Before getting to my reaction to RAKs on the road, one more example of amazing kindness:
Under a Tuscan sun, a young optician gave me a lift. In a second act of random kindness, he invited me to meet his family as we approached his hometown. I soon got to know his mother, who was an M.D., and his brothers and sisters. After a fantastic home-cooked Italian meal, various members of his family played chess with me while we all drank wine and listened to classical music. I almost cried, though, when I heard that the husband of the doctor who lovingly prepared the meal—the optician’s grandfather–had been killed by Americans during the Allied Invasion of Italy. Instead of an angry “pay back,” the family had decided on a kind “pay forward.”
What did I do in response to these and other acts of kindness while on my hitchhiking odyssey around the world? At the time, I tried to be a good conversationalist, which I found drivers appreciated most in foreign countries where my butchering of their language–along with my lame hand signs–amused them no end. I also sang along when asked (drivers alone in their cars often loved doing duets). And I gave drivers pencil sketches I’d done of them. But most of all, I tried to show my appreciation for the scenery (often spectacular) we passed through or the sights and towns they showed me, often with great pride.
While “paying it forward” hadn’t become part of the lexicon or collective consciousness at the time of most of my hitchhiking adventures, I tried to be grateful and often mentioned that their kindness motivated me to continue my social science research into better international conflict-resolution tactics.
Please visit–and comment on–my 4 prior blogs about hitching RAKs.
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