Once upon a time, my family and I were on a week-long road trip. We traveled through several states, stopping to explore places that struck our fancy, with the last leg of our journey being an overnight hotel stay, then a day spent at a large zoo there, followed by the 6-hour drive home.
When we went out to put our bags in the truck the next morning, this is what we found.
Someone had broken into about 10 cars in the parking lot of the hotel, smashing in the windows, and stealing everything of value inside.
Unfortunately, we had not thought to remove our car dual DVD player we had purchased for the kids for the trip, the GPS, some games, a power converter we had also purchased for the trip, and a few other items, including our checkbook.
My son, who NEVER left his Nintendo DS in the car, forgot it for the first time ever that night, and it was stolen too. If you’ve ever had a kid who was quite fond of their video games, you can imagine how unhappy he was. None of these things were visible, all hidden under the seats and in seat pockets, but the thief apparently just smashed in random vehicle windows all over the parking lot and then ransacked the insides for whatever he could find.
The glass though. It was like a bomb had exploded inward. It was EVERYWHERE. Thousands of tiny pieces of glass in every nook and cranny of the truck. I couldn’t believe one window could make that much shattered glass. We couldn’t possibly travel in it as it was. It wasn’t safe to even try to get inside. We were 6+ hours from home with all our suitcases and no place to go.
What on earth were we going to do?
We had to rely on the kindness of strangers. The hotel staff was wonderful. They gave us back our room for our kids to hang out in and a place to stow our luggage while we figured out what to do. We filed the police report and made arrangements with a glass company to come and replace the window later that day. Once all those things had been taken care of, we sat down to figure out what to do next while we waited for the truck to be fixed.
The kids were understandably quite upset, though to their credit, they tried to see it as an unexpected adventure. We loved a good adventure, and I’ve always told them some of the best parts of a road trip are the unexpected and unplanned things that happen, but this was not quite what we had in mind to make the end of our trip “exciting.”
While chatting with the hotel staff, we mentioned we had intended to spend the day at the local zoo, but that clearly wasn’t a possibility now. And then something unexpected happened. They happened to have 4 free passes for admission to the zoo, so we would only need to purchase 1 ticket instead of 5. Then the manager and another staff member volunteered to chauffeur us there and back in their personal vehicles.
They stored our luggage safely in their office, gave us the tickets, took us to the zoo, and arranged to pick us up about 5 hours later. I am sure they felt a certain amount of responsibility to us as their hotel customers, but it was no fault of the hotel that someone had chosen to break into a slew of vehicles in their parking lot. Allowing us more time in our room to sort things out was something I think would be fairly common practice in a situation such as that.
However, I think that giving us the zoo tickets and being our personal chauffeurs so that our kids wouldn’t miss the planned trip to the zoo – and to try to boost their spirits after being upset about not only losing their things, but feeling a bit violated after seeing their truck seats covered in shards of glass – was going above and beyond, and it was enormously appreciated.
What started out as a very upsetting morning and could have been a long and unhappy day, ended up being a fun afternoon at the zoo and a rather enjoyable day. When my kids got back and talked to their friends about their vacation, as well as writing those back to school papers about summer vacation, the one statement we heard again and again was, “We got robbed!”
Certainly, it was a memorable event. My kids have been taught to be kind, and I have watched them extend kindness to strangers themselves many times over, but I think being on the receiving end of it in a situation like that and realizing what a big difference those simple kindnesses from strangers made for us that day, really brought it home to them in a personal way how kindness can make a big impact.
For me, that is what is truly memorable.
[Oh, and all that glass? The people who replaced the window vacuumed the car out for us as best they could, we laid our jackets down on our seats, and still found glass all around us. We continued to find pieces of glass coming out of seemingly nowhere not for months, but for years.]
Photo credit: jeffc5000 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA