Part 17: Life's Lessons Expand Baltimore Bucket List

Joan London Eating a Hot Dog - December 2013I feel good! I feel really good! Since my return from the West Coast and senior house-hunting, I’ve had two life-altering experiences that have caused me to change the second item of my Baltimore Bucket List from “appreciate family and friends” to “appreciate family, friends and strangers.”

We last dialogued while I was en-route back home to Baltimore from Southern California. As I waited at baggage claim for my luggage, I congratulated myself on a flawless trip—no mishaps. Unfortunately for me, Murphy of “Murphy’s Law”—what can happen, will happen—must have overheard my silent jubilation. That instant, my cell phone rang. My friend, who was parked at a remote airport lot, couldn’t start his car.

The Kindness of Strangers

A skycap nearby overheard the conversation and suggested that we notify Airport Security for assistance. I asked the skycap to wait in the terminal with me. He agreed but the time was 12:30am and his shift ended in 30 minutes. 1:00am came and went, as did 1:30 am, while we waited in the eerily empty airport terminal chatting to pass the time.

The skycap was from Liberia, West Africa, where he and his family suffered decades of civil war, starvation, deprivation and death to his parents. From a refugee camp he received asylum to the United States. He came to Baltimore because he has family living in the city and was able to find work. He worked tirelessly, saving money to successfully bring his wife and children to Baltimore.

As we waited, I became thirsty. I spotted a vending machine and asked this kind man if he would take my $20 bill and buy a bottle of water for me and one for himself. He returned with one bottle of water, which he handed to me, along with my $20. He said the machine would not accept large bills, and he used $2 of his tip money for my water. As for his water, he would wait until he returned home. I had no smaller bills, and he would not accept the $20.

The skycap commented, “I have known thirst and I have known hunger. It is my honor to give water to a thirsty person.”

Instantly, the phone rang and my ride arrived.

A Life Lesson Learned

A few days later, I was shopping in a major discount store and decided I was hungry. Standing in front of me at the Food Concession was a mother with her two preschool children who were hungrily eating hotdogs. The mother was arguing loudly with the cashier. She insisted that her check was valid and she didn’t know why her bank would not accept it. The cashier said she had entered the check into the register three times and it was rejected.

The mother then said in a pleading voice, “Are you going to take the hotdogs away from my children?” The cashier answered, “I have to call the manager.”

“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”    –Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I overhead the conversation, my annoyance at the delay vanished. The bottle of water and the kindness of the skycap flashed across my mind. From somewhere inside of me came the words, “I’ll pay for the children’s hotdogs,” and I pulled the same $20 from my wallet. I turned to the children and said, “Enjoy your hotdogs.”

The mother said thank you and hurried the children toward the door. I thought, “I should have bought the mother a hotdog. She probably was hungry. I answered myself, “No, I should not reward the woman for what appeared to be an obvious scam. Then, I mused, “Would I do the same thing to feed my hungry children?” Most of all, I decided, “I feel really good to return a good deed that I was blessed to receive,” coincidentally with the same $20.

Next post, I will update Journeyers on SeniorHomes.com’s recommended “rent-controlled” senior housing in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Until the next post, enjoy the journey day-by-day.

###

Written by Joan London, a freelance medical and social service writer, who plans to relocate from Baltimore to a senior housing community close to her children in Southern California.