I was saved by a random act of kindness on a drunken night in a new city.
It was my first night and I couldn’t speak the language, which meant I had no idea how to tell the rather patient taxi driver where I lived.
Luckily I had remembered that my Korean care-taker (another lovely, kind human being who was assigned to make sure nothing happened to me) had written my address on a piece of paper which was stuffed inside my purse.
After a few minutes of confusion the taxi driver grabbed the paper out of my hand and gave me a thumbs up and off we roared.
At some point when we got to the smaller narrow roads I recognized the shop that was near my apartment. It was my lighthouse and I had memorised exactly how to get from there to my apartment.
For reasons unknown to me and the taxi driver, we started having an argument.
I was insisting that he stop
because this is where I lived and he was frantically pointing to my address on the piece of paper and pointing up ahead. He was trying to stop me from getting out the car and I was insisting I was home.
It was probably in sheer fear of being stuck in a car with a crazy, drunk foreign woman that he eventually gave up and let me out. But he was not happy about it.
I made my way up two flights of stairs, put the key in the lock, turned and pushed. Nothing happened. What? A little panic started to set in. I tried again, still nothing. I tried again. Nothing.
And that’s when I realised.
This was not my apartment
I wobbled down the stairs, walked into the deserted street and took a few minutes to get my eyes to focus. I looked at the building and it dawned on me that not only was this not where I lived but that every apartment block in the area looked exactly the same.
There was no differentiating feature.
How was I going to find my apartment?
I was alone, in the early hours of the morning, in a foreign country, on a deserted street, in high heels, with no idea where my apartment was.
I reached into my bag to pull out my purse because I thought if I got to the main street and flagged down another taxi I would show him the piece of paper and he would be able to get me to my apartment.
And this is when real panic set in.
There was no purse.
I had left it in the other taxi.
I don’t normally swear but this was a good time to say, “ what the f@£$?”
I got sober very quickly
I was in this country as a professional and I definitely did not want to phone my care-taker on the first night to say, “I’m drunk and lost, please help me”.
The only thing I could think to do was get back to my lighthouse (the shop that had caused all the trouble in the first place) and trace my steps from there.
And I swear to this day the sound of heels, clip clopping, clip clopping, gives me nightmares because that’s all I could hear in the still of the morning and it was giving me chills.
By some miracle I found my apartment
But still, I had no purse. No identity. No cards. No cash.
I spent the next morning stressing and avoiding making the dreaded phone call to my care-taker.
I was hungry and I was hungover and I was also having deep regrets about meeting up with my friends downtown. Just one more drink turned into too many.
In the afternoon I heard a knock at the door and all kinds of wild thoughts went through my mind.
Did we do something stupid?
I did a quick scan in my brain from the night before.
Did I remember everything?
I gingerly opened the door and a little Korean man I did not recognize was trying to push something into my hand.
I looked down.
It was my purse.
Before I could open my mouth to say thank you he had run down the stairs and was gone.
I had no idea what his name was or where he was from but he just handed me back my life.
I had my identity document, my cards and the cash was still all there.
Mother Theresa once said, “We cannot do great things on this earth, only small things with great love.”
I have never forgotten this random act of kindness, this drunken night nor this taxi driver.
Kindness is a habit of giving—of wanting to lift burdens from others or to merely provide a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on. It humanizes us; it lifts us spiritually.
And it is good for us and for our wellbeing.
One act of random kindness can release an enormous chain of positive events. The miracle of kindness is that it is contagious and something we should all want to pass on and spread to many others.
On some level I will always be connected to that taxi driver. This is what kindness does, it connects us, in ways that are more powerful than we can imagine.
My mother went to the grocery store the other day and she decided to give the only cash she had, which was R100, to the car guard. She said she just felt compelled to do it. He cried and told her that he had 6 kids at home that were starving.
Sometimes when we give what we think is a little, is actually a lot for the next person.
Let’s do small things with great love. Let’s be kind. And let’s stay connected.
With much love for you always