The kindness of strangers

January 19, 2014 

Christmas in the '50s

One evening, I and my children, Connie and Gary, were watching TV while my husband, Dan, was at work.We lived in Lincoln, Illinois, then. There was a knock on the door and I went to see who it was.

Santa Claus was standing there. Of course, both kids were right behind me. Santa asked me to turn off the porch light. He came in and gave both kids a gift. I couldn't ask who he was. Later, when Dan came home, I told him about our special visitor.

Years later, we found out who Santa was.We used to stop in at Tibb's Cafe. It was a place we visited all the time when we dated.The owners told us they decided to make a list of all couples that used to stop in and who had young children. It was his son, Tom, who dressed like Santa and called on the former customers. A great memory!

--Betty Baker, of Collinsville

The island way

In the summer of 2013, my wife Paula and I traveled to Pohnpei, Micronesia, to visit with our son Ben, who is serving in the Peace Corp there.

Pohnpei is a tiny island in the South Pacific with a population of about 20,000. There is one two-lane road around the island.

One Sunday, we rented a car and drove around the island with Nelson, Ben's "host father," serving as our guide. As we drove, a heavy rain started reducing visibility. We drove through a water-filled pothole, blowing out not one but two tires on the car. We were stranded several miles from town in a small foreign country that had no auto service to call.

As we stood in the downpour and looked at our two shredded tires, a man came out of his home nearby. He led us to a shelter from the rain and gave us a plate of bananas, which grow wild on Pohnpei.

Soon, he was joined by other neighbors and concerned drivers who stopped to help. A discussion in their native language arose. They assessed our plight and determined a course of action.

We were given a ride back to our hotel in town with assurances that the car would be taken care of. Within an hour, the rental car was back at our hotel with two spare tires -- one taken from the rental car, the other from another vehicle.

For the rest of the day, we enjoyed our fresh bananas. On Monday morning, we promptly returned the car to the rental agency when they opened. They were already aware of our experience with the tires as news travels fast on the island. The total cost to replace both tires was $40.

And the rental agent returned the spare to its owner for us.

We were very grateful and offered to pay for all the assistance we had received but were told it is just the island way.The people on Pohnpei look out for each other as there is no one else to call. -- Fred Taylor, of O'Fallon

Parking lot encounter

Before my youngest son was born, my family decided to take a quick trip to the Lake of the Ozarks because we knew we would be busy with the new baby. My oldest was 3.

My husband has a brain tumor and gets dizzy easy. He had gotten on a small roller coaster ride with our oldest and afterward didn't feel so good. We went back to the hotel so he could rest and we all feel asleep.

He woke me up with sweat pouring from his forehead and told me to call an ambulance. One arrived and he was taken out on a stretcher. We followed him to the hospital. They admitted him because his blood pressure had dropped really low. I sat with him for a while but both my son and I were really tired so we headed back to the hotel.

I pulled into the parking lot and before I could get out of the car, a man started walking toward me. I positioned my keys between two of my fingers because I thought I was going to have to use it as a weapon to protect me, my 3-year-old and my unborn baby.

The man walked up to me and said that he saw the ambulance take my husband away and wanted to know if he and his church could pray for him!

I told him about my husband's health issues and he said that he would pray for my family.

The next morning outside of our door, there was a huge bag with gifts for me and my son, and a prayer book! I broke down crying because that touched me so much. We hear all the time about people doing terrible things, but when I saw your kind stranger story, I just had to share.

-- Carol Burkhead-Fox, of Swansea

Someone to lean on

Gerry Davidson, broker-owner of Century 21 Prestige, was diagnosed with Stage 3 esophageal cancer in March 2009. She has since recovered. Here's her story.

There was a time when I was going through everything I was going through at Siteman (Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis). One day, I drove over to the hospital and got out of my car in the parking garage. I doubled over. I could hardly stand. I didn't realize I was totally dehydrated. My potassium levels had dropped and I was deathly sick.

I don't remember a whole lot, but there was a man, probably 65 or 70, who came up and told me to lean up against an SUV, and he went and got me a wheelchair. Next thing I know, he's wheeling me up those ramps onto the third-floor bridge.

He wheeled me into the hospital, got my name and took me up to the 7th floor where they do chemo, then learned I was scheduled in the basement radiology department.

He gets me set up with the nurse and says, 'You will be OK now.' I don't have any idea who he was, but it was one of the kindest things anyone ever did for me."

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