It was around 11 p.m. on a Saturday, and I was asleep in my bed. I awoke to muffled sounds of scurrying and a faint beeping. Suddenly there was a pounding on my door.
After a hasty exit, I found myself sitting on a Port Authority bus outside my condo. The unit adjacent to mine was on fire. My neighbors and I sat shivering and despondent in our pajamas while we waited to find out how much damage the fire caused. It was a cold winter night in Mt. Lebanon, and things were not looking up. But then, the doors opened, and a woman poked her head inside and asked “Does anyone need anything?” Without a moment’s hesitation or embarrassment, I felt myself stand up and emphatically respond “Yes! I need to go to the bathroom!”
And that’s how I ended up in my neighbor’s living room after using her bathroom. I sipped a hot beverage and listened to her talk about her years spent raising her daughter in their cozy home on Baywood Avenue. She tried to convince me to stay overnight, but I felt that I had already imposed on her enough. She felt that I hadn’t imposed at all and was appalled that I chose to call my grandmother late at night to stay at her home instead.
That was many years ago now, and much has changed. I still can’t help but smile when I think about that perky little lady. To my own shame and discredit, I don’t remember her name. However, I will always remember her generosity in a time of crisis.
I have since moved to a house on Marlin Drive where my husband and I are raising our son. Understand that, when I was growing up in the ’80s in a small town in southwestern Virginia, it was common practice for people to reach out to new neighbors. I used to tag along with my mom as she rang doorbells with a loaf of warm bread to help the newbies feel welcome. So you can imagine my appreciation when a neighbor down the street, Emilie, did the same for us. Her card read “Welcome to Marlin!” and was accompanied by a tray of homemade blueberry cake that was so popular with our toddler that we panicked a bit when it was gone. Because of her thoughtful gesture, we did indeed feel welcome on our new street.
I do think that there are a remarkable number of kind people in Mt. Lebanon, but I’m also confident that kind people exist everywhere. So I ask that, wherever you are, make a conscious effort to start recording acts of kindness as they happen. Just make a quick note on the phone that, chances are, is already in your hand. Or hang your neighbor’s card on the fridge, as I am happy to report I did with Emilie’s. That way, on a day when you feel alone and need a lift, or on a week when yet another school shooting devastates the country, you can remember that there are still more kind people than not. Further, you will be able to remember your benefactor’s name!