Kind­ness of Strangers

A caring ges­ture gave me hope

Reader's Digest Asia Pacific - - Contents - BY KA­RINA MACHADO

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.

Share your story about a small act of kind­ness that made a huge im­pact. Turn to page 8 for de­tails on how to con­trib­ute and earn cash.

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