We visited Barcelona and southwest France this Spring and had a marvelous time. Once back home, I would start off regaling friends with a tale like this, “Well, it was a wonderful trip that started off a little rough, as we were picpocketed of our main debit card on leaving the airport.” I would go on to explain that we felt perfectly safe for the rest of the trip following the first few frustrating hours. Over and over, I found myself struggling mightily to continue the travelog past this incident as many people got stuck on the “crime in Europe” topic. Eventually, I found that I needed to omit the robbery from my recitations in order to adequately express the enjoyment of the journey.
Our trip was peppered with many acts of kindness by strangers who had nothing to gain, kindnesses delivered in a foreign language. In recounting the trip, I especially wanted to tell of these kindnesses that had so impressed me. For instance, several people went out of their way to help us straighten out the debit card loss. Then there was the man in Avignon who followed us for a block to tell us we were going in the wrong direction after overhearing us ask for directions in the train station. The biggest kindness occurred when my wife, Christine, fell on a street. Three young men came to help her to her feet while two seamstresses came out of their shop and insisted we come inside and rest. They gave us refreshments and examined Christine’s wound. Then they drew a map directing us to a drug store, telling us exactly what medication would hurry the healing and reduce the swelling. There were many other such kindnesses in Europe. Then on returning to Atlanta, the airport shuttle driver called me on my cell to say she was holding the bus until I came back to get a bag I left behind.
Where do we put our eyes? Where is our focus? Cynicism and negativity are ever tempting, waiting in the shadows to take center stage. But what do we miss in the process?