Tuesday, October 25, 2011


In these days of hustle-bustle and going our own way and looking out for our own, with reports of passers-by just passing on by, even in the face of need and danger and injury---I’ve been thinking of a sweet little memory I have of a visit to England.    It was an everyday little happening---a fleeting thing-of-a-moment, but it’s stood as one of my fondest remembrances of the trip.

We were walking down a little street in Bristol, and my three companions stopped in a store.   I sat down inside a handy bus-wait shelter to get out of the proverbial noon-day sun---one of those huge clear molded plastic half-rooms, with a plastic seat molded in, and a perfect spot for people-gazing.

We were right outside a good-sized grocery store---one of the purveyors of choice in all the towns and cities large enough---their version of a supermarket, containing quite a few other types of items, as do our own.    It’s the mesh-bag-with-carrot-tops type of grocery, though they also offer 400 cheeses and more types of wine, but many of the customers emerged with the green plastic shopping bags imprinted with the store’s name in the most refined script.
I watched the crowds approach, go up the two steps into the widewide door, and my eye was caught by a pair of perfectly British ladies clad in skirts and tucked-in blouses and cardigans, their stockinged feet in entirely sensible shoes and their shopping bags hanging neatly on their arms.   One came toward the store doors smiling, looking upward at someone standing out of my view.   Her fresh-shined face with its unrestrained eyebrows, and the ever-so-small smudge of lipstick parted over her slightly-protruding teeth just gleamed with gladness to meet the unseen person.

She was a perfect complement to her companion, a twin in wide glasses and square-cropped hair---two from-the-pages denizens of St. Mary Mead of any era, both looking up pleasantly at the still-out-of-sight person perhaps a foot above them.  First Lady reached the door, stood at the foot of the steps and reached upward, and since both of the ladies right in front of me were of a certain age, I assumed that someone upon the top step had reached down to assist her up.

She kept smiling and spoke to the unseen one, then helped an even-more-delicate and aged dear soul to descend the steps, as she slowly and carefully put one laced-oxford foot down beside the other.   That dearie was smiling in return, and when she was safely deposited on the sidewalk, beamed back, “I’m ev-va so grateful deahr,” and made her way down the sidewalk with her own mesh bag containing two oranges and a cauliflower.    The lack of further conversation led me to believe that they had not met before.

It was just a tiny moment, but forever cast in amber for me---a memory of a time and place which may soon be as past as the tumbled wall which repelled the hordes, and now is hearth and home.   Just that beaming smile, the pleasure on her face in meeting a friend, or perhaps just someone who needed her at a time when her own need was to BE needed.   I’ll always remember her cheery little uplook-smile with the little teeth just peeping out, and the small moment of gratitude expressed by the recipient.   I wish them both well, and may they feel a warmth from a stranger’s memory and impression of their kindness and lovely manners.  


LV said...

What a wonderful story. Not many, but there are still a few good people around that can put smiles on our faces. This is the best kind of memory to have.

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Rachel:
What a lovely episode and how beautifully you have captured this moment for us, your readers,to share. The kindness of strangers can, we feel, be the most overwhelming expressions of love that one can have in life. It may not happen often, but when it does it lasts a lifetime.

racheld said...

My Goodness! I posted and went to get another cup of coffee, and there you both were!! How lovely to hear from you all, and I'm glad you enjoyed the little sweet memory.

Beverly said...

Ah, Rachel. This made me smile. We all need to remember the importance of acts of kindness.

DearHelenHartman said...

That was such a sweet, and heart warming story. I'm so glad I came by to 'hear' it.

Justabeachkat said...

Hi there

I'm baaaack! I've been a bad blog friend and haven't visited much lately, but I've had a good excuse :) A very exciting excuse!

Loved the telling of this memory. So sweet.


Jeanne said...

Good morning Rachel, I hope this day is a terrific day and you are dreaming up another beautiful story to share. I love this story and it is amazing that a helping hand promotes such wonderful happy feelings. There are wonderful people out there to help when needed but all we hear about is the bad things people do to each other. I wish the media would look at the happy side of life more often.

Love to you dear friend,

Beverly said...

I sent you an e-mail. I hope you received it, and I hope I hear from you soon.

Southern Lady said...

[Rachel, I've been trying to post this for two days. I hope it goes through this time]

Thank you for sharing this beautiful memory with us. I could just picture those two little ladies (an image of Eudora Welty came to mind) ... as they exchanged smiles and brightened not only their day, but yours as well. And thank you for brightening OUR day by the telling of it.

Anonymous said...

What a terrific story. And told wonderfully - I can see them now in their sweaters, and can even "back story" their deliberation earlier in the day whether a hat or scarf or brolly might be needed, and where they should plan to stop for tea.

Smiles all around, bravo!

- SAST (still blocked from signing in on your page.)

Maggie McArthur said...

Rachel, I'm saving this story for every gloomy day.

Tonja said...

Love this story! Don't you just love these little 'tid-bits' our mind stores up for us. Usually we have no control over it...the mind keeps what it keeps. In my case, I remember too many things I'd just as soon forget!

Loved reading about the fly swatters. My Granny called them Fly-Flops! Never heard of one being a teething toy, though! But, it may become a consideration to help Little Levi...he's having a terrible time!

Kim Shook said...

This is just the story that my cynical souls needs right now! Thank you, my friend.