Today's story is about broken English and broken glasses
For the newest installment in my Acts of Kindness series, I will celebrate my favorite stranger I have ever met. I was in Austria on a school trip, off alone with two of my friends during some of our free time to explore. We were taking photos in a cobblestone alley, trying to capture the beauty of Vienna and having a lot of fun doing so. The change in climate had made my contacts frequently dry out, so for the day I was wearing my much-detested glasses - a functional choice I would soon regret.
My glasses are still a nuisance, but at the time they were a source of embarrassment for me. For any photo I was in, I would take them off, stumbling through the now-fuzzy world for the best of my aesthetic. Shuffling back to the table I'd placed them on, I went to return my glasses to my nose, when I heard a tiny "ping!" hit the cobblestone. Realization dawned on me as I now held two separate entities: my glasses had separated in half with one of the arms of my glasses fully unbolted from the rest of the pair. The little noise had been the deafening loss of a very important screw.
Frantically, my friends and I began to search for the minuscule object. We looked everywhere a tiny screw could have bounced, finding all sorts of little trash in the uneven road. But alas, no lost screw. After twenty minutes of searching, we knew we had to get back to our class soon and made one last desperate sweep.
Disgustingly, my friend's best solution - one we could not argue with - was to take a particularly thick hair or string he'd found on the ground and thread it through the empty hole, tying my glasses together. With one last sweep of the area, we defeatedly began making our way back.
Somehow, though my tenderly balanced glasses, I saw the most incredible coincidence around the corner. There was a shop with a sign in German who's windows were full of various pairs of glasses. It had to be an eyeglass store.
With no better options, we ran into the store and were greeted with a kindly old man. Not speaking any German, we tried our best to explain the situation before giving up entirely and handing him my glasses. He took them gingerly and then pulled them apart - the hair splitting immediately. The man stared at us, and then at the glasses, and then proceeded to laugh. Without another word, he took my glasses and disappeared into the back of the store.
After a few moments of us really hoping he was a helpful man rather than a stranger who just stole my glasses, he came back into the room. Smiling softly, he presented me with a pair of glasses - my glasses - fully intact. They even looked as if the glass had been cleaned.
Eternally grateful, I tried to ask the man how much it would cost, pulling my wallet out of my bag and fully preparing to spend my trip's savings on this necessity. However, the man just smiled at me and in quiet English he said "for you? I will do it for free."
That is the kindest thing a stranger has ever done for me. In a foreign country, unable to even speak his language, this man had a business to run and still chose to gift me that tiny, necessary screw - and thus the ability to see for the rest of my trip. I will never forget that man, or what he did for me that day. I know it's one of those stories I will tell my kids. Yes, stranger danger, but every once in a while humanity is really beautiful. To the kindest man in Austria, I owe you my glasses and so much inspiration to continue to give. Thank you.