The Kindness of Strangers

Unless you’re new to the internet you’ve noticed how the term “faith in humanity restored” is used so frequently these days. Most people these days have a very low level of trust of those around us. Maybe it’s because we’ve all been hurt or betrayed in some way shape or form at some point in our lives. Or that the internet has cause the majority of us to become so cynical of the world around us. It’s caused most people to ignore each other day to day, mind our own business as we walk down the street living our lives.  Then, only when someone shares something online of a person doing something “extraordinary” is our faith restored for a moment. It took having dinner with a stranger to remind me that our faith in humanity can’t be restored by others alone but by ourselves.

Last night Anthony and I decided to be spontaneous and go to Hwa Hwa’s Korean BBQ for dinner. It’s a local favorite and highly recommended if you’re ever here. The restaurant is cozy with a cabin in the country vibe and the staff is very friendly. The main floor is slightly crowded, consisting of small tables with the a grill in the middle, a salad bar, and a play room for the children, while upstairs are more banquet tables in separate rooms for larger parties. Going for BBQ during winter is perfect because you get to warm up with the hot coals they bring to the table. It’s almost like camping inside.

The restaurant can get pretty full, especially on a weekend, so it wasn’t really a surprise that when we got there we were asked to wait a moment. It was then I heard I voice shout over to us, “you can sit with us if you’d like.” I looked over and there was a woman with her young daughter at a table. She had a warm smile and was waving us to sit across from her. Admittedly I was unsure at first and kinda shocked that she would offer her table to us. After going through the acceptable back and forth of not wanting to interrupt her time and her reassuring us that it was perfectly ok we took our seats across from her and made proper introductions.

She had already ordered her meal and so as her banchans, Korean side dishes served with every meal, were brought to the table we ordered for ourselves. I’m sure at first I was staring at her with my mouth agape, still unsure if I should even be sitting down. It wasn’t till the woman told us to help ourselves to what was on the table that I even took my eyes off her. She had a round face with a warm smile and kind eyes. After introductions the daughter asked to go play with the other kids and we settled into conversation. We shared a couple typical getting to know you stories, who we are, where we came from, how are we liking living in Korea. It slowly became comfortable and we started talking about photography and favorite must see places. By the end of dinner it was like talking with a friend about memories and experiences and where we should get dessert.

We got up to go, trying not to crowd the front counter as we went to pay the bill when our table host suddenly pays for our meal. I’m pretty sure both Anthony and my jaw hit the ground with a thud. We protested that she shouldn’t and she just shrugged it off like it wasn’t a big deal. Again I was staring at her. She was smiling and joking about how we didn’t need to worry, the dinner company was appreciated and she was going to be visiting family in few short days who would be taking care of her so she wasn’t concerned about the money.

After the bill was taken care of we walked outside with her and her daughter and said our goodbyes and goodnights. As we started for home I said I couldn’t believe she paid for our meal. We are complete strangers and she shared her table with us and paid the bill. Anthony made the comment of “faith in humanity restored” and I disagreed stating that it was a good deed by paying it forward. I’m reminded of the words my mother told me growing up “treat other how you wish to be treated.” By treating others with kindness and respect we show  that we are deserving of such treatment ourselves. A little kindness from a stranger, even just a smile, can set the path to a better world.

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