Invariably, travel exposes the best and the worst in us. It may also reveal the kindness of a stranger. As a frequent and grateful recipient of food, tickets, upgrades, help in navigating airports and foreign cities and even dry clothing for a drenched child, I’ve learned that our capacity to help and invest in one another is limited only by our willingness to ask and/or receive.
Last weekend, as my daughter and I biked around Chicago, we impulsively took a shortcut that turned into a meandering detour. The city’s multi-leveled streets can make cross city navigation a challenge, and aware of our error, we wanted to avoid shlepping bikes down stairways to access the Lakefront Trail. So, I called out to a young guy pedaling in the other direction, “Can we get to the lakefront from here?”
He braked and rolled on over. “Well, you really need to…” He paused and smiled. “Just follow me.”
Ten minutes later, after an exhilarating ride through a parking garage and then down, around and under the city streets, he led us into the gated back parking lot of a warehouse building. He pointed to an opening in the fence. “That path will take you right to the lake trail.” We thanked him profusely, knowing he’d gone well out of his way to help us.
“That was really nice,” I commented to my daughter.
And once again, a single person acted as ambassador for an entire city —enhancing Chicago’s image far better than any tourism campaign ever could.
Isn’t that great?