A Random Act of Kindness
April 18, 2012, by Connie Stetson
A few years ago on a vacation in Puerto Vallarta, my husband Lee and I spent a long, hot afternoon ambling and exploring the old colonial part of town. We visited craft stores, museums and art galleries, we walked up and down the cobbled streets, shopping and gawking, eating churros from vendors, listening to street music and doing other touristy type things until we were finally tired, steamy and thirsty.
We started walking back towards our hotel via the Malecon, the ocean side of the street, which boasts an amazing array of public art and loads of families, locals and turistas walking and enjoying the sculptures and the ocean view. Exhausted, we ducked into an upstairs bar with an open balcony, ordered a bucket of Pacificos, some chips and salsa, and sat back to watch the colorful Mexican world drift by. As we settled in, we observed a Balloon Man holding down about a hundred helium balloons trying to hawk them to passersby, and dozens of little kids running back and forth begging their young mothers to buy them. We sat for about ten minutes when Lee excused himself; I thought to go to the bathroom.
When he returned, we focused on watching Balloon Man. All of a sudden, Balloon Man just started handing balloons out to the children one by one. Their mothers were gesturing, saying “No, gracias” and Balloon Man seemed to be explaining that the balloons were free. The little kids were ecstatic, their mothers shaking their heads in disbelief, smiling at their great good luck. When I asked Lee what he thought had happened down there, he just grinned at me, his blue eyes twinkling. He told me that he had run downstairs, across the street, and paid Balloon Man $20.00 to give balloons to the children till the money was gone. We sat there for the next hour, sipping our icy cold beers, me completely in love with my guy, watching and laughing with those children and their moms as they accepted this unexpected gift.
My husband and I are fortunate enough to live in a beautiful place and to have access to extraordinary experiences. We have been blessed with good health, strong bodies and a keen interest in travel and adventure. We have sailed the Caribbean, kayaked around glaciers, zip-lined in Costa Rica, hiked the Great Wall of China, had a bird’s eye view of Mt. Denali and an active volcano (thank you, Gary Smith). I have climbed to the top of Mt. Whitney, backpacked into Haleakala, went to Mississippi with the Red Cross during Hurricane Katrina, walked out of the Sierra high country in the full moon light, rafted down the Colorado River, and most recently, our Cathy and I, took a flying lesson. I tell you this not as a boast, but to be present to it all and to say to anyone who cares how grateful I am.
There are only a handful of truly perfect days in anyone’s life, days when you think, If I left this earth now, I would be leaving in a moment of real happiness. It didn’t take much to make that day in Puerto Vallarta one of those moments, just a simple act of kindness.