Your Smiles Make Me Smile

If you really want to get the most out of my blog, it's best to start with the first post written in July to the present since some blogs refer back to earlier posts; but any order is just fine... Thanks for visiting! Now scroll on down to the good news! ~Renae~

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Kindness of Strangers

I’ve been reading a string of posts lately in regard to a recent homicide in our area….very disturbing.  What I find almost equally disturbing is the number of people that use unusual events as evidence to prove that we live in an ugly world, where the masses are horrible, selfish, and cruel.  It is so easy to jump on that bandwagon.

If anything came out of my day Saturday in my continued search for Vera H. Edwards (see “She’s Speaking To Me From Beyond The Grave”) it is that this simply isn’t true.  Most people, if given the opportunity, have a kind nature; and we readily bypass this and grab onto the negative like hungry wolves, almost gleefully to reinforce our fears that the state of our society is evil, pure evil.  But I beg to differ.  My very column started with my becoming perpetually anxiety ridden by what I perceived to be an ugly world filled with hate and violence.  My days were becoming overcast, with gloom and doom, bitterness and paranoia slowly seeping in.  I was not only disliking the person I was becoming, but I wasn’t someone I would have chosen to hang out with.  And so, I challenged myself to find the good, and to write about it; not an easy task for someone on the cusp of menopause.  Yet, I am thrilled to report the greatness that I have discovered, in not just the obvious, but the smallest of gestures, is overwhelming in comparison.

Saturday is a perfect example.  While pushing my library cart in my usual unsexy library attire, my wonderful man Richard took time off from work to go to the block party on Vera’s Street to help me in my obsessive quest to solve the mystery of Vera H. Edwards and her WWII memorabilia. Who says there aren’t any good men left in the world? Good men are like diamonds, there are lots of them, but they aren't always easy to find.  And so my single friends, don’t give up hope, they’re out there, even if you have to dig.  Some of the best men I've known, are the diamonds in the rough.

So, I got off from work, called Richard  and there he was sitting in the home that Vera lived in back in 1942. Not only did my dear introvert find the courage to knock on the door (although he admitted that he stuttered when they opened it), but these trusting souls invited him in and served him tea.  So, wait, let me repeat that….this family, Tony and Lilliana and their beautiful niece, not only invited a stranger into their home with a borderline crazy story if I must say so myself, but served him tea, while he waited for my arrival.  Of course, I got lost on the way there, ended up driving through one of the barred windowed areas of Oakland, while dodging bullets that flew overhead….but that's a story for another day. Ultimately, I made it safely to what used to be Vera’s house and by the end of the evening was exchanging hugs and email addresses with strangers who seemed more like long lost friends.  There are still people in America who exemplify what we so readily dismiss and so deeply crave. The kindness of strangers.  And for you curious souls, they did not know Vera, but had enough new clues to keep me on the wild goose chase indefinitely.

As we walked to the car, an elderly woman, Joan, came from the block party and began talking to us, which led to story upon story of 83 years of her life, filled with more drama and suspense than any author could ever have the imagination to solely create.  As it was getting dark, Joan asked us if we would be so kind as to walk her the block up the hill to her home.  In so doing, for over an hour, she enriched our lives with profound memories of how her family scarcely escaped Pearl Harbor, how she raised five children, and most admirably...she barely touched on their exemplary academic and financial achievements, though I read between the lines...but instead focused on the pride she had to have five children who had all grown to be kind hearted. In the end, that's what mattered most to Joan.  Lastly she shared her connection with the famous, and my favorite, psychoanalyst Erik Erikson and how she once worked for his good friend.  This left me realizing the value of preserving history for future generations, and more importantly, the priceless stories of the elderly, when we take the time to listen.  Joan thanked us and hugged us, but it was we who were appreciative and enriched by the time spent learning of her life.

Prior to initially finding my way into Vera’s house that evening, I spoke with a few people at the block party.  No one remembered Vera.  One neighbor did say, “You know, Eleanor in the brown shingled home has lived here quite some time, she might have some information to share with you; but she is sick today, so you probably don’t want to knock on her door, but perhaps leave a note for her.”  I thought it was kind that one neighbor was looking out for another, and I took her advice, and left a note.  The first thing Sunday morning, guess who called?  Eleanor.  She had met Vera only once, as Vera was quite elderly at the time, but she knew she lived alone.  Just after the 1989 San Francisco earthquake PG&E had to turn off the gas.  It took three days to turn it back on.  Eleanor didn’t have any clues to share to help me get closer to solving my mystery, but what she did say spoke volumes.  “I knew Vera would be cold in her house, so I made a big pot of soup and took it over to her to keep her warm.  That’s the only time I met Vera.”

Just how much evidence do we need to prove to ourselves that kindness exists, within our friends, our families, and even strangers on a random afternoon.  Saturday was proof enough for me.

Sweet Dreams and Always GOOD Dreams,


Anonymous said...


I am just a little amazed, you have finally found the tons of gold in the minds of older people and the endless knowledge they possess.


Rose said...

Renae, I always enjoy reading your blog. I love listening to older people and the kindness and knowledge they have to share. Thanks for making me smile...again. : ) Love you, Rose

GinaB said...

What a feel-good story!! Keep digging and blogging, I can't wait to hear what news you will dig up on Vera. She is most definitely looking down on you with a smile, knowing that her "story" is in good hands. ;o)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for having faith in me Gina, I'm trying hard not to disappoint. Hugs, ~Renae~

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