It is automatically assumed that kindness starts with words or a gesture towards someone you are familiar with or comfortable with being kind towards. Way back in 2006, I learnt that the act of being kind can overcome a difference in language, a difference in culture and a difference in the situation. In the experience I am about to re-tell, the strength of the kindness I received made its way to my heart because the family who offered it had never seen me before, nor knew nothing of me. To them, that didn’t matter; they wanted to be kind.
My rucksack was digging into my back. My friends and I had just come off a five-hour journey from Blackpool to Germany and we had found ourselves lost in a place called Grevenbroich – 20 miles away from where we were supposed to be in the city of Cologne. A series of errors with trains, buses and streets meant we had wandered off our course (this was a time long before Google Maps!). The four of us had set off in high spirits; we were supposed to be watching England play Sweden in the World Cup in no fewer than two hours. It had cost a lot of money to get tickets and travel, but everything was about to be ruined. Through a mixture of frustration, confusion and exhaustion, we slumped to the back of the wooden chairs of an old-fashioned German café and began to realise our dream wasn’t going pan out as expected.
This is when we were touched by kindness. A gentleman, sitting nearby with his wife and young daughter, had not understood our conversation (he did not speak English), but had read the clues around our table. He detected the frowns on our faces and he saw various fingers pointing to places on the map we had sprawled in front of us. Most likely, he had also picked up on the tone of our flustered voices. Next thing, our squabbling was interrupted. He leaned over and pointed to the city of Cologne on the map, looked at us and then pointed to himself. We do not know what he said but, within minutes, he had ushered all four of us to his car – a spacious and majestic Volkswagen Atlas – as well as his family, and drove us to our hotel. In the vehicle, there was no conversation – just four surprised English faces three smiling German expressions. Upon arriving at the hotel, we could not wait to waft Euro notes in his face, but he did not want anything in return. We had been saved!
Everybody benefitted from his kindness that day. It is easy to say we were the biggest recipients having been lost and down on our luck with no chance of making it to our hotel or the football match. However, the gentleman and his wife were clearly lifted by the warm feeling of offering kindness and, without doubt, their young daughter, who witnessed everything, had seeds planted in her mind that would inspire her to be kind in the future, too. Kindness crosses everything and holds no barriers.