from that gesture to the reader. Beautifully written and uplifting. Thank you

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      September 18, 2016

      Holy moly, this put tears in my eyes! Thank you for your lovely comment. I appreciate you taking the time to share your impressions and I hope you’ll enjoy reading more of the stories when you need a little boost. 🙂

      • Bookworm
        September 18, 2016

        I am sure I will :))

  12. Leen
    September 19, 2016

    Inspiring post. Thank you.

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This entry was posted on September 7, 2016 by in Hungary, Travel.

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