Sunday, December 2, 2012

Relying on the kindness of strangers

In a Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche DuBois said, "I have always relied on the kindness of strangers." I think all of us at times have relied on the kindness of strangers. Memories flood my mind as I type this out, mostly about people who stopped to help me when I was stranded, before cell phones when we could call a friend or family member. When my friend, Rosanna and I, traveled through Europe we definitely relied on the kindness of strangers many times. We had traveled with a tour group for a month and then we were on our own. We said goodbye to the group in London and felt terribly lonely as their bus drove away. One other new friend we made from the tour JeanAnn was with us. I was the oldest of the three at 20, but had never traveled east of Denver until this trip. I was scared most of the time, because I hated to talk to strangers--still do. Rosanna and JeanAnn were better at it. All three of us really wanted to see Scotland. I think I wanted to go there because  Thayne was a Scottish name. We road the buses along the country and were mesmerized by the rolling green, a green so intense I knew I'd never seen anything like it in nature. We loved the cows! They looked boxier than those we were accustomed to, Picasso cows we dubbed them. JeanAnn was an art history major and I was an art major, so it worked for us. Rosanna wasn't even out of high school yet.

By the time we got into Edinburgh it was a downpour. The rain that had made the hills so intensely green, was also unlike any rain we'd experienced in the dry Utah desert. We really had no idea where we were going to go. JeanAnn had a package with an address on it. She had promised to deliver the package for a friend to the mission home for a missionary. In the pouring rain we found the mission home, which ended up being where the LDS mission president lived with his wife. We knocked on the backdoor of the stately manor and a woman led us, bedraggled and forlorn, through what could only be described as the kind of kitchen you see in the English PBS mini-series, or in this case Scottish. We were led into a lovely living room. Eventually the mission president himself and his gracious wife greeted us. Yes they would see that the missionary got the package, but they wondered where we were staying and wanted to know every detail of our travels. They were parents of girls about our age and were very concerned.  When they found out that we didn't have a place yet, the mission president called a little bed and breakfast and had a missionary drive us over. Then he made sure we were picked up for dinner the next afternoon where we ate with the mission president, his very gracious wife, and two bewildered missionaries. I found out later that the missionaries were uncomfortable with this display of generosity toward young women their own age and that the previous mission president was quite unlike this jovial man. The president told us he would want someone looking out for his daughter if she were traveling in foreign countries. His name was Lamar Poulton. He not only fed us, made sure we had a place to stay, but even tried to give us money when my shoes melted against the heater in my room. I never forgot the kindness of the Poulton's.

Years later, my husband and I stopped to visit a friend in Tremonton. While we were there, the doorbell rang and nicely dressed man came to the door. They visited for a few minutes, and as the man was leaving the friend introduced the man as his insurance agent, Lamar Poulton. I hadn't recognized him, but the name sent shivers through my body as the memory of how much he'd helped me flooded my mind. I quickly asked if he'd been a mission president in Scotland and he said he had been. I relayed the incident to him that had meant so much to me and he only had a vague memory of the three weary travelers. I never saw him again and have no idea if he and his wife are alive thirty-five years later.

This is just one time when someone who had nothing to gain from me helped me. I hope that I have been that kind of person to some stranger in their journey.


2 comments:

JoLynne Lyon said...

What a great story! I'm glad you were able to see them again.

Rosiegirl1960 said...

My dear friend...
your story takes me back to the place, the time & the people. I remember the Scotland Green, as we called it-- the deepest, richest velvet-verde, the thickness of the air, and the lonely feeling of finding ourselves a world away from home, hoping we might make some fantastic discoveries as we ventured boldly into new territories...