It was a Thursday in Germany. My friend and I were taking an autumn walk through the fields. As we neared the more populated area again, a little bit off the street, I saw a handbag lying on the ground. It looked like it might have belonged to a middle-aged lady - there was no one around. Thinking it had been stolen and thrown aside, I picked it up. Maybe there were some papers left that the owner still needed. But when I opened it the contents seemed intact and undisturbed. The papers showed it to belong not to a middle-aged German as I first thought but to a young woman of Turkish origin. (Let's call her Lale.) She appeared to live on the other side of town. I took the bag home, and tried to contact Lale. However, she wasn't listed in the phone book. Now what? A prescription inside showed her doctor's address. ... Read Full Story >>
I've got this friend, Rachel. She's a bit older than me, with a sort of shy, but radiant smile. She's usually tan, as she loves the outdoors and spends as much time outside as possible. No matter the weather. In the winter, she'll often go for walks outside. In the summer, she'll sit in public parks strumming her guitar, reading, or napping on the grass. She has the leisure to do these things because, suffering from multiple psychological traumas, she is unable to work. Well, unable to work in a "normal" workplace, that is. Because she does work. Her vocation is 'making' candles. She buys ready-made candles, usually the slightly translucent kind where the body of the candle will radiate the light, too. Then she puts designs on them by hand, working for hours at a time in her kitchen. She literally makes hundreds--if not a thousand--of these in a year. And then, ... Read Full Story >>
I think my mom raised me to be considerate. Growing up in a rather well-off family, where in a material sense I was wanting for nothing, kindness wasn't something I especially noted. I might have taken it for granted. As a teenager, to cope with some emotional challenges in my family, I taught myself to be a perfectionist, and developed a rather negative attitude towards myself. I always saw what was lacking in myself, or what I imagined to be lacking, in others, and in my life. You might gather it was difficult being this way. I lived this way well into my 30s. Due to health problems, I left college without a degree, tried for an apprenticeship, fell ill again and left my employer. After sick pay ran out, I ended up drawing something closer to welfare than unemployment benefits, though it was technically the latter. The family lore was ringing in ... Read Full Story >>
Early this morning, I got up to make a batch of Rice Krispie Treats for my neighbor across the hall. She barely greets me when we see each other, and her sweet little boy, who's now four, has picked up her hostile manner and will not talk to me, either. Last Monday, she had called the firefighters when a pan I'd forgotten on the stove caused my flat to fog up while I was out taking a walk. When I came home, the street in front of our apartment house was blocked by a police car, a fire truck and an ambulance! The instant I saw them, I remembered the pan! Luckily, nothing serious had happened, and all my neighbors agreed with the firefighter who said, "It could have happened to to anyone.“ When I thanked the neighbor who had called the firefighters - let's call her Ivy - and apologized for causing ... Read Full Story >>
On an overcast morning a couple of days ago, I was walking through the city center of my home town in central Germany. The gray sky didn't bother me because trees were finally putting on their green spring dress, and flowers strew gentle touches of color here and there. I was on my way to catch a bus, walking quickly, and easily outpaced a man whose stumbling gait had already caught my eye. While passing him by, I cast a glance towards him, and saw that his head was hanging so low, his chin touched his chest. He was holding a bottle of beer in his left hand. The cap was on, but the bottle was already missing a third of its content. He looked like he could fall over any minute, and hurt himself. I stopped a couple of yards ahead of him, wanting to offer him my help to ... Read Full Story >>
Yesterday, my older neighbor who painstakingly cares for part of our garden was in for a shock. Apparently, my cat, Rocco, had left a turd in his perfect flower beds. Fortunately, I wasn't home when this happened, so he vented to my friend and neighbor, K. She was kind enough to listen to him and to go down into the garden with him to have a look. She even took a picture! When I got home, she had left a message on my answering machine about the incident. Hearing it was about my cat again, my stomach turned. The year before, he'd gotten so upset that he had threatened to put rat traps on the premises, hoping that would intimidate me into keeping my cats indoors. So, I was a little apprehensive. But I couldn't help but laugh when I heard K tell me what the whole fiasco was all about. I understand ... Read Full Story >>
