Early Summer 2006
Whenever I tell people about my vacation in Italy two years ago, I share a story of kindness that, for me, ranks right up there with hiking through the breathtaking Cinque Terre and savoring the rapturous pasta and wine. But first, let me divulge a couple of my weaknesses. There's only one thing worse than my lousy sense of direction -- and that's my map reading skills. But because my love for chocolate (speaking of weaknesses) is greater than my fear of getting lost in foreign countries, I decided to make a solo venture via the Metro to a café in Milan known for its chocolate. For a person who practically needs a GPS unit in her own hometown and who can speak no Italian other than ''grazie,'' ''prego,'' and ''un altro po di cioccolata, prego,'' I was at somewhat of a disadvantage. But details, details! World-famous chocolate was on the horizon, so off to the Metro I went. After studying the dizzying chart of Red Lines, Green Lines, and Yellow Lines at the station, my eyes began to glaze over when a young Italian student from Sicily approached and asked if I needed assistance. Patiently, graciously, and with limited English, she provided Italian Metro 101 for me, right down to going out of her way to accompany me on the train and waving goodbye as I stepped off on the correct platform.
Another Vacation Angel appeared last summer, when a friend and I were vacationing in Cape Cod. One of our first stops was the legendary Four Seas Ice Cream Shop, and we soon found ourselves licking our super jumbo ice cream cones, as my friend handed the clerk his credit card. They didn't accept credit cards. He brought out his checkbook. They didn't accept checks (and all our money was back at the hotel). ''No worries,'' the clerk said. ''See that customer over there? She covered you.''
This same friend then lost his wallet, only to find out two days later that some good-hearted soul had turned it in to a Transit Authority -- completely intact, right down to the nickel.
Benevolent acts like these remain in our memories long after the vacation photos have been tucked away and the images of the Alps have grown dim in our minds. After experiencing the generosity and kindness of strangers on unfamiliar soil year after year, I've vowed to make more of an effort to really connect with others this summer myself, whether it's in my own back yard or halfway round the world. You just never know when you might be the one to give someone something to write home about!