Sep 182020

Traveling around the country in a motorhome for over 18 years, we met a lot of people. Many of them were casual acquaintances, some became our close friends, while others were chance encounters, like ships passing in the night. But the one thing that always impressed me from coast to coast and border to border was how truly nice most people are.

Maybe this was because it was before politics divided the country so bad, I don’t know. But it seemed like whether they were young or old, black or white, or however you describe people, the majority of the ones we met were all open and friendly. I miss that.

When we were building our MCI bus conversion we were in Casa Grande, Arizona for a week or so and I needed to replace the starting batteries. The big heavy 8D batteries that came with the bus were pretty much shot so I went down to Walmart to get some new ones. Since the bus would no longer be used for commercial service and we had removed the original massive air conditioner, I planned to just get two regular size heavy duty batteries.

When I paid for the batteries, the clerk said if I had the old batteries, they would give me $5 each as a core charge. I actually had the batteries in the back of our pickup truck. A friend had helped me load them, hoping Walmart would just take them off my hands and trash them. So I went outside with a large flat rolling cart, put the new smaller batteries in the back of the truck, and tried to muscle the old heavy ones onto the dolly. Each battery weighed 130 pounds and they were way too heavy for me. I thought that maybe with the tailgate down I could slide one end off and onto the dolly and then swing the high-end down.

While I was pondering that, a husky young man in a pickup truck pulled into the empty space next to me. He was a typical Arizona farm or ranch kid, maybe 17 nor 18 years old, wearing jeans, a T-shirt, well worn boots, and a straw cowboy hat. He asked, “Do you need some help, sir?” I told him I sure did, that I needed to get those batteries off the truck and onto the cart, and I would appreciate it if he would give me a hand. I expected that he would take one and I would take the other, but instead, he grabbed one of the big batteries and easily lifted it out of the truck and onto the cart, and then the other one.

“There you go, sir,” he said. I was thinking to myself, what a great kid! We always hear about the lazy kids that are too busy playing video games to get off the couch, and the ones that are out raising hell and spraying graffiti on things, but this nice kid was doing a kindness for a total stranger.

I pulled out a $10 bill and offered it to him as thanks, and he said, “No, sir, I couldn’t take your money.” I told him he deserved it and he said, “Oh, no, sir! If my grandpa was having a problem, I would want someone to help him.” I think I was about 48 years old at the time and told him I wasn’t old enough to be his grandpa, but maybe his father.

The young whippersnapper said, “No, sir, my father’s young. My grandpa’s old like you.” I thanked him for his time and pushed the cart back into Walmart, all the while muttering under my breath about the little smart alec. Grandpa indeed!

But not all young people are that disrespectful. We were in a Kohl’s store in Clermont, Florida and I wanted to buy new shoes. We had been there a couple of weeks earlier and I had seen the shoes I wanted. But when we went back, they had rearranged the store and I could not find the shoe department. It was close to Christmas and the place was busy. Try as I might, I couldn’t find what I was looking for. Then I saw a young man in slacks and a button-down shirt with a tie and said, “Excuse me, can you point me toward the shoe department ?” He took me across the store to the shoe department and I immediately saw the shoes I wanted and picked them up, but they were the wrong size.

He had started to walk away and I called him back and asked, “Do you know if these come in a size 9W?” He looked at several boxes of the shoes and said he didn’t see any, so I asked if they might have some in the back room. He shook his head and said, “I really don’t know. You’d have to ask one of the employees.” I apologized and told him I thought he was an employee, and he said, “No, just a guy waiting for my wife to get done shopping.”

Another time, we were in southern Indiana and left our motorhome at a campground while we went out looking for a place that sold kayaks in the area, as we were just getting interested in them at the time. We tried to find the place, but we couldn’t. It was about 5 o’clock on a summer afternoon, and I pulled into a convenience store and went inside. There was a man in his late 20s working at the counter, and a couple of young women were standing around talking to him.

I asked if he knew how I could get to such and such kayak shop. He told me sure, just go down the road about 4 miles to the Johnson place, turn left down the winding road to the bluffs, whatever that was, then turn right by Jesse Smith’s place. In another mile or so the kayak shop would be on the left. By then my eyes had glassed over and he looked at me and said, “You ain’t from around here, are you?” I admitted that we weren’t, and he said, “Okay, don’t worry. Girls, watch the store.” We went outside and he said, “Follow my pickup.” He led us several miles down a series of winding country roads until we came upon the kayak shop. He made a U-turn, honked and waved, and went back to work. That’s country hospitality for you.

Of course, sometimes those chance encounters can make you laugh so hard you bust a gut. In cool weather, if we’re not going anywhere, I like to get comfortable in a sweatshirt and a pair of sweatpants if all I’m doing is writing. We were staying at The Great Outdoors RV resort in Titusville, Florida and I wanted a new set.

We went to the local Walmart, and while Terry was shopping I went to the men’s department and was looking for sweatpants and a sweatshirt. I couldn’t find any, but I saw a very large African-American woman who looked to be in her late 40s or early 50s wearing a blue Walmart vest. “Excuse me,” I said, “do you have sweats?” The lady put her hands on her hips and said, “Darlin’, I got sweats, I got chills, I got night terrors, and I got hot flashes. Pick whichever one you want.”

I laughed so hard I had tears running down my face. And she helped me find exactly the sweats I was looking for, too.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake, the first book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Why am I the only naked person at this gender reveal party?

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  3 Responses to “The Kindness Of Stangers”

  1. So nice to read these stories. Thanks, Nick!

  2. That is one of the really nice things about RVing. We learned as we traveled around the country that there are not murders, rapes, crime every second of the day. Instead we found there are just a lot of nice people, living their lives and enjoying each day in our country. And in general, the people out there are kind, friendly and pleasant to each other and to visitors to their city/county. I think we all need to listen to/watch the “news” less and interact with people more. We are losing the community feel and spirit of love and kindness.

  3. We always remember these random acts of kindness! We were once in Guadalajara, Mexico. The RV park was a ways out of town and we ventured downtown in the Honda. There was a huge underground parking lot with many exits. We knew the street we were on led back to the RV park and checked out the exit from the parking lot we needed. Well, when it came time to leave an attendant directed us to another exit and before we knew it we were hopelessly lost in the second largest city in Mexico! i was driving slowly while we both looked for street signs and tried to find ourselves on the map when a young man with a child pulled alongside and asked if we were lost. We told him we were and he asked where we wanted to go. We gave him the name of the RV park, he thought for a couple of seconds, turned on his flashers and said, “follow me”!

    He pulled in front of us and led us through heavy traffic from one side of Guadalajara to the other, a trip that took twenty or thirty minutes. He finally pulled over at the highway that the park was on. I got out, thanked him very much and told him I knew where I was now. I reached for some money to give him and he refused saying his mother lives very nearby and it was time they visited her. We shook hands and he was on his way.

    This was not the first time this has happened to us in Mexico. Another time a city bus driver went about six blocks off his route to lead us to a highway entrance after we could simply not understand his instructions in Spanish. Random, unexpected acts of kindness!

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