When one spends too much time reading or watching the news, it’s rather easy to believe that there is little good in the world. When we first began our journey, Tigger had been worried that people would be mean in other countries. I’m not quite sure why he had that assumption, but spending our first few months in Mexico quickly changed his mind about it. I was very happy when he announced that people were even more friendly in Mexico than the US. As we’ve traveled, we’ve been on the receiving end of many acts of kindness; most of them random. I wanted to share just some of them.
I don’t think I will ever forget this experience from Havana. We had been walking in the Caribbean tropical heat for quite a while. During this time, I had not seen any shops where we could buy water. Someone came up and asked if we wanted a tour of the church we were currently visiting. We didn’t, but I did ask where I could find some bottled water to buy. He looked down at Tigger’s sweaty face and motioned for me to follow him.
As we walked, he spotted a man sitting on his doorstep. He stopped and told the man “The boy is thirsty.” The man jumped up and went into his house. He came back a few moments later with a glass of cold water.
We continued our journey, and it was obvious the man had no clue where to find a store. Eventually we found a small shop and were able to get some bottles of water.
It was incredible to lead a couple of strangers all over Old Havana to help them find water, but I was also amazed that a stranger would just simply jump up and bring my son a glass of water. No questions asked. No money requested. A child was thirsty, and that was all that mattered.
We used to eat at peso shops quite a bit. These are basically people who sell food from their window. We had ordered some food and some drinks from one. She watched as Tigger and I sat on the curb to enjoy our breakfast. Tigger was struggling to keep his plate balanced, and she couldn’t take it anymore.
The next thing I knew she was opening her front door and ushering us inside. We were seated in her living room so we could eat a little more comfortably. She and her mother chatted with us while we ate. When we were done, she refused to accept any money and told us if we needed anything or were in trouble that we were to come directly to her home.
Her tone and facial expressions made it clear this was a serious offer and not just a polite nicety.
This Central American country gets a rough rap. While we lived there, it had 3 cities listed among the top 10 most dangerous cities in the world.
We spent 8 months living on the relatively small island of Utila in the Bay Islands area. It was small island life in every sense of the word. And it was a huge transition for Tigger. Previously, we had never really lived anywhere that he could have so much independence.
He turned 10 while we were on the island, and he became certified as a junior open water diver.
Because of the community, he had full run of the island. Even at night I really had no concerns. He was known by practically everyone. We would walk through the streets, and even grownups would wave to him and call out his name.
For a long time, I was known simply as Tigger’s dad.
I knew we were in a true small community when one day I was walking down the street and someone called out to me: “Your baby’s lookin fo ya!”
Turned out Tigger had stopped in there and asked “Have you seen my dad?” They hadn’t, but when they finally did they made sure I knew. It was one of the many attributes I absolutely loved about the island.
One time Tigger was hanging around with some of my dive students at the dive shop. They decided they were going to make a boat from a 2-liter bottle. They looked up the necessary supplies and gave Tigger a list fully expecting he would probably never get all of them.
Within 45 minutes, Tigger arrived with all the supplies they needed. When I asked where he had obtained them, I discovered he had just walked into shops around the island asking for what he needed, and they handed them over. No charge.
Another time I was in our apartment on a rare day off. Tigger went to the store for a treat. A few moments later I hear our landlord yelling to his wife to call the dive shop and get me because Tigger was sick. I poked my head out the door to see my son being escorted back by our landlord and another man. They saw him throw up on the side of the path and ushered him home. They were quite worried.
We were staying in a very small beach town. We came across another single-parent family from the US. Tigger and her boys hit it off right away and had a great friendship while we were there. One day they had borrowed someone’s large tricycle that was used for moving supplies around. They rode it around town calling it the Gringo Mobile. They got incredibly thirsty and didn’t have money. They stopped in a store and were all given something to drink anyway.
As soon as I found out, I went and paid for everything, and bought some additional items, but she had no promise of being paid by these kids. And it didn’t matter.
While we were in Quito, I had picked up a rather nasty virus that had me in bed for a few days. Not only did staff bring me home remedies, but they made sure Tigger was taken care of. An older lady was staying there while she was working out her visa issues, and she also took him under her wing and took him out for ice cream and lunch so he could get a break from hanging around the hostel.
Just knowing that I didn’t have to worry about him while I slept most of the day while fighting the illness was a huge relief.
