Stories of Kindness from Around the World

A Tattoo Named Lost

--by singlestep, posted Apr 17, 2008

Got on the plane in Minneapolis for the two hour and nine minute flight to NY. Spent the first nine minutes of it talking to the young curly-brown-haired passenger with long sideburns. In the first three minutes of talking to him I noticed on the back of his hand a ball-point-pen tattoo. One word.


And for some reason that touched me. In the same inexplicable way that "Help Wanted" signs in store windows do sometimes. That people would be so honest, so open about their vulnerability.

I wonder what he is going through.

This fellow passenger with his friendly manner who freelances for the magazine "Popular Photography" and moved back to his hometown in Lawrence, Kansas from NY- because even though there's a lot you can do in NY there's a lot that you can't do there when you're broke. And now he's learning how to do video editing and trying to teach himself graphic design. He wishes he'd taken classes in that in college instead of Literature- he thinks it would have been more- Useful. So I talk a little bit about Literature and how it can shape you and your perspective in sometimes unsuspected- but positive ways- how it can grow you towards understanding the human experience, how it can make you less judgemental and in some odd but real way- more- compassionate. And he resonates unexpectedly with some of this.

We talk then about documentary filmmaking and the beauty of working creatively with reality. I tell him about a documentary I made and pull out a copy from my hand luggage to show him. He looks at a moment or two in silence and then asks hesitantly- Can I buy this from you?

No. I say.

But you can keep it. Even though I don't usually give them away. Something in me really wants to share this story with this random stranger form Kansas and it seems suddenly like an improbable miracle that I have this opportunity to do it. :-) He is surprised and touched by the gesture.

Before landing I wrote a short note to passenger 38 D. It was the "bill" for the documentary: three Smile Cards and instructions to use them creatively by way of payment. I decided to hand it to him at the Baggage Claim right before leaving. As the flight descended though I had to ask one question: "What is that about," I ask, pointing to the back of his hand and trying to sound as genuinely caring-as-opposed-to-curious as I feel.

"Oh that. That's the title of a series my girlfriend wanted me to pick up before I caught the flight. It's about a group of people marooned on an island after a plane crash. I just wrote it on my hand to remind me to pick it up." :-)



At the baggage claim I watch Passenger 38 D help elderly passengers get their bags off the conveyer belt. He seems just the kind of person who would have fun with three smile cards. :-) Before he leaves I hand him his "bill" not to be opened until he's left the airport. He is surprised and shoots me a quizzical smile before putting it in his pocket. "By the way my name is Mark," he says.

We shake hands and he leaves.

And I am still smiling :-)

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Readers Comments

Rajni wrote: Once in a life time experience, very interesting. The "bill" was perfect way to get paid; in kindness to others. I loved this story
jholsopple wrote: What a wonderful story. Thank you so much for sharing.
SmileSharer wrote: This is a reminder of how often a random conversation can change someone's life. It sounds like you changed mark's life, kudos!
touched wrote: This was a really good story! I can't believe that the broke guy was happy to be helping others than thinking about his own problems.
lucifer wrote: This is a nice story. Although i do not understand it very much.
spoonerism wrote: This is one of the first stories i ever read on ho and i am so glad i found it again! Even though the young man wasn't lost, it is still wonderful how you both connected! And who knows, next time someone may be lost and in need of a friendly ear! :-) thanks for sharing!
iferlamb wrote: Too cool!

Ashley wrote: I love this one theis all touched my heart and i would ahve to say i have done many thing like this i dont want to discusse them but i have done tons of nice acts like that tho but yes if you have q's add me on e-mal is msn if you dont know so yeahj give me a jingkle.
Abigail wrote: No matter where you go or what you do, you live your whole life within the confines of your head. Sometimes it helps to let a stranger in.
Mary South Africa wrote: Its good to be reminded that everybody needs somebody. Why wait until someone is in trouble before being friendly?

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