Monday, January 30, 2012

The Kindness of Strangers


Recently I was with my husband in our camper van driving into the gathering dusk far from home on a metal road in the back country of Lake Wakatipu where the mighty Rees and Dart rivers feed side by side into the river delta. Kinloch is an isolated backcountry DOC camping ground and this is where this huge delta feeds the mountain water into Lake Wakatipu. The chilling southerly wind blasted us as we drove along dodging potholes and stirring a cloudy trail of dust. Before long we drove up onto the shingle bank and parked into the teeth of gale, gazing a little apprehensively across the bleak rough and wild water from the front seat of our wildly rocking van.  After the addition of four more layers of clothing we hurried up to the lodge restaurant and settled down to a fabulous warm meal, the very last guests to be admitted that night. Relieved we had another option other than huddling in our now freezing camper van, available to us for the evening, we settled into the tiny two-person table that was squeezed into a crowded room. As we ate our delicious venison pies we watched the most delicious pavlova and berry dessert arriving at tables. Calling the waiter over we ordered the same, only to be told that because we were not Lodge guests unfortunately we were unable to order dessert, there just wasn't enough to go around!  The young couple next to us, unable as we all were, to ignore the conversations of neighbours, smiled and offered to share their dessert with us!  It was a very tempting offer but our Kiwi reserve kicked in and in the face of American generosity we insisted that we couldn't do that and that we did not 'need' dessert, avoiding the obvious word, 'want' so that we stayed honest!  The conversation and swapping of stories that followed was warm and convivial. But the time to leave our warm shelter was approaching. Dillon, our neighbour, interrupted a short silence, " We have a delicious dessert wine and chocolate and we would like to share it with you, maybe down by the lake?"
What kindness! As we stepped out of the warmth, the wind had noticeably dropped and we headed off to prepare for the date beside the lake. Using two logs washed up on the shore we organised the furniture and wrapped in blankets peering out from wooly hats, we gazed out over the water and we talked swapping stories until the evening light had all but disappeared. This lovely couple had bought a small case of 6 bottles of delicious dessert wine in Mangawhai almost a year ago and decided that these bottles were to share with the friends that they made along the way on their two year sojourn in New Zealand. The warmth of privilege, kindness and the spiritual connection of one human being to another, warmed our hearts and souls on this very special evening. The kindness of strangers!
We woke in the morning to the spreading light of the rising sun glistening on a calm and motionless lake. As I wandered along the beach I reflected on the kindness we had experienced the night before huddled under our blankets and thought about the impact a little kindness has on our lives and the lives of the people we meet. The morning was still chillingly cold but it was calm and the sun was coming up.  
Robyn Lawrence

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