Our scooter had a flat tire one day. I had to go up a rather steep hill to get it across the street to get the tire repaired, so I chose to walk alongside it while giving it a bit of throttle so I wasn’t having to push it completely. When it came time to cross the busy street, I decided to stupidly continue with this process.
Unfortunately, I gave it a bit too much throttle, and both me and the bike went down in the street. I got up quickly and managed to get the scooter into their yard while laughing at myself for my stupidity. The woman saw me and yelled out something in Thai to unseen people behind the shop.
I followed her gaze to notice that my leg was bleeding in a few places. I waved it off as no big deal. Her relative, an elderly man, came out, saw my wounds and would not accept my refusal of any assistance.
I was guided around to an area where I could sit while he tended to my wounds. I kept telling him it was fine and that I lived across the street and would be okay, and he wouldn’t hear a word of it. I was not allowed to leave until my wounds had been cleansed, had iodine applied, and were bandaged.
These are just a few of my favorite memories. We have seen so much kindness sent our way.
Interestingly, one theme has always come out loudly as well: Those who have less always give more.
I used to be rather resistant to accepting offers of help or extra kindness. I didn’t feel I needed them, and it certainly was uncomfortable accepting things from people who were so poor. One day decades ago someone said something to me, though, that really resonated with me strongly and changed my attitude. “When we deny people the chance to serve, we deny them blessings.”
So now when someone does an act of kindness for us, I suck it up, accept, and say thank you. There is so much beauty and kindness in the world. I just wish it got more recognition!
What is your favorite memory of receiving an act of kindness?
February 28, 2014
When we ended up in the “wrong” part of Naples (Italy)-kindest, most generous people; best pizza and pasta, sitting with the locals, for pennies! I am the worst person at accepting things/help for nothing in return; I don’t know why this is, but my eldest daughter has picked up on it. :/
March 1, 2014
I don’t know why it’s so hard to counter that either. I’ve gotten better since that quote, but it still can make me uncomfortable, especially when the giver is someone who is much poorer financially than me.
February 27, 2014
Absolutely LOVELY list of (no doubt but a few) of the many AOKs you and Tigger have enjoyed in your travels. My own are likewise so numerous (indeed, near DAILY – no matter what corner of the globe I’ve wandered) that I wouldn’t even know where to BEGIN to chronicle them.
Indeed, it is precisely such bountiful reminders of the innate GOOD in the species that I find to be the most precious gift of traveling.
March 1, 2014
Sure does remind you that in reality the world is mostly filled with good people and only a few jerks in comparison.
February 25, 2014
How wonderful! Sometimes it’s the little moments in life that bring together locals and foreigners. I always love that when I’m travelling.
March 1, 2014
Yep, one of my favorite parts about travel.
February 25, 2014
When traveling around Sicily years ago, we decided to make a detour to the Lipari Islands without doing much research, and without pre-booking accommodation as was our way. There were only 2 boats per day to the 3 Islands and we were on the 2nd. We hopped off the boat when it stopped, then watched it leave the dock, not realizing we’d just landed at the smallest island with the least accommodation options in the busy summer months. Of course, a quick wander around in the town revealed that everywhere was full. Just when we were contemplating a night on the beach (not recommended in Sicily) and elderly man in a delivery van pulled up to ask if we needed help. We explained in poor Italian our dilemma and he told us to get in his van. Not knowing whether to trust the man, nor wanting to sleep on the beach, we hesitantly got in. The man then drove to three other pensiones chatting the whole time in Italian and lastly stopping at a camping ground on the other side of the Island. Luckily there was just one cabin available, which was still being cleaned, so recently had it been vacated. Our rescuer would not accept any payment for driving us around the Island, but waved madly as he took off at great speed shouting ‘Arrivederci’ out the window.
March 1, 2014
Wow! What an incredible experience!
February 24, 2014
It’s always a humbling experience to get lost abroad and it never ceased to amaze me when people take time to literally take me where I’m trying to go. I feel like travel puts the humanity (that sometimes gets lost at home) back into our lives.
March 1, 2014
Yes, it certainly can!
February 24, 2014
I discovered the same thing while traveling through Asia. The less the person has, the more they are willing to give. And they’re generally happier too!
March 1, 2014
When those happiness lists come out, I always find it interesting to see just how many of the top ones are from developing and less-developed countries.