The kindness of strangers

It’s commonplace in Austria to have complete strangers help with small things.  I’ve had help getting the stroller on and off buses, into and out of shops, on an off the strassenbahns, down flights of stairs and once, very memorably, a woman missed her train to help me shepherd Benjamin, Liam in the stroller and Benjamin’s bike up an escalator when the elevator was broken.  I’m also pleasantly surprised at how much help and kindness I’m shown when I need help somewhere and I have to resort to English (because the issue is well beyond even attempting in German) — like much of the help I got with my dress search and then, this week, when I had to explain to a teller at the bank that my ATM card had stopped functioning and I needed a new one.  People here are generally helpful and patient (especially when I’m out with the kids and I’m at least attempting to communicate in German).  My days are much more pleasant for the kind gestures, and I’m incredibly grateful.

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One is silver and the other’s gold

I have some really amazing friends.  Today, I was reminded in several ways.

First, I got to get together with a new friend of mine here in Vienna.  Although we’ve only gotten together a few times, I’m really enjoying her company, and I’m amazed at how quickly and thoroughly we’re connecting.  She came over and helped me grab lunch and take the kids to the park.  Benjamin loves her — he got so excited when he heard she was coming over.  Before I left to come to Vienna, a friend of mine who is originally from South America told me that the friendships I make here will form more quickly, be more intense and probably longer lasting than is “normal” for friendships made at home, and I’m definitely finding that to be true.

But then I was also reminded of how great my friends at home are.  Cricket, one of my horses, has injured her eye.  My friend, Catherine, who is watching my horses at home let me know, and called the vet.  Her prognosis is good, but the course of treatment involves applying eye ointment twice a day — directly to her eyeball.  Even if I had never had horses, and had never had to do such an application of medicine, I would know how difficult that will be because I can imagine the challenge it would be to do that with my 30 lb preschooler, let alone my 800 lb pony.  It is vital to Cricket’s recovery that the medicine is applied well, and Catherine isn’t sure she can do it.  So, where does that leave me?  Well, 4000 miles and an ocean away, I have to find someone to help me take care of my (mostly) sweet pony, every day, for as long as two months.

It took me one email and about 8 minutes.  The very first person I asked, the person I most wanted to help (because I know what a great job she’ll do) said yes immediately.  I cried when I read her email, full of empathy for Cricket and excitement that she’s coming to stay.

I have the most amazing friends.  Today was a good reminder, but I’ve been reminded all along as we’ve been here.  The emails and the messages all mean so much.  I’ve smiled, laughed and reminisced here, all by myself, because of the wonderful things you’ve said.  Thank you, all of you, for keeping me company — because that’s what you’re doing, even though I’m so far away.