On my trip to Berlin last week, the train suddenly stopped. After a couple of minutes, one of the attendants, visibly shaken, told us that somebody had committed suicide by standing in front of the train. After a couple of moments to allow space for my own sorrow, I got up and went to the attendants' cab to offer support, as a professional trained to deal with traumatized people. I was thinking of the train driver who'd basically run over the 'victim'. They told me they really appreciated my offer, but that the train company had specialists for such cases and that they were checking to see whether the driver would get relieved of duty for the remainder of the journey. But for the moment, and some two hours more, the train just stood there while paramedics, police, and train company disaster management arrived and did their job. I found that I felt bogged down ... Read Full Story >>
Some days ago, I decided to leave my bike at home and take the bus instead. It was cold outside. I put on my only warm cap and my gloves, glad of their protection. I was glad I'd managed to quit my habit of losing gloves and caps as I couldn't easily afford new ones. On the bus, I pulled the cap off, it being warm inside. When I got to my stop, I jumped up and got off the bus. As I crossed the street, I realized something was missing: My only cap! In the middle of the street, I turned around, ran to the doors of the bus, pushing the button to open them, but to no avail. The bus pulled away from the stop. I kissed my cap goodbye. Just then, the bus stopped a short distance away because of a red light. While I sadly looked on (drivers aren't ... Read Full Story >>
After a sick-day on the couch I was walking around the block to get some fresh air. Just as I was turning back towards home I heard someone bawling. A kid, I thought at first. Then I saw it was an adult, a woman, looking lost, crying and calling out, walking on and off the sidewalk. The woman who first crossed her path didn't stop or ask what was wrong. I guess that stopped me and made me turn around. I took her arm and gently pulled her back from the road, asking her what had happened. There was spit all around her mouth and tear streaks down her cheeks. Her eyes were swollen from crying. Sobbing, she told me she'd been on the bus with a friend. She'd given her "friend" the last of her money and then the friend had disappeared. She couldn't get the bus home now since she didn't want ... Read Full Story >>
I was on my way to an appointment, and saw the beggar standing on his corner as usual.I didn't have any money and he was talking to somebody else anyway, so I passed him by. On my way back from the appointment I passed him on his corner again. This time he asked me for money. I told him, "Sorry, I don't have any coins on me." He replied, "I wouldn't mind the bills!" And he laughed a little, saying he was just making fun. I laughed too and reached out to rub his shoulder and arm. Then I turned to be on my way, busy with my thoughts. But he called something after me. I stopped when I realised he had said, "That felt really good ... that you touched me. It happens so seldom!" I turned, ran to him, and gave him a big hug, which made both of us smile like idiots. He ... Read Full Story >>
For a couple of days now, it's been difficult for me to get up in the morning. It's both because I'm having trouble going to sleep at a decent hour, and because I'd much rather stay in bed where I feel safe and won't have to face the daily challenges. Minor ones compared to what most people in the world face, I grant you, but still. Finally, I got to school in time for the last one and a half hour of classes. My usual seat was taken, so I sat besides a really nice woman, a bit older than me. The subject triggered her telling me about some health issues she'd had some time ago, and I took her hand to show my empathy. It was a bit forced, because I got the impression that she's got a thing about telling generally bad stories to garner attention, but anyway, that's what ... Read Full Story >>
My mom turned 70 last year and was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease four years ago. Through some unfortunate investments, she lost most of her money and is in debt. She lives by herself, and some distance from me. Door to door, I need three hours to get to her. In the last year, some of her friends have contacted me, inquiring about her, as she withdrew from most of her social contacts. She just stopped answering the phone and letters. After a year of this, I was getting worried she was depressed. I don't view depression that negatively. My take on depression differs from the mainstream insofar as I consider it an opportunity to delve deeper into oneself. But with Parkinson's, you need to stay active, otherwise you loose your abilities more quickly. And if you don't move enough, there's always the danger of a stroke by thrombosis. So I decided to visit ... Read Full Story >>
I was feeling splendid this morning! When approaching the bakery I saw a man asking for coins. I've often seen him and usually don't react well to his whiney tone of his voice. This time I decided I'd give him something. After I'd paid for my tea-to-go, I got a 5 Euro bill ready. Leaving the store really slowly so he'd have a good chance to approach me, I nearly ran into him. "Would you maybe have some coins for me?" he asked. I said, "No, sorry, I don't," and watched his face fall already at what he thought was a refusal, one of many thousands he probably gets each day. "I only have this for you", I said and held the bill in front of his eyes. The way his jaw nearly fell and his eyes widened were priceless. "Err ... wow!" he said, doing a double-take. "That's really ... Thanks." "No problem," I said. "I'm doing well ... Read Full Story >>
Living off welfare, I couldn't afford the train ride to see my mom these last few months.
