Since this was before the time of credit cards, I took with me what I thought would be sufficient cash for my entire trip. Soon, though, I realized that I needed more money and was delighted to discover that I could cash a Wachovia personal check at a Barclays branch in the Hampstead township of London (Wachovia was a correspondent bank of Barclays). Unfortunately, however, as I was about to depart London from Victoria Station, the Barclays branch there would not consider cashing one of my checks . This meant that I left for Paris with about one dollar and my pre-purchased train ticket to Orbetello, a town in the province of Grosseto (Tuscany), Italy, where the Sampson was scheduled to arrive three days later when my leave would be over.
As I walked along the sidewalk in the direction I had been shown, I passed a couple seated outside at one of the many sidewalk cafes. For some reason, our eyes met and I said, "Hello," rather than "Bonjour." There was a nice reply in English, and I was invited to sit with them and have a beer. In the course of our conversation, it was revealed that I was a Navy Hospital Corpsman on active duty, without money, and on my way back to my ship. I explained the circumstances of my being moneyless and that my plan was to throw myself on the mercy of the Marines at the American Embassy. As it turned out, I was speaking with an active duty US Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and his wife. Their daughter had been born at the Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, my home state, and not too far from Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station where I had been previously stationed at the Naval Hospital and had helped to deliver the babies of about 700 Marines. Upon our parting, Colonel and Mrs. John Coffman loaned me $50 which I promised to send back to them in the form of a check as soon as I got back to the ship. I was no longer moneyless, and I had met two very generous, kind people!
Pay It Forward--Assignment To Save The World
I am so grateful for having met the folks from Britain with whom I shared the cramped quarters of a second-class compartment on the Orient Express, the Coffmans who kept me from being moneyless and without food or shelter in Paris, the Airman with whom I visited Versailles, "Slow" and the deputy who provided me with transportation from and back to Sams Gap at a time when I really needed a break from hiking, Melissa who shared her grapes, her time and thoughts, and gave my friends and me a ride when we needed another hiking break, and Romero who stopped in the middle of a cold night to help a stranger on the side of the road. Each of these folks gave me even more than hospitality or the needed immediate assistance. They (and the countless others who have given me similar gifts) also gave me a chance to get to know them at least a little and to learn over and over again how there are a lot of good folks in this world who are willing to take a chance and reach out to others in need, not because they have to but because of their kindness and compassion.
Please consider sharing your own experiences of being the recipient of kindness from a stranger or any thoughts you may have about reaching out to others for whom there is need and with whom you have the means to share what is needed.