The kindness of strangers

We hear a lot, nowadays, about how self-centered our society has become. We commonly hear stories of people cutting off others in traffic, wedging their way ahead of others in queue, or other self-focused behaviors.

So it’s wonderful to witness acts of generosity right under my nose.

A week or so ago, my neighbors’ house burned down. The fire trucks arrived after midnight, but they turned off their sirens so didn’t hear them. Even though the pictures showed flames leaping 20 feet beyond the 2-story Victorian’s peaked roof, I slept through it all.

Even though the fire was only 4 houses away from me, it was set back behind some trees so I didn’t even know what happened when I backed out of my driveway the next day. When I decided to investigate some people standing on the sidewalk in front of the house, I saw the disaster. Just a shell was left of my neighbors’ painstakingly hand-built home. It was wrenching to see the devastation. My dear neighbor was outside talking to others. I hugged her and offered them my guest room.

The next day, a notice of the fire and how to support these good people went out on our neighborhood listserve of about 1000 families. Quickly someone contacted my neighbors to see what they needed. She reported to the rest of the listserve. A clothing drive was organized, listing the appropriate sizes and a drop-off point. Restaurant and Target gift cards were suggested. An account was opened for donations. A local merchant offered to do a fund raiser.

Most of the people on the list had never met my neighbors, yet they were organizing and donating and offering help. It made me grateful that there are still lots of people who want to help others in need — even if they’ve never met them.

These kind, generous people will probably never make the news. But at least I can spread the word that there are still a lot of unselfish people in the world — and I’m glad I’m surrounded by them.

Here are pics of the fire.