From Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend's Soul

A Friendly Act of Kindness

Friendship is the golden thread that ties the heart of all the world.

John Evelyn

Beverly and I have been best friends for years, and, like a well-worn sweater, our friendship has hung in there, through thick and thin. After her divorce three years ago, she moved several states away. We keep in touch through cards, letters and weekly telephone calls. Her call last Saturday night changed both our lives.

When the phone rang, I could almost predict who’d be on the other end. I picked up the receiver and said, “Hello?”

“Hello, yourself,” a meek voice answered.

“Beverly, how are you doing?” Silence.

“I found a lump in my breast,” she whispered, at last.

A chill ran down my spine. “Are you sure?” I imagined the usual bright stars in her eyes flickering, then fading in reflection of her terror.

“Have you seen the doctor?” I bit my lower lip.

“Yes. The biopsy report came back positive. It’s malignant,” she sobbed. “I’m scheduled for surgery on Tuesday.”

I tried to reassure her, but I knew she was terrified, and so was I. I did my best to hide my own fears. We chitchatted some more, struggling to avoid the subject. After we hung up, I told my husband, who agreed I should book a flight. After all, I couldn’t let Bev face her uncertain future alone.

The next two days and nights dragged. Monday morning finally arrived, and I drove the long trek to the nearest airport. Even with the heavy traffic to distract me, my thoughts kept returning to Bev. I prayed the whole way. The old belief, “C=D” (cancer equals death), kept creeping into my mind. I’d lost my mother to that disease seven years ago.

When I arrived, I wrote down where I parked and wheeled my bags to an open elevator. Exiting on the ticketing floor, I waited in line for about twenty minutes until it was my turn to step up to the counter and hand my identification to a tall brunette.

Her fingers tapped the computer keys for a moment. She studied the screen. When she looked up and handed my identification back, she said, “I’m sorry to inform you this flight is currently overbooked. If you can come back tomorrow morning, we can accommodate you on another flight.”

“But,” I stammered, “I have to get on this flight. This is not just a vacation trip or anything like that. My best friend is having surgery—she needs me.” A tear formed and trickled down my cheek.

“I’m sorry. Everyone showed up, which is usually not the case. Even the standby passengers aren’t getting on.”

“But I made a reservation.”

“Yes, just two days ago. That’s why you’ve been bumped.” She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Next.”

I trudged away from the counter and plopped into a vacant seat to assess my situation. All the while tears streaked my face. I fished in my purse for a tissue, dabbed my cheeks and blew my nose. The loudspeaker announced the first boarding call for rows twenty to thirty. I watched several people rise and hurry to obtain a place in line. I swallowed hard. A sinking feeling in my chest turned into a knot as it reached my stomach. Defeated, I sighed and bent down to gather my bags.

“Perhaps I can help you,” a soft voice said. “I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation with the reservationist.”

I glanced up and saw an older woman with smiling blue eyes gazing at me. The early morning sunbeams streaming in through the large airport windows illuminated her ivory complexion. Soft silver-gray hair framed her face. I wiped away a tear and asked, “How?”

“Well, I have a ticket and am assigned seat 7B. I’d be honored if you would take my place.” She waved the ticket and boarding pass at me. Her intense eyes seemed to beckon me to take it.

Tempted, I hesitated for a moment, wondering what the catch was.

“I couldn’t take your seat. Aren’t you anxious to get to your destination?”

Her smile faded. “There’s no one waiting for me at the other end. I live alone. Staying here one more day won’t make a difference. My daughter will come and take me back to her house. Won’t my grandchildren be surprised?”

I could almost taste her loneliness. I said, “It would mean so much to me. But I’d never be able to repay you. Are you sure?”

Her eyes sparkled. “Don’t be silly. Go to your friend.” She handed me the ticket.

Humbled by her kindness, I accepted. We strolled to the counter together and made the necessary changes. Because of her compassion, I would be able to be with Beverly and to give her my love and support. Gratitude flooded my soul.

I turned to this generous mystery lady and extended my hand. She took it, squeezing back, and said, “Someday you’ll see a woman in distress and you’ll do the same.” With a wink, she released my hand.

My trip was a success. Everything went well with Beverly: The surgeon assured us both that he’d removed all of the cancer.

To this day, I often think of that special woman who sacrificed convenience for friendship. I will never forget her act of kindness. I hope when it’s my turn, I can give as freely as she did and pass on her legacy of kindness.

Suzanne A. Baginskie

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