Monday, February 21, 2011

The Kindness of Strangers

"Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." - Blanche DuBois, A Streetcar Named Desire (Tennessee Williams)

I've lost my wedding ring!!!

No, of course that's not the correct caption for this iconic photograph, but it's what my face must have looked like when my mother said calmly to me last Friday, "Don't you always wear two rings on that finger?

The question came late on Friday. After I had driven from St. Louis to Kansas City, stopping on the way at a gas station in Booneville, Missouri, to use a restroom. After I had arrived in Grain Valley, where Mom lives. After I had joined her at the table to chat with her fellow residents while they had lunch. After I had used the restroom there. After My Twin arrived for a visit, and we had left to shop for a few things.

We went to Target for some snacks for Mom and champagne to toast Dad's birthday. And Panera Bread for lunch. And the hotel to check in, freshen up, and check messages. And Home Depot for a bird feeder. And Casey's for pizza for dinner. And Patricia's Foods for gift cards.

We got in and out of the car a dozen times or more. Here's just part of the booty we scored:

Goodies for Mom

You see where I'm going with this, don't you? I was in and out of so many places, and so preoccupied with enjoying an excursion with My Twin, that neither of us had much of a clue where we had parked, let alone where we had been. The day was a blur of busy activity, conversations, laughter, restaurants, and restrooms.

So when my mother oh-so-casually asked that question, the only thing I could do as I sat in horror looking at my finger is this imitation of Stanley Kowalski.

How was my wedding band missing? I had not removed that ring in over fifteen years. (Okay, I've been married for thirty-five years, but that's another story.) Why was my engagement ring still on my finger, and yet, the wedding band was gone?

After my rendition of Stanley's famous, "Stellaaaaaaaaaaa!" I went into action. Well, actually, I think My Twin may have had to slap me across the face and yell, "Get a grip, woman!" to bring me back to my senses, but somehow, we started to reconstruct the day.

Bathrooms. How many bathrooms had I been in that day? Oh, dear. I'm post-menopausal for crying out loud...I'd been in hundreds! Did you wash your hands? Oh, my god, what a question...of course I washed my hands! Lotion. Did you stop anywhere to put lotion on? I don't reeeeememmmberrrrr, I moaned.

"Didn't that ring have diamonds all around it?" asked my mother, quite innocently.

Why, yes, it did, Mom...all the way around. fifteen diamonds, to be exact. Fifteen LOST diamonds around the lost wedding band. Thank you for pointing that out, Mom.

Just when it looked as though My Twin would smack me again, I thought of the restaurant where I knew I had used the restroom. I called Panera Bread, and a very kind young lady spoke to the manager, who came to the phone and spoke to me and then spoke back to the young lady who went to check the restroom. I was filled with nervous excitement. But no. No ring. I left my phone number with the manager, who promised to call me if it turned up.

By now, My Lovely Twin, who had been my best friend just a few minutes earlier, had turned into The Angry Mother Figure, scolding me for having removed my rings.  She was actually shaking her finger at me.

"This is not the first time this has happened," she chided me. "Remember when you lost your birthstone ring? That was in a bathroom too, wasn't it?"

Wow. She had waited thirty years to throw that one in my face, and she did it right in front of Mom.

"I didn't take all my rings off," I countered. "I just took the engagement ring off!" Lame comeback, I thought.

Suddenly it hit me. We had gone into the business office at the hotel to check our messages, and there was a small bottle of Purell by the computers. I had picked up the bottle, offered it to My Twin, and then used it myself. I remembered taking off my ring. The wedding band must have fallen off with it.

I grabbed the phone and called the hotel. I had barely spit out my dilemma when the front desk clerk said, "Oh, a lovely older gentleman (a doctor, she thought) brought the ring to us and said he'd found it in the business center. We put it in the safe in back, and will hold it for you until you come back."

I did the Happy Dance. Someone had returned the ring! Mom smiled, My Twin tilted her head and gave me the "Angry Mother's Aren't You Lucky?" look.

When we got back to the hotel that evening, I retrieved the ring, which had been placed in an envelope with, "Room #403 is the man who returned your ring!" written across the front.

I never was able to reach the man to tell him how much I appreciated his kindness and honesty. Indeed, when I asked the ladies at the front desk to check the room number for me, they could not find any doctor who had registered, and that particular room was empty.

It's nice, though, to know that once in a while, we can depend on the kindness of strangers, isn't it?

Today, consider a random act of kindness.


  1. Good story. Glad the ring showed up. Now the one about 15 years ago. Spill.

  2. Oh, it's not really that interesting, Dubby. It's just a long story about a failed attempt to polish and repair a few scratches on the original ring, resulting in the destruction of said ring. Made me very sad.

    The second wedding band was to replace the original.

    Hope your day goes well, Dub.

  3. The guy who came to clean the furnace last week is a stranger to me but not to the furnace in my basement, my husband nor my mother-in-law. He has been in our house cleaning the furnace since the 1970's. Always, I have been at work when he visits and I know NOTHING about the furnace anyway. He generously gave me a tutorial, three brand new furnace filters, he cleaned the chimney and recapped it and says he will return in May to replace the filter, and get the central air conditioned. He charges very little and I have been grateful for his kindness.
    I am happy you relocated your ring. I think by leaving it in a hotel, you had a better chance of finding it again than if you had left it anywhere else. I have no idea why I feel that way, I just do.

