Kindness of strangers


Years ago, my roommate invited me over for Thanksgiving.

The ride from Penn State to Lancaster was a long but memorable one.

It’s predominantly Amish there. And I remember discussing with his Dad about
“Turning East” by Harvey Cox (the subject I took that summer).

Years have gone by. While Western consciousness has yet turned East, its consumption certainly has.

We are having China Head of State over for a visit while a few years ago, Nobel prize has been awarded to his jailed dissident.

I couldn’t even imagine the scenario myself over cranberry sauce and sweet potato back then.

The take away: season comes and season goes. But the kindness displayed to strangers at that table wasn’t going to fade away that easily. I read somewhere that PA was one of the States in the Union where people tend to stay put (less internal migration).

Harrisburg was having a hard time paying its bills.

I was there, wiring the tiny microphone on Governor Thornburgh to record an interview during the Three-Mile-Island crisis.

Harrisburg was where I first landed in America. Harrisburg was also my last stop upon graduation. My first few months there in the camp, I volunteered to go to court with unaccompanied minors, helping them as an interpreter. All of them

eventually got placed in suitable foster homes, and enjoyed many Thanksgiving dinners in Pennsylvania.

For me, just that one dinner in Amish country. It’s cold by my standard.

Autumn foliage struck me as picture perfect. And the aroma of the bird to be carved stuck with me for a long time.

My roommates went on to do great things (they were graduate students at the time)

such as professorship in Africa and Vermont.

Not once did they laugh at my remedial reading (I read “Catcher in the Rye” etc…. to make up for not attending high school here in the States).

That dinner filled me not only with everything a Lancaster farm had to offer, but also with a critical piece to understand America: the strength of a pilgrim community e.g. barn-raising party, stuck together through thick and thin, sharing gifts from the wild, a tradition brokered by the Native American. Latest studies on human motivation reveals what long been felt: we are most motivated when we seek to help others. The act of kindness might surprise both the giver and receiver.

I observe today that the drinking-water supplier put out front free water for passerby. This act of goodwill I am sure not will not be gone unnoticed. (in fact, lottery ticket vendors stop by every time to fetch a needed drink). Doing good and doing well.

The strength of a nation has always been measured by how it treats its weakest link. not the propaganda on the DoS website. That trip was one of my most memorableĀ  pilgrims in America, of course, with Apple pie for desert.

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