The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, December 07, 2012

What was your best "good deed"?

As the holiday season approaches, I find it pleasant to consider ways that I've "earned my air"--in other words, tried to make the world a better place. Good deeds done for those who cannot benefit us, casting our bread upon the karmic waters, is an example of this.

I recently recalled one of my very favorite ones. It happened about 30 years ago.

I was living with my girlfriend Toni in a duplex near LACC, and was alone in the apartment. The doorbell rang, and there stood a small, frightened white lady who began to babble at me in a language I couldn't understand and didn't recognize. Clearly, she was lost, and terrified, and begging me to help her. Not knowing what in the world to do, I asked her in and brought her a glass of water. She seemed so frail and terrified, it was easy to imagine that she had been seeking a relative and/or traveling the strange city and gotten off a bus at the wrong stop...or something. Good lord. It was 4:30 in the after noon, winter as I recall, and in a couple of hours the sun would be down, the temperature drop, and this was going to get ugly.

I got her to talk, mentioning the name of the city "Los Angeles" and using hand signs to encourage her to tell me where she came from and who she was. From what seemed to be her name, and the name of a city or state or province she came from, I guessed she was from some Slavic country, and got an inspiration. I looked up the phone number for the Yugoslavian trade counselate, which shared offices with several other central European countries. Perfect.

Got them on the phone, and asked if there was a multilingual translator there, and explained the situation. My poor little house guest's eyes bugged out when I handed her the phone, and she began pouring out her heart to the lady on the other end. After a couple of minutes, I spoke to the translator, and she said that my guest had been trying to find her daughter's house and gotten lost. I got the daughter's address, bundled the lady into my car and drove her there, about two miles from my house.

The expression on the daughter's face, and the hug and grateful tears from my guest as she said good-bye have remained with me for decades. A small kindness, to a lost stranger.

That day, I earned my air.


No comments: