Seeing Beyond the View

While in Croatia I had an experience that made me recall a children’s book called Miss Rumphius, a story about a little girl who aspires to do something to make the world more beautiful. In that storybook her “something more beautiful” was planting lupine seeds all over the little island where she grew up, because she realized that by planting the seeds every springtime, blue, purple, and rose-colored flowers would continue to bloom for years to come.

For our last night in Dubrovnik, we had booked a reservation at a restaurant aptly named Panorama. It is reached by traveling in a funicular to the top of a hillside that overlooks the entire city, both inside and outside the castle walls. It’s a special place that takes your breath away and makes you pause to consider all that is magnificent in the world. 

After sitting down to dinner, my husband asked me if I knew whether they had a WiFi connection (our somewhat constant query while traveling abroad for a couple of weeks). I didn’t.  A few minutes later when he’d left our table for a few minutes, a young man at the next table leaned over and said “I’m sorry to have been eavesdropping, but I wanted to let you know they do have WiFi”, and he proceeded to tell me the password. As his wife had also stepped away from the table, we began to chat. He told me that he was there with his wife celebrating her birthday and that it was their final night in Croatia, and noticing my Colby hat, he told me that he’d gone to Boston College. I mentioned we were there celebrating our 35th anniversary and he gave me his congratulations (my guess is we’ve been married for about as long as he’s been alive). Soon after our brief conversation, our partners returned to our respective tables and we wished one another a great rest of our trips.

My husband and I had a wonderful dinner with celebratory cocktails, fish recently caught from the Adriatic sea with a wine to accompany it, and a dessert to top off dinner. At the conclusion of our meal, when we asked our waiter for the check, we were told that the young couple who had been at the table next to us had paid for our dinner.  I was stunned, absolutely speechless.

My immediate quest became figuring out who they were so that we could thank them for their kindness. However, my husband maintained that they wanted to remain anonymous and it would be creepy if I tried to discover who they were. Ultimately I agreed with him as it would have been simple for them to have told us what they’d done. Instead, we hadn’t even noticed when they’d left the restaurant as they’d not made any show of their exit or their generosity. 

Their act of kindness was next-level giving. It was done with no expectation of our being able to thank them, no transactional gain to be received by them, nor any need for acknowledgment of their gift. It etched in me a desire to “pay it forward”, to accept their gift appreciating its powerful impact, acknowledging how truly profound it is to be seen by others, and how one way of doing that is to give solely for the sake of making our world a kinder, better place.

We all have the ability to change the world, and to make it more beautiful.

We can plant seeds, all kinds of seeds so beauty and joy can be shared one small act at a time.

*PS- I couldn’t resist reaching out to the Boston College alumnae association to tell them about the magnanimous gesture of one of their alumni. Although it isn’t my intention to expose someone who doesn’t want recognition for his random act of kindness, it is my desire to express my appreciation for their thoughtfulness, and for others in their community to know about the actions of one of their peers.  By modeling the best of humanity, this young couple strengthened my resolve to regularly contribute to the chain of paying it forward. It is my hope that by retelling our story, others will be inspired to do things to make the world more beautiful. 

So, if you are the Boston College gentleman who with his wife was traveling in Dubrovnik this past June, ate dinner at the Panorama Restaurant and picked up our tab, please know your impact was deep and wide, and we thank you. 

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