77: Once Upon a Rocky Beach

77: Once Upon a Rocky Beach

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Random Acts of Kindness

Once Upon a Rocky Beach

Among the things you can give and still keep are your word, a smile, and a grateful heart.

~Zig Ziglar

Some years ago, I was doing a summer internship in Newport, Oregon, and decided that for the Fourth of July weekend, I would rent a car and head down the coast to see the redwoods. The first day, shortly after leaving Newport, I stopped at a rocky beach to walk a bit.

The day was quite warm and sunny, but the breeze coming off the ocean was cool and smelled of the sea. It evoked stories about oceangoing vessels and creatures hidden in the deep places, of the great singers and the tiny bright creatures that glow upon the shore at night, and I walked for some time across rocks the size of baseballs and along the narrow strip of sand next to the water. I waded into the shockingly cold water, and felt myself sinking down into the sand as the waves moved in and out around me. I listened to the soothing sound of the waves and to the cries of the gulls. I was at peace in that place.

After a time, I returned to my car to go on my way. It was only then that I discovered that I had dropped my keys somewhere on that beach. My heart sank; I knew that the odds of finding them amongst all those rocks were slim to none. Nevertheless, I searched for them for the next couple of hours.

Eventually, I went back to the car to think (as if thinking about it could possibly do any good). The car, however, was locked. I sat on the hood feeling miserable and hopeless, close to tears, for what must been almost an hour.

There were a few other people on the beach and at the picnic tables set on grassy islands in the parking lot, but I was shy and afraid to ask strangers for anything. At the time, I did not have a cell phone. And so I sat.

As the shadows lengthened and the breeze began to pick up a bit, a woman approached me. She asked if anything was wrong and if there was anything she could do to help. I told her what had happened. She looked at the beach and shook her head.

“You could look for a thousand years and never find them,” she said.

“I know,” I replied. “I gave up after a couple of hours. I don’t think I’d last a thousand years.”

“What can we do to help?” she asked.

It was only then that I noticed a man sitting a short distance away, who must have been with her. I asked her if they had a cell phone, and she said they did.

“But there’s no signal here,” she said.

They were clearly getting ready to leave, so I asked if she might call the car rental agency when they got to where there was a signal. She agreed, walked over to the man, and they got in their car and left.

A couple more hours went by. I walked on the beach a little more as the sun went down, still looking without much hope for the keys, and wondering how long it might be before help arrived. The sun set, and it grew quite chilly. Still nothing, no sign of rescue.

After what seemed like an eternity, and about the time I had given up all hope and was considering trying to sleep on one of the tables, the same couple reappeared. Rather than making the requested call, they told me that they had driven all the way back to Newport and stopped at the car rental agency, but were unable to get a new key without my presence.

“Get in,” the woman said. “Let’s go get the key.”

I was completely floored. I had no idea what their plans for the evening might have been, but I was certain of this: they had nothing to do with running a total stranger back and forth to Newport from that beach. In any case, I got in the car. It was warm, and the atmosphere was close and friendly. After sitting in that parking lot alone for hours, getting progressively colder, it was pure delight. We talked on the long way there, and they turned out to be wonderful people.

We arrived back at the rental agency, then had to call and wait for somebody to show up. A man eventually came, looked up the information for the car in question, and cut a new key. The whole process probably took another forty-five minutes. He was kind about it, although it had obviously dragged him away from his evening plans, too.

Then we drove back to the beach, talking along the way. I thanked them profusely (which seemed to embarrass them) and asked if I might do something for them: buy them dinner, or a glass of wine, or anything at all. They politely refused, telling me only that someday I could do the same for someone else.

Ever since that night, I have made a point of trying to do more random acts of kindness. And whenever I do, I think of those people. Whoever you are (I have virtually no memory for names), and wherever you may be, thank you, and know that I’m still passing your kindness along at every opportunity.

~Lynn Goodman

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