The Always Friendly Elderly Lady
Is there goodness in strangers?
An elderly lady was known by all of her friends for her positive attitude toward all strangers she happened to meet. Asked why, she told me some short stories, which I report in the following:
One day our lady and her husband had gone into town for some errands. It was very hot that day and, at the end of the afternoon, they had not much money left over. They thought, however, that they should have just a little refreshment and some “quality time” together after all this running around.
The coffee shop, which they entered, was crowded. There was only one small table left unoccupied. They quickly sat down, ordered some refreshments, and began to enjoy themselves.
That was when another elderly man also entered this coffee shop and, not finding any other place to sit down, came to their table and asked to be allowed to sit down with them.
They wished they could reject this stranger. But our lady readily agreed with him. He pulled another chair over, making sitting at the small table rather uncomfortable, and sat down – immediately beginning to talk – and talk – and talk. Was that the “quality time” together which they had hoped for? The last story the stranger told was about the weather at the town he had visited several weeks ago. The sky had turned quite dark and, suddenly, assumed an almost yellowish appearance. Then, a very heavy hail storm set in! Much damage occurred.
Our lady and her husband had enough. They paid their bill, left the coffee shop, and went straight home – just in time before some rain came down from dark clouds.
“Look!”, said the husband as they walked toward their house. “Does it not look as if the sky turns a bit yellowish?”
“I hope that does not mean a hail storm, as we just heard”, our lady said. “Our car is not in the garage but parked outside! Let’s hurry and put it in the garage, quickly!”
They ran as fast as they could, put the car into the garage and rushed into their home.
That was the moment when the hail storm broke loose – the heaviest one their town had ever experienced. Hail corns came down as large as plums! All the cars left outside became damaged, receiving big dents. Their car was safe!
They thought that they were lucky to have allowed that stranger to sit down at their table!
Another time, when our couple had gone once more shopping in town, again on a hot day, and looked for a refreshment at the end, they saw the advertisement for freshly arrived oysters at a deli shop – at reduced price.
They went in, it was crowded again, and they sat down, as before at a small table, then ordered the minimum of two oysters for each. That order took care of their remaining cash on that day.
Again somebody came in and wanted to sit down with them, a rather heavy-set middle-aged woman. Again, they did not decline. Again, they had to suffer from much talk from that lady who had appeared somewhat sad.
What came to light? This was her birthday and she had missed a train that should have brought her to a wonderful birthday party. Therefore, she now suggested that they should celebrate here, right now!
The intruding lady ordered champagne for all, a wonderful dinner, and as many oysters as they wanted to eat!
They sat for two hours and merrily celebrated that missed birthday party!
Later in life, our by now elderly and always friendly lady turned blind from Macular Degeneration, leading to increasing isolation – if not fearful defensiveness. But, when asked about it, she only indicated how much help and warmth was readily offered to her by strangers when they saw her in need. “Is mankind basically good, after all?” she asked!
Here are two “typical” events, as she said, which she told us:
Our lady had learned to walk with one of those slender white sticks to find her way and to indicate to all around that she was blind.
After some time, she learned to go shopping to the nearest store and return home unassisted, along the same way she had always gone for many years.
One day, however, after some lengthy shopping where the store clerks always walked with her most cooperatively, she left the store and became confused by a passing truck. Wasn’t the main road going in a different direction? Also the noise from the city bus seemed to come from a different corner than usual.
She stood there at the corner for some time, turning this way and that, trying to find some orientation before crossing either this road or the other one.
A small boy stopped at her side and, seeing her disorientation, asked “Are you waiting for somebody?”
“No,” she answerd. “I live close-by but lost my orientation”.
She mentioned the name of her street and asked the boy whether she should cross this street or the other one – and then turn which way?
“Oh,” said the boy. “You should go straight across right here!“
Our lady then heard that he was going with her across the street.
When arrived on the other side, the boy said: “I happen to go home from school and still have a little time left. My mother will certainly wait for me a few more minutes. Let me guide you a little further!”
Then he guided her right to the entrance of her home and made sure that she found the door.
Our lady could hardly say “Thank you!” and the boy had already run away to his waiting mother!
On another shopping walk, our lady had to cross a small section of a neighborhood park she knew well. The only problem was that, at this time of the day, many middle school students from a school near-by were congregating around the only bench in the park – with lots of noise and running around – just as wild as teenagers ever can be.
Our lady was quite afraid to pass this bench without getting into trouble – and stopped.
Suddenly a young girl was at her side and said “Don’t be afraid! I will guide you!”
Then she raised her voice and demanded most loudly and clearly that all the wild kids calm down for a moment to let the blind lady pass.
It was as if Moses had parted the wild waters of the sea. All the kids stood immediately in silence and calmly at the side of the path!
When the lady and her guiding girl had passed, our lady turned around to the wild teenagers and, especially to her kind guide, said “Thank you!”
First a soft applause could be heard from one of the teenagers, then full and loud applause by all!
Was that applause for the little girl – that had appeared, had helped, and, right-away, was ready to walk away again – or was it actually for those wild teenagers themselves, too – who had so nicely risen to the occasion?
“Is mankind basically good, after all?” the lady thought!
My own thought? How beautiful it is every time to be with that lady
– my sister, Marianne!