The Generosity of Strangers

My husband and I have just returned from ten days’ holiday, which is, incidentally, why I did not write a blog last week – many apologies. We travelled with one of those low cost, no frills air lines and were on the whole, very content with the service. One of the things, however, which is in the small print of the contract, is that if there is too much hand luggage coming on board, the airline is at liberty to put some of it in the hold. Going out to our holiday destination there was no problem. Returning, however, probably with all the extra shopping people do as part of their holiday, there was, and as we waited in the queue to board the plane, the air hostesses came along the row and asked us to allow our hand luggage to go in the hold. For some people this was very frustrating as they had purposefully only got hand luggage so that they could avoid the long wait to retrieve their luggage at the other end. For us it was no problem because we already had luggage in the hold – that was until we realised that we had no label on the one piece of hand luggage going into the hold and that this particular suitcase is so common as to be impossible to identify alongside others on a baggage claim carousel. What to do?
We had been talking, as one so often does, to a very nice young woman in front of us in the queue, sharing the highlights of our holiday and getting on very well. Hearing me say to my husband,
“How will we identify our suitcase? It looks identical to many others.”
She answered, “Tie something round the handle. Have you got a ribbon or an elastic band or something?”
I had nothing. Without a moment hesitation she bent down and took a rather smart wired hair band from her bag and offered it to me. It was just the ticket, white with brown polka dots, easy to tie round, it soon adorned my luggage and created a unique piece. I thanked her profusely for her generosity and the queue moved forward.
But here is the point. A few minutes later, just before we gave up our hand luggage, I saw the same lady struggling to tie a screwed up, old plastic carrier bag round the handle of her carry on suitcase, which was also now going in the hold. The hostesses had asked her at the same time as me to allow them to put her hand luggage in the hold but hearing my anxiety she had given me the very item that would have made her life so much easier, and probably made her feel that her bag was safer.
It is a small thing: a little traveller’s tale. But for me the action was one of selfless kindness and generosity, which happens more frequently perhaps than we notice. It made me think of other occasions when complete strangers have gone out of their way to help me, sometimes at great cost to themselves.
I have left that polka dot hairband attached to my suitcase as a reminder. Every time I get that case out in future I will be reminded of my Good Samaritan and the oft surprising generosity of strangers.