But that was the ’60s. I didn’t think they did that anymore. We have an ever increasing fear of each other, us humans. We are worried about purse theft, vehicle theft, identity theft. Strangers are scary, don’t talk to them. And so it goes.
It becomes increasingly obvious that we’re scared of what we don’t understand. When Kevin and I tell people we are paddling to the Gulf of Mexico, we’ve had more than one person exclaim “oh! no! be careful down there!” One person told us to watch out for Mexican pirates. It seems “Mexican” to many has come to be synonymous with “bandito.”
And so it never ceases to surprise and humble me when perfect strangers are exceedingly generous. Through the warmshowers website, we stayed with Jerry and Cindy – the retired chief of police of Bemidji, Minnesota and a local schoolteacher. We spent three nights in their spare bedroom – adorned with a bear fur, mounted deer racks, hunting and shooting trophies, and a bookshelf of books by Alan Greenspan and Charles Koch and the like. Jerry drove us around town, gave us tons of advice and tips, showed us their hobbies and family photos (spear fishing through an ice hole. who knew?) and encouraged us to stay and wait out the winter weather. And we are perfect strangers!
Last night we met two kayakers in camo gear and spent the night camped with them. We had a fire and talked about guns, the hollowing out of Michigan, politics, alligators, and duck hunting. They insisted on paying for our campsite. And when we arrived at the campsite yesterday, Lennie, a duck hunter, came practically running, to greet us – to offer to watch our canoe while we went into town and to ask if we wanted a ride downtown. His wife Sally drove us in this morning. The army corps employees we chatted with charged us 1/4 of the regular price at the campsite, and are watching our canoe for the night.
Next we have an offer of a place to stay along the river in Brainerd – where they have offered us a warm spare bedroom and dinner and breakfast.
Holy smokes! So much generosity!
These sorts of displays of helpfulness just make me want to pay it forward. Goodness spreads goodness, I’m sure. Just random conversations with friendly ‘strangers’ bridges the gap and helps us to drop this needless fear we have of one another. And hopefully we can learn to extend our generosity to a diverse array of humanity.