Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Kindness of Strangers

It was one of those random acts of kindness.

And we might have missed it, entirely. We weren't in our neighbourhood, weren't in our end of town. Where we were, we rarely frequented. And we had never made a purchase at this particular location.

In fact, it's been ages since I purchased an actual paper book. With the exception of purchasing the last two publications from my friend, Peggy Blair, I haven't purchased a book in 2015. I know: it's sad. I used to be such a book worm, would burn through 15 to 20 novels a year, sometimes more. Reading would be the last thing I would do in the evening before turning out the light. I used to make a reading list at the end of one year, filled with books that would carry my through the following year.

Not now. I may have read two or three books this year. I started one novel, months ago, The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins, and enjoyed it. But I would read a chapter, or two, put it down for a few weeks, read another few chapters, put it down for a month or so, forget what was happening, and back up a few chapters.

I'm taking this book on vacation, in a couple of weeks, will spend most of my leisure time either reading or writing, working on my novel, rather than this blog. I'm going to start The Girl on the Train from the beginning, and I plan to finish it before my vacation is over.

Sorry, Peggy: your books will have to wait until later. But I vow to read them by the end of the year.

The rest of my family have also picked books to read as we relax at the cottage on the shores of Lake Huron, on the Bruce Peninsula. This weekend, as we were shopping around town, as I am loathe to do on weekends, we found ourselves in the South Keys area, in the Chapters-Indigo store. I do like to go into Chapters, go to all of their computer terminals, type Songsaengnim in the search field, and bring my book up onto the screen. I walk away, knowing that for the next few minutes, my book is advertised to whomever uses the terminal next.

Our 14-year-old daughter had not yet chosen a book to take with her on our vacation, so we had her search the recommended-reading stacks at the front of the store. There were lots of great books from which to choose, and I had to control myself from picking up titles for myself. I have a vast collection that have gathered dust on my shelves, that I had on previous book lists but hadn't got to.

And there are, of course, Peggy's books. I've read her first: I have her second and third to dig into. No new books for me until these are read.

DD14 stopped at one book: Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher. "This one," she said. I took the book and headed to the cash registers.

As I held the book, I felt a gap in the pages. Something had been placed halfway through the novel. I opened the book and there, tucked inside, was a pink envelope with handwriting on the front and back.

I didn't know if this was part of the book, so I looked at the stack on the table. No other copies of the book seemed to have it. It seemed that this had been randomly placed in the stacks of recommended reading. No other titles on the table seemed to contain a bonus gift.

At the cash register, I showed the envelope, explained how we found it, and asked if it was a store promotion. It wasn't. I wanted to make sure that it wasn't going to be construed as something we were stealing from the store. It wasn't.

We kept it.

The print looked as though it came from a young hand. The print at the bottom of the front of the envelope read, "Hello Stranger! For if you are having a bad day!" The back of the envelope read, "this letter is to be opened only when one is having a bad day."

I wasn't having a bad day, but for having to endure a long day of shopping, I felt I deserved to see what was inside.

The card had nothing on the front, save a beautiful, pink flower. Opening the card, the interior held no pre-printed message, but on the recto and verso sides, more hand-written messages awaited.

"Dearest Stranger," it began,
  • you are special
  • you are needed
  • you are loved
  • you are Beautiful!
  • you are worth it
  • Be happy
The message continued on the opposite page: "Have A Great life!"

I wasn't in a bad mood. My day, for the most part, had been pretty good. In reading this card, I was placed in a much better mood. My faith in the overall goodness of people had been validated. The kindness of this stranger had far-reaching effects—I think we should all look at the message within and carry it further.

Pay it forward, as the saying goes.

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