Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Unexpected Kindness

I am not a kind person. Let me expand on that - I think I am nice to those around me and those I care about. I am not usually rude (we all have our moments though) and I think I am generally a friendly person overall.

Yet I don't go out of my way to be nice to people. Usually I am nice when it's convenient for me. A favor here and there, an errand that's along my way. There are exceptions of course, but those are typically for friends or family that we tend to be kind to anyway.

I'm talking about going out of my way for strangers. People I have not met. Showing grace and kindness to someone who passes quickly in and out of your life and you may never talk to or see again. We don't know how our kindness might touch that person and it's not something that comes naturally for me to think about how to reach out to others.

Our trip to Helsinki carried an unexpected, but appreciated reminder that I need to make an effort to be kind to everyone. All the time. And perhaps to make more effort to be kind to those people that I come into contact with fleetingly.

We booked a stay through Air BNB for our trip to Finland. I sent two inquiries about places, informing the owners of our 10 month old daughter. Our first choice wasn't available that weekend, but our second choice was. The owners contacted us after we booked regarding arrival time so we could arrange a meet to handover the keys.

I let the owners know that we were arriving pretty late (10:30 pm) and apologized for the inconvenient time. I also informed them that we were planning to take public transportation to the apartment so I wasn't sure exactly what time we would arrive, but I could call.

The owners emailed me back and said that it would be difficult to take public transportation and walk that late, especially with luggage, and could they offer us a ride. I was blown away by the offer and kindly thanked her, but declined since we would require a car seat and we preferred not to bring ours since it wasn't needed the rest of the trip.

A few hours later the owner emailed me again and said that she had asked some friends and found a suitable car seat for us. She hoped we'd accept their offer for the ride and to let her know. Wow!! I was amazed. And yet their kindness didn't stop there.

They met us in the airport and upon discovering our luggage was spending the night in Oslo they took us to a grocery store so we could buy diapers and baby food. She also caught me before I went into the grocery store and said they had stocked up milk, juice, yogurt, bread, and cheese at the apartment so to not buy those essentials. In the midst of being irritated about our luggage I found myself smiling at the amazing grace this couple who we had just met were showing us.

Along the drive to their apartment they pointed out landmarks, told us about the May Day celebrations that were to be taking place the following day, and told us a little bit about themselves. They are both physicians who like 30 km outside the city, but drove today so they could give us a ride. After showing us the apartment (and giving Madi some toys to play with during our stay!), they said to call if she got sick or we needed anything at all.

Helena and Juha are an amazing example of God's grace and generosity. I don't know if they even believe in God, but through their actions they have given me a lesson and gentle reminder that I need to be more gracious to those around. That I can make an effort to go out of my way to help someone, even when it doesn't necessarily fit my schedule. That I need to remember to be kind to everyone and to show God's love and grace through my actions towards others.

If you are planning to visit Helsinki, I would highly recommend staying in Helena and Juha's apartment. In addition to being some of the kindest people I have met, the apartment was pristine and the location perfect. It was a quiet neighborhood within walking or public transportation of all the major attraction. You can see their listing here.

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