Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Kindness of Strangers

Cynicism and pessimism are things that we too often run into in our day. Despite this I remain firm on my conviction that people are inherently kind and good. Since arriving in South Korea we have encountered some really lovely people. Sometimes we get a little special treatment and it's probably because we're foreigners in a smaller city and therefore a slight novelty. Like the time the lady at Home Plus weighed our prawns, printed off the price tag and then proceeded to add two more giant handfuls with a wink and a smile. Or today when I bought delicious strawberries on the street and was given extra by the sweet little man. These little gestures always make me smile and remind me of the generosity and warmth of the human spirit.

Tonight after work I went into Saudong to take care of a few errands and get some dinner. Unfortunately it was raining and my umbrella was all the way back at the apartment and I didn't feel like going back there when I could just catch the bus beside the school. So I just pulled my bear toque on a little tighter and walked a bit faster. I walked all over the place and passed hundreds of people; each sensibly carrying an umbrella. I finished my last errand and started to walk back towards my bus stop and was about two blocks away, waiting to cross a busy intersection when an adorable young Korean woman started speaking to me (in Korean). Unfortunately I had no idea what she was trying to say to me but then she started to gesture and I realized she was inviting me under her umbrella. Through some awkward conversing she asked where I was going and I told her I was on my way to the bus stop. Even though it was clearly out of her way she walked beside me with her umbrella the entire two blocks to the bus stop. I was truly touched. I only wish I knew more Korean so I could have spoken with her more. Hopefully the gratitude and appreciation I felt were apparent despite the language barrier. She probably thought that she was just sharing an umbrella but what she really did was brighten a stranger's rainy night.

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