The Kindness of Strangers

     When I was 34 I think, I had a little breakdown.

It was the holiday season, and I’m sure I was under shopping pressure (I don’t like to shop), and things had not been going well. I was probably arguing with my husband and certainly being harassed by clients, but I was in a bookstore, so I should have been okay.

It happened at the information desk. I was looking for some book and they didn’t have it. While I stood at the counter taking in the latest in pesky bad news, tears welled in my eyes and started down my cheeks. I began to shake a little. It felt like the walls of the room moved in toward me and the air darkened.

And suddenly I was surrounded by bookstore employees. I don’t know where they came from but they circled me like a football huddle or a folk dance, clucking sympathy and murmuring reassurance toward me.

It was amazing. I don’t think they actually touched me, except maybe for a pat on the arm or shoulder, but I felt embraced and borne upward by the concern of those around me.

I left the store without the book I sought but turned inside out, drained, refreshed.

It happened to me a few other times too. You almost can depend on it. If you are sincere and in rare need and you express it without violence to those around you, it’s very possible that you will be supported and heartened by your fellows.

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