Saturday, December 8, 2012

Acts of Kindness

Acts of kindness on Christmas Eve

When my children were little, each Christmas Eve we read the Christmas chapter out of one of the Little House on the Prairie books, all set in the 1860s. Often there were tremendous blizzards, and once a flood forced Santa to recruit Mr. Edwards to deliver gifts to his neighbors, the Ingalls children.

As the snow kept accumulating in Forest Grove, Oregon, one year, I wondered if I’d get to my children’s homes in North Portland. It was virtually impossible to drive in a city with very few snow plows and 1 foot of snow! Unlike the 1860s, I could take public transportation.

And so, at noon on Christmas Eve, I boarded the #57 bus in Forest Grove. The driver was expert at keeping the bus in the ruts created by other drivers. I thanked him for his skill, adding that while Santa was the most important visitor to my grandson’s house, I was right up there. I got off in Hillsboro and boarded the Max train to downtown where I’d get a yellow-line train to North Portland. At Pioneer Courthouse Square, as I stepped off the train, a man said, “If you're planning on the yellow train, it’s out of service.”

I called Jessica, my daughter, who, checking Trimet's website, confirmed this news and told me to walk 3 blocks and catch the #4 bus. I waited for half an hour in the freezing rain, chatting amiably with a young woman, a concert pianist, who was also waiting for the #4. The pass I had was good for 2 ½ hours. It was approaching 2:30. “My pass is about to become invalid,” I remarked. The young woman handed me another. I told her I couldn’t take it. “Please, take it,” she insisted. “I have plenty of them. Please. It’s Christmas.” I thanked her.

I called Jessica again and said I’d seen about 30 buses go by, but no #4s. My feet were so cold, I considered telling her I was going to back to Forest Grove, but I knew Christmas with a 7-year-old was not to be missed. And unlike Mr. Edwards, I wouldn’t have to ford any rivers.

She told me to go back and catch a different bus to the Rose Quarter where there were buses running up Interstate Ave. in place of the yellow line train. I did. The bus was packed, and warm. I was relieved, grateful I’d soon be taking my boots off on my daughter and son-in-law’s heated floors.

When my stop came, I had no choice but to step into a snow bank. I looked up and there were two women each extending their hands to help me out of the snow. I thanked them. It was just a four-block walk to my daughter’s house. Then I saw her, a fearless driver, in her car. I waved and got in, telling her I could have walked the 4 blocks to their house. “I’m going to Fred Meyer,” she said.  I considered crying, but decided I could choose to be happy no matter what. “Great,” I said.

Fred Meyer was so packed with people, it felt almost tropical. The lines were the longest I’d ever seen. Yet people were jovial. I stood in a long line with the cart while my daughter ran back and forth, dropping in a few items and then going off again to get the other things on her list. The woman ahead of me smiled. “That’s teamwork!” she said. A man nearby laughed as he remembered how he wound up in these long lines every Christmas Eve. Another man smiled and said, “I think of it as a cherished Christmas tradition.” We all laughed.

The time flew by and soon Jessica and I were headed to her home. My grandson screamed when he saw me. “NONNA!” he yelled, giving me a hug.

Later that night, as we tucked my grandson into bed, Jessica opened a small book. It was a collection of the Christmas chapters from the Little House books. She began to read about the Christmas when Santa asked Mr. Edwards to help him out. Thanks to his kindness, the Ingalls children had Christmas gifts. And thanks to the kindness of strangers, so did I.

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