Strangers' simple gesture made all the difference

The doorbell rang shortly after dinner Tuesday night.

As I flipped the deadbolt and opened the door, I expected to find someone trying to sell me more popcorn or more cookies (both of which I'm currently trying to avoid!).

Instead I saw a woman and her young son, who was holding a package, standing on my front stoop.

"Does Ainsley live here?" the woman asked.

"She does," I answered, and they explained that a package for her had been delivered to their house, which has the same address, except they are on the north end of the street and we are on the south end.

I told them it was a birthday present for Ainsley and she would be so happy to receive it. The boy had a gleam in his eyes and a smile that would have led you to believe he was the one receiving the present.

I thanked them for driving it over.

"Well, we wanted to make sure Ainsley lived here before we just dropped it off," the mom told me.

I asked her son if he had a nice Christmas and received lots of good presents. He nodded enthusiastically.

I promised to drive any of their packages we might receive directly to their house. The mom and I shared our first names, I thanked them again, and they were off.

I had been worried about this package for a few days. It contained a birthday gift from Ainsley's grandma in Maryland, and it accidentally was sent to my aunt's house in San Diego. She put it in the mail and was told to use a different ZIP code. We knew it was going to go to a different house and hoped the post office would catch the mistake and re-route it. Instead I had the pleasure of a wonderful surprise from some very nice neighbors.

Earlier that day I had been chatting with Dan Janowick at The Community House for the nonprofit year-in-review story on Page 5. He mentioned the guest speaker at the Holiday Ball had talked about the ripple effect. One person is positively affected by one program at The Community House, and that individual in turn has a positive impact on his family, which has a positive impact on his neighborhood, which has a positive impact on the community.

That reminded me of a story I read in "Switch" by Chip Heath and Dan Heath about a gentleman charged with fighting malnutrition in a village in Vietnam. He was given all of six months to do it.

Conventional wisdom pointed to malnutrition as the result of poor sanitation, poverty, contaminated water - all problems that would take decades and countless resources to address.

But Jerry Sternin didn't follow conventional wisdom. Instead he identified villages where the children were not malnourished, found out what those mothers were doing differently (feeding kids more often, more actively and adding in different kinds of food) and had them teach their approach to other mothers in the village. Six months after Sternin arrived, the Heaths report, 65 percent of the kids were better nourished and stayed that way.

I think about all the talk about how polarized the country is, how inconsiderate people can be, how self-involved some have become. And making the huge changes that are necessary seems hopeless.

And yet, when I'm sure they had other things to do, a mom and her son took the time to make sure a package was delivered to its intended recipient. And they made my night.

Thank you, Kelly, and your sweet son for this simple act of kindness. I truly believe this is the only way we will change the world.

- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].

Author Bio

Author photo

Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean