The man in the window seat beside my middle seat on our flight from Bangkok to Tokyo knew — because I told him — that I had spent the night in the Bangkok airport, snatching moments of sleep on a row of plastic chairs in front of the United …
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The man in the window seat beside my middle seat on our flight from Bangkok to Tokyo knew — because I told him — that I had spent the night in the Bangkok airport, snatching moments of sleep on a row of plastic chairs in front of the United Airlines ticket counter.
I had wandered the airport until the last of the concessionaires closed down, and then finally curled up on the chairs waiting for a ticket agent to appear. Using my pack as a pillow and twining the strap of my carry-on bag around my ankle, I dozed off and on until the ticket counter opened that morning.
By the time I boarded the plane, 12 hours after arriving from Kathmandu, I must have looked pretty scruffy, although I didn’t know it until my seatmate offered me an unexpected gift: a guest pass to the premier airline club at the airport of which he was a member. He guided me past the check-in desk and the buffet table to the spa, where I was able to take a hot shower and change into fresh clothes I carried I my pack. And I never saw my benefactor again.
This wasn’t the only instance of such gifts during my recent trip to Nepal where, while trekking one day, I hit the wall. I was exhausted. We were on a part of the trail that paralleled a road and as I trudged around a curve, I saw our guide talking with two men on a small motorcycle who had passed me a few minutes earlier.
To my immense relief, the men had asked if they could help by driving me to the next town where I would rest and wait for the others. Without protest, I climbed up on the cycle, backpack and all, and motored off down the road with them. When we arrived, not only did the driver adamantly refuse any money for his gas, he also purchased hot chai for me from a teahouse on the side of the road.
This unrestrained generosity, with no expectation of reward in either situation, has led me to reflect on how—or even if—I offer such thoughtful kindness in my own life.
When I let someone in line at the grocery store or on the interstate, when I hand a couple of bills through my car window to street-corner people, am I, in fact, offering a gift of unencumbered kindness? I like to think so.
But more importantly, during a season when gifts can sometimes feel like obligations, I’ve become so much more aware of opportunities to simply be kind … the type of kindness that expects no reward or recognition. The kindness that one person offers to another when the situation arises, the type of kindness I had received from strangers.
I appreciate, now more than ever, what I’m actually receiving when someone helps me with heavy boxes, or resolves a problem over the phone beyond what’s required of a customer service rep.
And, now more than ever, I’m cherishing unexpected gifts — both those I offer and those I receive — because of a short motorcycle ride, a long plane flight, and the unfettered kindness of strangers.
Andrea Doray is a writer who is grateful for the kindness of strangers, the type of kindness that transcends borders, cultures, and languages. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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