I recently spent a few days in the South of France. It was a short break and a chance for my Mum and I to spend some time together.
We flew into Nice airport, where we were to pick up a rental car before driving @30 minutes into the hills above Nice to the beautiful village of Saint Paul de Vence.
On arrival at Nice airport, we had booked assistance to help Mum whose mobility is limited and she uses a wheelchair to get around most of the time. The lady assigned to help us met us at the aircraft door, got us swiftly through passport control and down to baggage claim where we collected our suitcases. As usual, we both had large suitcases, which had more than we really needed for our week, but we both like to have options!
The assistant wheeled Mum and I rolled the suitcases. After letting the lady know we needed to pick up our car, she said that we needed to transfer by bus to another terminal and she said she would help us to the bus stop.
On our own now we got on the bus for the 5 minute transfer to the other terminal: me, my Mum, her wheelchair, 2 big suitcases, one piece of hand luggage and our two handbags.
On exiting the bus, it turned out we had about a 10 minute walk to the car rental location.
This is where things got interesting.
I was pushing Mum, who was holding onto her suitcase trying to guide it and I had the other suitcase hooked over one of the wheelchair handles. Mum had the hand luggage balanced between her knees on the wheelchair footplates and we both had our handbags slung over our shoulders.
It wasn’t overly warm but I soon found myself perspiring as I tried to safely navigate the narrow pathway, low and not so low kerbs and gates. To be honest, it was a bit of an obstacle course. I was coping but struggling a bit too.
And then I heard a voice behind say “Can I help you?” This man in his mid thirties had walked past us and then stopped as he saw us struggling through a chicane, which wasn’t designed for our encumbrances.
My initial response (my independent, I can do it, I don’t need anyone’s help response) was “Oh it’s OK thanks we can manage”, even though it was clear we were barely managing.
Then on his insistence I said “thank you that would be very kind of you”. Nothing too unusual so far you may think.
I could see that this guy also had a suitcase, not as big as ours but a medium size wheelie case nonetheless. He said, “I’ll take the cases”
So now he is trying to control three cases along our little obstacle course. And then he said something that surprised me.
“Have you passed many other people?”
“Yes” I said, “about 8 or 9 I think”
“Did they see you?” he asked
“What do you mean?” I replied
“Did they see you and not offer to help you?”
“Oh they were going in the other direction or in a hurry or preoccupied,” I supposed
“I don’t believe it,” he gasped.
“I’m from Georgia (the Country not the US state) and we always help people. My mother taught us that. People from Georgia are always helpful”
He was genuinely dismayed and upset that no one had stopped to help us.
For the remainder of the walk to the car rental centre he kept saying, “I can’t believe no one offered to help. What is wrong with people? No one form Georgia would not offer to help”
We duly arrived at the car rental centre desk and he let go of our bags, said goodbye and was gone as quickly as he’d arrived and I only just got the chance to say how much I appreciated his help and kindness. As he walked away he muttered, “It really is not a problem”
A similar event on our return where two guys walked our bags to the bus and helped get Mum in her wheelchair on to the bus.
Now you may think, people help all the time; and yes that’s my experience too.
For me what was unusual was the dismay of the Georgian guy in his disbelief that no one before him had offered to help and the two guys who helped us on our return went completely out of their way to help us.
I accept that this might just be me becoming more aware of the kindness of strangers.
It might be that because I am practicing gratitude more regularly and looking for little things to appreciate, that I am open to the kindnesses showing up AND allowing them.
I’m also reflecting that I offer and look for ways to help others even more than I’ve done in the past so maybe the Universe is giving me more opportunities to give and receive?
I know and have been told, especially by men, that I can be too independent and I should be more gracious in accepting kindness and offers of help.
I get it.
The joy of helping others feels good and so I will try harder to extend that possibility of joy to others and accept help more often whether they are from Georgia or not.