Commentary & Interviews

The Kindness of Strangers

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Feck. Double feck.

The entire contents of my carefully packed suitcase were all over the floor of the B&B near Dublin Airport that I was staying in. I stared at the contents, aghast. By midnight, it had dawned on me that I left home without some of my medication.

I was flying to Toronto with Air Canada at 10.45am the following day, with Havana as my final destination. After much disbelief and panic, I devised a plan to transport the medication from home to Dublin Airport via the Kerry flight the following morning, a flight which was expected to arrive in Dublin Airport at 10am. The plan was manageable but I would need the kindness of strangers to execute it.

Nobody answered when I rang Dublin Airport’s Customer Service number after midnight; the airport is supposed to be a 24-hour operation to facilitate transatlantic emergencies. Presumably, transatlantic flights in distress have another number to ring. Or they call Shannon Airport.

After an unsettled night’s sleep, I rang Kerry Airport at 7am. Requests to transport unaccompanied packages were possible but were entirely at the discretion of the aircraft’s captain, I was told. I relayed the message to my mother, who brought the medication to Kerry Airport. I made my way to Dublin Airport to find out if my plan could be achieved on the Dublin side.

Alas, it couldn’t. At the time, Aer Lingus operated the Kerry to Dublin flight, a flight that arrived at and departed from Dublin’s Terminal 2. My Air Canada flight was departing from Terminal 1. It was not possible to transport the package between terminals in less than one hour.

While I was panicking at Dublin Airport, my mother was having an Officer and a Gentleman moment at Kerry Airport, personally meeting the captain of the Dublin flight who assured her that I would receive the package in time. He was a man of his word.

“Hang on a sec” said the Aer Lingus rep in Dublin (let’s call him Bill). I was about to give up hope when Bill stated that the Kerry flight would now be arriving at Terminal 1 at the gate right beside my Air Canada flight. I couldn’t believe my luck. Bill couldn’t believe it either.

After passing through security, I ran downstairs to the gate in question to greet the little ATR propeller aircraft from Kerry that slipped in beside the large Air Canada twinjet Boeing 777. The ground handling staff were fully aware of the incoming package and handed over my medication, just as my mother was promised.  


I hope all staff involved, who helped me in my hour of need, took a bow for their professionalism. But it wasn’t the first time I experienced the kindness of strangers on my travels.  

My car broke down on the scenic route from Trim, County Meath to Mullingar in County Westmeath. A farmer helped me to push the car to safety, driving me to a mechanic friend who insisted I wait in his kitchen and help myself to his tea and toast. He put particular emphasis on the toast and, with hindsight, his carb-loading plan was needed for the long day ahead. The fault was beyond his expertise and the car had to be transported to the main dealer. Both the farmer and the mechanic refused payment for their good deeds.

Another time, a besuited man at Richmond Station, Surrey, gave me his multi-zone Travelcard when exiting mid-morning. His kindness gave me free transport around London for the day.

Another besuited man chased after me at Waterloo tube station, London, with my dropped jacket in one hand and his briefcase in the other. A similar incident happened in Friedrichstrasse Station in Berlin. This time, I dropped my gloves and the man was calling me Fraulein instead of the Londoner’s Madam.

The receptionist at Uppsala’s Radisson Blu Hotel kindly held my luggage for a few hours when no other place in the city could. Even though I tipped her, she went above and beyond the call of duty to hold luggage for a non-guest prior to money exchanging hands.

All over Bosnia and Herzegovina I was regularly approached by people willing to help when I looked lost. Same in Odesa, Ukraine. None were looking for payback in any shape or form. Bosnia and Herzegovina still remains the friendliest country I’ve visited.

In a Mostar bakery, the cashier didn’t have change for my large note so insisted on taking the smaller note which didn’t cover the price of the pastries. I returned later with the correct change and a tip. The same scenario happened in a Dubrovnik bakery.

This is a small selection of some instances where I have experienced the goodwill and kindness of others on my travels.

I have also witnessed other people receive much kind-heartedness from third parties. In fact, my decision to finally write on this topic was inspired by a recent experience when the cashier in a local supermarket purchased a football for a young boy whose debit card didn’t work. These experiences equally restore my faith in humanity.



Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. For the vast majority of instances, I did not fluently speak the language of those who reached out to me. But kindness has no language. In a way, kindness is a language.

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

Mark Twain

While strangers regularly extend kindness, I neither expect it nor rely on it. Kindness is a gift. As a result, I always pay kindness forward. After all, gratitude is part and parcel of kindness.

I’ve been told that an open heart and mind attracts the kind deeds and altruism that I’ve been on the receiving end of. I wouldn’t entirely agree as I believe people recognise another person’s predicament and respond with the empathic positive action required. Sometimes the kind stranger teaches us something and we use that lesson as a way to live our own lives.

Kindness begins with the understanding that we all struggle.

Dr. Charles Glassman

For a number of years, malevolence and every other antonym of kindness you could find in a thesaurus was inflicted upon part of my life. While kindness from family and friends was always forthcoming (thanks folks), I needed reminding that people in general are fundamentally good. The chance encounters with benevolent strangers on my travels were excellent reminders.

Solo travel is my predominant method of travel. But my one-woman show has a cast of hundreds. And this post is an acknowledgement of their contribution to my success.

So take a bow, folks.

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