Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The nicest act of kindness

Here is something I wrote in my personal journal. Enjoy. 

I witnessed the nicest act of kindness a few minutes ago.

I was walking down a street here in Hamburg called Steintordamm when I witnessed this act of kindness.

Steintordamm is near the Hamburg Central Station. More specifically, it’s near the southern entrance of the central station, which is known as "Hauptbahnhof Süd."

Hauptbahnhof Süd, to be frank, is kind of seedy. Usually, one can find all kinds of "interesting" people there.

Anyway, as I was walking down Steintordamm near Hauptbahnhof Süd, I saw a man completely passed out on the sidewalk. As I approached him, I didn’t think much of what I was seeing. I mean, I did think that he was in pretty bad condition, as he was totally laid out on the pavement. But for the most part, I thought that what I was seeing fit the bill for this part of town.

I was ready just to pass this guy like it was any other day, and that’s when it happened – the nicest act of kindness.

A teenage girl who was approaching the man from the opposite direction that I was knelt down beside him and put some change near his hand. 

After the girl got back to a standing position, I tried to make eye contact with her to express my approval, but she didn’t make eye contact with me.

I thought she was very kind for giving the man money, but it was only until I actually walked past the man and saw how much she gave him that I was really impressed.

There, next to his dirt caked fingers were three euros.

The man was just lying there, completely passed out, not doing anything to try to earn the money, not giving any sob story, not even holding up a sign...and then this girl, a girl who for whatever reason found it in herself to shell out money to a man who would never know who she was and could not thank her for her generosity. 

It was the nicest act of kindness.

Saturday, April 02, 2016


Recently someone asked me if I was accustomed to living in Germany. I told the person I was because for the most part, I am. But today I had an experience that made me realize that I really am an outsider, that this is not my country and Germany is something I can only try to understand.

I was lying in my bed around 7 a.m. when I suddenly heard the sound of my next-door neighbor’s TV. But instead of hearing something recognizable, something that I might hear on T.V. in the United States around 7 a.m., I heard something else. An old German ballad. See, my neighbor was watching what sounded like a classic German film and in it, an actor was crooning.

As I lied there and listened to the actor singing, I realized that I was listening to a song I had never before heard and that this song belonged to a movie I had never before seen. I also realized that even if I was told the name of the movie, I would probably have no idea what the significance of it was or why someone would want to watch it, or watch it again, at 7 a.m.

Now, if I would have heard “Casablanca” coming from my neighbor’s apartment, I might have thought to myself that my neighbor was nostalgic for movies that came out while America was in the grips of World War II, or if I would have heard the “Wizard of Oz," coming from his apartment, I might have thought that maybe my neighbor used watch to the “Wizard of Oz” with his parents or with a grandparent and he just wanted to watch it again.

But I had no idea why my neighbor wanted to watch the film he was watching because I had nothing to anchor onto. The actors’ voices were not familiar and neither was the song.

Which sort of brings me to my next point. Had the lyrics of the song that the actor was singing been in English, I might have been able to understand what the movie was generally about and why my neighbor wanted to watch it. But the actor was singing in German, and I didn’t understand the lyrics. 

And as I lied there and listened to that song, whose lyrics I didn’t understand, in a country that was not my own, I was humbled.