Thursday, December 13, 2007

I have always relied on the kindness of strangers

Okay, that's a lie. I'm not Blanche DuBois. I don't rely on the kindness of strangers. I just really love it when it happens.

Inspired by Lynnae's post about the kind stranger who made her family’s Christmas when she was young, I thought I’d pass on another story of someone who went above and beyond. It’s not about buying gifts for less fortunate young ones, but it was sweet and much-appreciated.

It was during my first year away at university. I’d spent four months away, and I was looking forward to coming home for Christmas. I’d loaded all of my stuff on a train, including all my presents for everyone, as well as what was no doubt several weeks worth of laundry so I could take advantage of the parental washing machine.

I was exhausted. I’d been ‘studying’ for exams, I’d been shopping for gifts. I’d probably also been to a few too many holiday and end-of-term parties. I slept the whole way home on the train, waking just as it pulled into my home town’s station. I had to quickly gather up my things and dart off the train into the waiting arms of Mom and Dad.

What I didn’t notice until the car pulled into our garage was that I didn’t have my purse. It was still sitting on the train.

I called the local station to see what could be done, which at this point was nothing. The train had, of course, continued on its way. I’d have to call the lost and found in Toronto, which was its last stop, and hope for the best. I did so, and they told me they’d let me know if it turned up.

I spent the next couple of hours on hold with my bank and credit card companies, cancelling everything. If you’ve ever had to do so, you know how delightful it is...especially late at night on December 22nd.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, an older man was examining my purse to determine where it came from. He was getting off in Toronto, and he dutifully took it in to the Lost and Found. They told him it would likely take at least a week to get the purse back to me, since it was such a rushed season, and that I’d have to pay for the expense of having it sent.

This is where I got really lucky. This older man was A) incredibly kind-hearted, and B) a retired CN worker. As such, he was entitled to free train rides within Canada. Appalled that it would take so long to return the purse, and apparently thinking of the panic this young girl (my driver’s licence with my date of birth was naturally in there) must be in, he took the early morning train heading in my town’s direction the next day.

It’s a pretty long trip from Toronto to the town where my parents live. He got off the train, turned my purse in, told the ticket teller that since his trip was free the least he could do was bring it to me, and then promptly hopped on the next train back to Toronto.

He wouldn’t leave his name. To this day I have no idea who he is.

The ticket agent called me. When Mom and I went to the station he told us the story as far as he knew it. I’d already cancelled my bank cards, but I no longer had to get a new driver’s licence, health card, birth certificate, etcetera, etcetera. Between not having to pay postage for the purse, and not having to pay to replace all my ID, he probably saved me a couple of hundred bucks. And all my cash was still in my wallet.

Mom took out a space in the Toronto Star to try to thank him. It’s doubtful he saw it, but I hope maybe he did. It was about 12 years ago now, so I don’t even know if he’s still alive.

I try to think about him every time I get cut off and given the finger in traffic, or hear about some nut somewhere who’s spouting hateful things. It helps me retain hope for humanity.

Photo from Guidepost Travel.

1 comment:

the chaplain said...

Wow, this is a great story.