  4. "Mama said there would be days like this"! Makes a person crazy and we all have felt the feeling of helplessness. So glad for the angel looking over you and the kindness of the gentleman.

    Another charming and humorous (now) story. Wow you are human... jk.

    Just want you to know I did miss your beautiful pieces of music today, but I'll let it go just this once!

    Love you and sending safe travel blessings and new adventures to you and Andrea todayxoxoxoxoxoox

  5. It IS true - the kindness of strangers is rare! I am sorry you couldn't find this kind stranger.

    So many times small kind favors go unnoticed - and then the HUGE ones really stand out. I remember one Christmas shopping spree my mom had at one of those Super Walmart/ of those. She was writing out her check for purchases when the person next to her in line tapped her on the shoulder and said that she would cover my mom's purchases! She protested, had already filled out the checkbook - but this person was filled with the spirit of Christmas - and what a wonderful and unexpected kindness!

    Another time that took me totally by surprise happened when leaving work at the airport. As I had a green light to enter the street from the parking lot - the car driving down the road didn't notice the light at ALL and kept driving. I was halfway in front of him realizing that he was not going to stop - BIG eyes looking at me unbelievably - so I did what anyone else would do - GUNNED the gas so that I wouldn't get hit on my door...he clipped the left tail end of my car...I went spinning....everyone ELSE stopped as I realized that I could slow the spin to the opposite side of the (normally busy) road. Where did the car that hit me go? He didn't stick around! I limped my car back to the parking lot to call for help. While waiting, an airport Van drove up to me. He had seen the whole thing, and chased the car down to get the license number! I was so shocked! I remember the first words out of my mouth, 'Do you guys REALLY EXIST??!' I hate to say that THANK YOU was the second thing I said - I just was so stunned! Everything worked out fine - the other party didn't have insurance, but it still worked out ok - no one hurt. When I think back on that day, I don't feel angry or mad - I think of the kind stranger that went out of his way to help!

  6. I lost an heirloom ring just like you did, somewhere in one of a half dozen restrooms while traveling. Unfortunately, I didn't get it back. Your story is amazing and so life-affirming. By the way, I married a Kansas City boy. He grew up there and we lived there after we were married from 1977 to 1983. It's a wonderful city.

  7. Linda, your furnace man sounds so kind. How wonderful to know there are people willing to help instead of just "make a buck" at your expense.

    I think you're probably right about losing the ring at the hotel. The blue saphire ring I lost was in a department store restroom, and vanished within minutes.

    Stay warm, Linda...the temps here dropped back to normal winter weather prepared!

  8. Vicki, you're so right about the feeling of helplessness. I'm very grateful that it fell off where it did and was found by a kind and honest person.

    Sorry for the music omission...I just loved Blanche DuBois' little clip. What a movie!

    Much love on this cold winter day,

  9. Wow, Nancy, now those are stories of MEGA-kindnesses! Amazing.

    The guy who hit your car and drove on, though? NOT kind. Yikes, I'm so glad you were okay.

    Thanks for the great illustrations of the impact that an act of kindness can have on the outcome of a situation.

    Much love,

  10. Hi Tess--I feel your pain. my blue sapphire ring disappeared from a department store restroom in Indianapolis, despite my returning within five minutes to retrieve it. grrrr.

    You married a Kansas City man...yes, of course! :-)

    Someday I want to hear more about that. I dearly love Kansas City, and I agree with your's a wonderful city!

    Thanks so much for stopping by--

  11. jo wow! there's a lot going on in this post. family that's got you pegged with all kinds of should be gone and forgotten stuff and relational pieces that i could feel my stomach tightening up simply by reading but all eclipsed by the joyous reuniting of your ring and your finger. i'm interested in the person who found it not really existing. probably one of reya's angels. steven

  12. Thank you, Steven. Yes, our families have us pegged, don't they? When we go home, it's as if all of us are children once again, and my twin sister (3 minutes older than I) will always assert her "big sister" status!

    I thought the same thing about the kind stanger...he turned into an angel in my mind as soon as the desk clerk told me that no one had been registered for that room.

    You catch it all...thanks for visiting.

  13. Yes, Pearl, I agree...I was very fortunate! Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers!

    Nice to see you here. I hope you come back often.


    Thank god you got the ring back. Those angels are looking out for you. Whew!!

  15. Thanks, Reya. I think you're right about the angels. I still have no idea how my mother spotted it gone!

  16. I'm glad you got your ring back. Random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty: the benefit goes out to the recipient and also into the "donor" who benefits just as much by the good feelings that follow being kind and beautiful.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

  17. Well said, Dan. I often think that while the recipient recieves the immediate gratification, it's the "donor" who reaps the most lasting benefits.

    I am deeply grateful to have the ring back.

    I'm so glad to see you here. Thank you so much for visiting!

  18. i am really late to this party, jo, but what a STORY!! and what a fantastic ending - yes, the kindness of strangers indeed!! SO happy things turned out the way they did -- and it's so funny to read your dear mom's running commentary throughout (hehe)

    and that foto of stanley kowalski -- priceless with the new caption ;-)


  19. thanks, Amanda. You're never too late to this party! You're welcome to come any time.

    Don't forget the ouzo!


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