Are you solvent in kindness?
When I was eighteen years old, my mom gave me the trip of a lifetime as a graduation present: a two week trip with people from my French class to France. It was an eye-opening experience and one I will never forget.
My French teacher, Monsieur Bouchard, was a kind, generous man. Sure, he was strict in the classroom. He expected everyone to speak French in the classroom and you were disciplined if you spoke English. More times than I care to count, he would raise one eyebrow and say to me,
“Mademoiselle, parler français afin que les jeunes hommes autour de vous tomber en amour avec vous .”
(Translation: Miss, speak French so that the young men around you will fall in love with you.)
Needless to say, being the shy girl I was and having a huge crush on the guy sitting next to me, I blushed six shades of red.
Anyway, we were back in Paris for the final two days and I had almost run out of money. I had a very strict budget and had brought all the money I could. While all the others brought thousands of dollars, I only had a few hundred. While others ate heaping plates of food for lunch, I had a small sandwich and Orangina (my new favorite drink while I was over there). I wasn’t in Paris to eat but to immerse myself in the culture.
Monsieur Bouchard approached me while I was throwing my trash away. He bent his head down and spoke in a voice only I could hear.
“Mademoiselle, are you in need of a small, shall we say, loan?”
I looked up, startled. I thought I was being careful to not let anyone know my money issues. His eyes were soft and filled with understanding.
“Did I tell you when I was a young man, I lived off of scraps in Paris? I barely had two francs to rub together. I was going to school and working two jobs.”
I shook my head. I couldn’t believe it. Him, a sophisticated man was once poor (like me).
“It was only through the kindness of strangers and the baker next door that I ate anything at all. The baker, he was such a kind man… I never forgot his kindness.” He sighed wistfully before continuing. “Now, I wish to repay that debt by helping you.”
He pulled out his wallet and gave me a few hundred francs. I looked around to make sure no one saw before sliding the money into my purse.
“Thank you, Monsieur. You are tres gentil.” I smiled and he gave my shoulder a little squeeze.
It is thanks to his kindness and his discreet nature that a poor girl on holiday was able to eat and have the most unforgettable time in Paris. No one in the group knew of my “loan” and when we were back in America, I repaid the $40.
I’ve never forgotten his kindness and have always tried to do the same. I’ve spread kindness wherever I’ve gone and will do so until the day I die.
Kindness is life’s currency and at the end of the day, it’s much better to give it all away than to hoard it for a rainy day.
If you see someone in need, help them. It may not seem like a big deal to you but it may just save the life of another.
Monsieur Bouchard, if you’re out there, thank you for spreading your Light and being a great mentor to me and others in my class. I learned so much from you about life, love and what it means to be French.
“Répandre l’amour (Spread Love)”