By Bruce Mastacchio
I have often said in my writings that you can never tell how a word, a gesture, a compliment or a smile can affect another person. A simple random act of kindness that to you may be a throwaway, may have untold meaning for someone else you may never know, in ways you may never see.
I have done the following in many of the 50 states and 14 countries I have been in. I get a personal kick out of it and it brings smiles to so many faces. It takes little effort.
Elaine and I had arrived in Venice around 3 p.m. We went to our room, got settled and I then took her to a restaurant a few doors down from our hotel. When we got back to the room she said she did not feel well and just wanted to go to bed. It was only 7 p.m. and it was still light out so I told her I would be on a nearby bridge.
I went to the top of the arch of the bridge and rested against the stone rail.
I watched as people would come up and stop. Usually, a boy and his girlfriend, or, a man and wife, or service men, or friends, maybe a gay couple and, as I found in many places, always taking photos, Japanese tourists. As the scene unfolded and I got warmed up, I would see one person take a photo of another, or one person in a group taking a picture of the others. I would approach them and say:
“Scusi, Vuoi che me di prendere la tua foto?” (“Excuse me, would you like me to take your photo?”)
The initial response was almost always the same. A look of suspicion. Who is this person? Does he want to steal our camera? But after a few seconds, they would almost always hand me the camera, and I would snap as many pictures as they would like, showing them the results and watching their faces and the smiles that one simple act engendered.
Of course, when I was done, I would then speak in English to them (Rhode Islandese, that is) and that brought out more looks of amazement and laughter, though I suspect some of them had already caught the RI’ese in my Italian.
I stayed on that bridge in Venice for over two hours.
Now fast forward to last week. My wife and I were in Aruba. We had a beautiful room and the ocean was just a hop and skip down the hall. The pool two hops and a skip in the other direction, and just outside our sliding glass door a beautiful garden.
Our routine was breakfast, ocean, lunch, pool, and dinner, with a submarine trip, an island tour and a night at the casino squeezed in there.
One morning at the beach I noticed a couple just off to our side doing the photo “thing.” He taking one of her. She taking one of him. And then the proverbial couple “selfie.”
Problem was he was about 6’4″ and she was about 5’4″ so the selfies didn’t seem to be going well. I got out of my lounger and ambled over.
“Lone Ranger to the rescue. Would you like me to take your picture?”
This time there was no Italian and no surprised looks. Just a “Sure.”
I took about three photos of them with the beach rocks, the beautiful two-colored ocean and great sky as backdrop and gave them back their camera.
“Thanks,” they said. “No problem,” said I. I went back to my lounger and started working on my tan again. Not long after there was small shadow cast over me. I looked up and it was the wife.
She really wanted to thank me for taking the photos. Though they had been to Aruba about 15 times they did not have that many of the two of them together, especially at this spot. Her husband had just retired after 39 years with the Parks and Recreation Department of their Maryland city.
They were looking forward to a great retirement, with trips and celebrations. “Biba Duchi” as the Arubans say, “The Sweet Life!”
“La Dolce Vita,” as we say in Italian.
Then she broke down and started to tear up and sniffle some.
“But,” she said, “my husband went for a physical, and they found he has mesothelioma. They’ve given him about a year to live.”
My wife and I commiserated with her but she just said, “Thank You” once again. “Thank you for taking those pictures.” And she walked away.
Forrest Gump said: “Mama said you ought not talk to strangers.” My mother might have said the same thing. But, in this case, I am glad I did. And, I will do it again!
As we walk through life on our journey from here to there, we never know who we might meet and how one kind word or a smile, OR taking a picture might ease someone’s burden just a little.
My Short Uncle (Al M.) once said something to me I have never forgotten. I was fairly young when he said it but I committed it to memory: “I shall only pass this way but once. Therefore, any good that I may do for my fellow man, let me do it now. For I may never pass this way again !”
“Scusi, Vuoi che me di prendere la tua foto?”
Beautiful reminder that a simple act of kindness goes a long way.