She has Parkinson's disease, and I'm worried that she has been hiding how she is really doing from both my brother and me, in order to keep from being a burden.
I've also been missing her. I haven't seen her for months, being occupied with my training and my life and now, the money problem.
Last weekend, I talked to my brother. I've been feeling a strong pull to visit my mother, so I asked if he'd be willing to give me some money to pay for the ticket. Without skipping a beat, he said, "Yes."
Then, on top of that, he announced that he would pay for a train ticket for me to visit our mother once a month for the next couple of months. I was so blown away! What a kind-hearted, above and beyond generous gesture! I'm so grateful, and so looking forward to visiting my mother.
An old school friend of mine I hadn't seen for a long time needed someone to be with her in a time of distress. She was losing a pregnancy she really wanted and her "partner" hadn't supported her through the process.
I spent the day with her, empathizing, listening and trying to keep my good advice to a minimum.
It was wonderful seeing her again; being with her, sharing her sorrow, allowing myself to be touched and yet not feeling dragged into the story behind it.
I was sad to leave her but also happy that I didn't get sucked into the "gotta save her" thing I know so well.
If you would be so kind, please pray for my friend B. She is a wonderful, creative woman and needs to find herself again. Thank you.
I have pansies growing in a window box in front of my kitchen window. It gives onto the street, though separated by a little front yard. The pansies are mostly white, purple and yellow.
There is also a bowl out there with something that looks as though it could become a flower soon, and a lot of weeds - I dug it up out of the garden.
Yesterday, somebody anonymously put a pot with a bright red primrose onto the bowl, as though to suggest: Here it goes. I put it in, right there - and it looks great. It adds just the right splash of colour to the gentler mix.
Thank you, kind stranger wherever you are!
I helped a friend pit up her curtain rails a couple of days ago.
The first attempt didn't work out too well. The drill was too feeble to make the required holes in the wall.
Despite that she gave me a lemon! Her son's father had just brought them as a gift from his home in Italy. They were totally organic and so nice I can't bring myself to use it!
The rails are up now after a second attempt with a more powerful drill. Hopefully they will stay up and I will enjoy my lemon!
It was really getting to be autumn: Cold, wet, and gray. I'd donned thermal underwear and fur-lined boots for the first time this year. I'd just finished some shopping, and was getting ready to leave the supermarket's parking lot, when I heard music coming from the area of the shopping carts. Now, sometimes, people will beg in front of the supermarket. As a matter of fact, I had had to make a little detour around a man who was kneeling right besides the entrance, putting himself obnoxiously in the way. I didn't understand why he was kneeling (with his body upright) - it looked very uncomfortable. I felt he was trying to push my guilt button with the posture and didn't give him any money. But the music - guitar strings being softly plucked - was coming from a different area. I followed the sounds, and even though the baseball cap was shielding ... Read Full Story >>
One morning I took the bus to meet a friend in town. When I boarded, a young man rushed to catch the bus and just made it right behind me.
I paid my fare, and started looking for a seat, when I heard the young man ask the bus driver whether he could change a €50 bill for his ticket. I already knew the driver was going to say "No", since they don't carry enough change to take on bills above €20.
The young man seemed to have expected this. Shoulders drooping and chin tucked to his chest, he started to turn.
I quickly said: "How much do you need? I'll lend you the money." It was just €2.50 and I'd been in his shoes already, having had only a bill and having to let the bus go for lack of change! I changed my mind and told him I was going to pay his fare, not just lend him the money.
He was relieved and accepted. Digging in his pocket, he found one euro and insisted on giving it to me.
We both made it into town.