Kindness of Strangers
A caring gesture gave me hope
I WAS ALMOST UNDONE by the kindness of an elderly flower seller at Sydney’s Central Station one evening.
I was feeling as raw as the chill winds quickening the steps of the commuters who burrowed chins in scarves and hands deep into coat pockets. In many ways, 2018 had proven a tough year – a year of shedding. My teenage daughter had left home for university, my job of 23 years was no more, and a creative project I’d given my all to for years had also been abruptly called off. I also found out a person I’d thought was a friend was far from it.
A year earlier, I’d dreamt about an earthquake. In the dream, a red light flashed inside a building and then the earth began to rock. Walls crumbled and debris rained down on me as I ran into the open, feeling pangs of grief for the people I hadn’t loved enough.
Before I was buried completely by the falling world, I stretched out my hands and shouted, “Abuelo, ayudame,” in my native Spanish. “Grandfather, help me!”
Now, navigating the very real aftershocks of a succession of unexpected endings, I walked into a little flower shop to buy a gift for a friend. The gentleman at the till looked at me and turned away for a moment, returning with a fragrant daffodil. “For you. You need to smile today,” he said in a rich and beautiful accent, offering me the flower with eyes full of extraordinary compassion.
It took all my strength not to burst into tears. Then he wrapped me in a grandfatherly hug that made me want to tell him everything.
Instead, I thanked him and headed for the train. How did he know? I marvelled. For the first time in weeks, I felt steady. I felt hope.
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