The Kindness of Strangers
“I have alway depended on the kindness of strangers!” says Blanche DuBois in her final scene in “Streetcar Named Desire”. I will tell you, I rarely have, and either out of distrust, insecurity or some misplaced bias and fear, I have always relied on myself or a close loved one to get out of a jam.
Then the other day, while alone in my rental car, ahead of the rest of my family by a couple hours, as we caravanned our daughter back to school for her final year, I got lost deep in a section of North Carolina with no commercial activity, amidst sparsely populated farmland. And then my phone died, and my charger was incompatible with my rental car. I was desperate.
Suddenly, almost providentially, a sad little convenient store/gas station appeared amidst the rural wasteland. It looked to be open, if the lighted sign advertising boiled peanuts and lottery tickets was any indication. So I took a deep breath, parked my car and went inside, not knowing if I would find solutions within.
The solitary middle aged Indian woman behind the counter greeted me with a smile, and immediately I felt safe. I told her I needed help, and asked if I could borrow an outlet to charge my phone. She took my arm, shuffled me to the front of the store, where an extension cord hung over the single dilapidated restaurant booth, packed with scratch off lottery tickets, and stained with dried condiments and boiled peanut remnants. I plugged my charger into the one remaining outlet, purchased a soda, sat down and waited for me phone to charge.
During the 45 minutes or so I waited, we bonded - this kind proprietor and me - from worlds apart and living in completely discordant universes. I learned that she loved working Sundays because staying home was boring, and she learned that this was the last year we would be bringing our daughter back to school from Florida to North Carolina. She smiled, with an occasional cackling laugh, and I relaxed knowing that I was not as desperate as I had felt only moments before.
My friends, during these tumultuous times, rest assured that there are people out there who are willing to connect and help us, simply because we need help, and they have the means. Hopefully, when the tables are turned, we will be there for them as well.
Dr. John Monaco