Some days I feel that the nature of this site results in a focus on the negative aspects of living overseas to the detriment of sharing the wonderful, and life altering, beautiful moments found only by truly immersing oneself in another culture. So to counteract all the tales of administrative abuse, neglect and frustration, let’s share some stories of random acts of kindness. Here are just two of the many I have experienced…
Once, while wandering a market in Northern Italy, I was stopped by a woman gesturing frantically at the sling that I carried my sleeping newborn daughter in. My first thought was that she was going to give me a hard time for having a baby so young out in public. The cultural norm there is to over bundle children and shelter them from crowds until they are about two years old. I prepared for the ration I figured I was about to get, but instead the woman, through gestures and pointing, alerted me to the fact that my child had leaked through her diaper and the sling. She took me gently by the hand to the area behind her stall, laid down a blanket and cooed and sung to my baby while I cleaned up everyone involved. Then she handed me a warm bread roll, patted me on the shoulder with a one-mother-to-another warmth and sent me on my way. It was a small gesture but one that made me feel like a welcomed member of a community.
Another random act of kindness occurred in Pakistan within days of my arrival. I was new to the experience of driving on the “wrong” side of the street and misjudged my proximity to a gapping chasm of a pothole. Next thing I knew the van I was driving rolled right into this hole up to the frame. There was no way I was going to drive out of the hole with the front wheels suspended in mid-air, and I was at a complete loss staring dejectedly at the lopsided vehicle with no idea who to call or what to do next. Within a few minutes, while I still pondered my next move, auto rickshaw drivers began to stop, get out of their vehicles and gather nearby. In my slightly paranoid, American mind, they gathered to mock and view the spectacle, but suddenly they all seemed to come to a consensus and moved towards the van and me. Without a word they took up positions around the van and together lifted, rocked and pushed the van out of the hole. Each was beaming ear-to-ear as they ushered me back into the vehicle and guided me safely around the mother of all potholes. They waved as I drove away. Not a word was understood between any of us and not a cent asked for. They saw a person in need and lent a helping hand.
It is easy, when surrounded by a world that is strange, to get wrapped up in the feeling of being alone or an outsider. Some of these schools are miserable to be at, some countries hate the western world, and some places are just not our cup of tea, but you never know when you might experience a random act of kindness that makes it all seem quite okay. I would love to hear other teachers’ stories of random act of kindness?
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