On a particularly cold morning my mother asked a friendly Swedish man, (who was part of the team who organized our stand at the tourism trade fair), how they manage to keep warm in this dreadful weather, and he simply replied, “with warm hearts”.
As cheesy as that sounded, I came to discover that it was true. The people I met in Gothenburg can definitely be described as warm. Its rare to experience so much kindness concentrated in one place!
On the first day of the trade fair, I lost my ID badge somewhere on the way back to the hotel. The next day, after struggling to get a temporary pass to enter the exhibition center, a young man, accompanied by a lady came up to my stand and asked if I was ‘Elizabeth’. I replied yes, and he held out my ID badge, a little soiled and crumpled, but still intact! I was shocked, since I had already accepted that it was lost and never to be found. He explained that he found it yesterday at one of the tram stops and knew that I would desperately need it today. His random, simple act of kindness, effort and obligation to do the right thing deeply touched me. He didn’t expect a reward or anything, and as quickly as he appeared he disappeared back into the crowded exhibition hall. I didn’t quite get his name, but I shall always remember him, and I was re-inspired to “pay it forward”.
On another occasion, in a public bathroom an elderly lady had been intently staring at me through the mirror. Now I’m used to getting stares, most of them being simply curious, but her stare had a layer of intensity to it, like she was really looking at me, perhaps looking through me. I awkwardly smiled at her, and responded by saying something softly in Swedish. I told her I didn’t understand what she was saying. She smiled, looked me dead in the eye and said; “you are beautiful”. She then continued to dry her hands and walked out of the bathroom, like as if nothing had happened.
I smiled to myself all day that day. It’s so rare today to receive ‘feel-good’ comments from people, particularly strangers, but those are the best kind, they somehow always seem so genuine.
To those strangers I met who restored my faith in humanity, I thank you! And to my readers, I hope to have inspired you to go out and do something unusually nice for a stranger. A kind gesture or comment, subtle and genuine. You just might end up in someones sketch pad or mentioned in a blog!