Just before my husband started teaching, our car was vandalized. He wanted to go out for one last time, while we could do so without running into any of his students, and so we’d driven through the rain to the local movie theatre. When we emerged a few hours later, the rain had stopped, and so had our car.
We’d been having starter problems for a little while, but they were intermittent and we hadn’t fixed it yet. This time it was merely an inconvenience, as we were close enough to walk home, and did just that. We would go back in the morning, we thought, to fix the starter with a handy hammer trick someone had shown us, and bring it home.
It was noon before we got there the next morning, after a leisurely start to our day and a nice walk over with a side trip into a store on the way. We found the passenger-side window smashed, the rock still sitting under the steering column, though the vandals had first tried to break the door handle and left marks on the door. What they stolen had more value in memories than money: a couple of our favourite CDs, the CD case I took to Australia with me, my Dutch liquorice candies, our well-worn road maps. I felt sick, disappointed, frustrated.
Friendly by-standers gathered around, commiserating with us over our loss. One gave us the number for the police, and he soon showed up, though there was little that he could do beyond make a report. A friend passing by stopped to help us sweep up the glass, get the starter going, and then took us over to the local car dealership to get it fixed. Their kindness lightened some of the sick feeling; there was a strange contrast between the random acts of violence and the random acts of kindness.
That weekend found me on the bus to the city because the car was still in the shop. During the last leg of the journey, Sunshine got fussy. A grandmother sitting in front of us moved to the seat beside us and offered to hold her. Happy with someone to make friends with, Sunshine made it to the bus depot without a problem.
There, we rushed through the washroom to our gate, only to find that the bus was delayed. The twenty of us who were trying to catch the same bus sympathized with each other before most of them dispersed to find other things to do until the bus arrived. I was left with a baby, a diaper bag, a duffel bag, and a car seat.
A stranger standing there offered to watch my bags for me while Sunshine and I went in search of some food. When we returned, she told us to go sit down while she kept watching the bags. Others smiled at us and said what a good baby she was, and she smiled back at them, happy with everything that was going on around her.
As I finally climbed onto the bus, exhausted yet looking forward to seeing the friend who was picking me up at the other end, I again thought of how strangers had helped me. It seems like such small deeds as I recount them here, yet they meant so much to me then when I was tired and alone.
It can be so easy to focus on the problems in our world and to gripe about the people who throw rocks through windows for no reason. Yet we should remember the good around us and the people who offer smiles and assistance – also for no reason. So I’ll appreciate the flowers my aunt sent me after our car was vandalized, and think on the random acts of kindness.