Dear Italian shopkeeper,
We met on a warm summer’s afternoon. Two hungry, bedraggled travelers weighed down by bags, towels and a big red beach umbrella stood outside your shop discussing whether to buy some snacks and sit in the piazza, or risk eating in the cheap restaurant displaying pictures of food on the menu. As you know, restaurants picturing their food on sandwich boards should be avoided. But, as we explained to you, I had dietary restrictions, we didn’t know the area, and we only had 20 euros between us. You ushered us into the shop and chatted to us amicably as you made my traveling companion a lovely prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich and put together some goats cheese and olives for me. Adding on some drinks it came to 5 euros. “Only 5 euros?” I asked you. We both knew it cost much more, but you explained to me that you have a son our age and knew what traveling was like.
We thanked you, but as we left I had a slightly uncomfortable feeling in my stomach that had nothing to do with my dairy intolerance. It was a feeling of slight guilt, the knowledge that I would never get the chance to repay your generosity. Then again, maybe I can in my own cosmic way. I don’t know if you believe in karma, but I do. I think that kindness encourages more kindness. Maybe if I do something thoughtful back in London it will prompt someone else here to do the same, just like you prompted me. Maybe it will start a chain reaction, and if your son is traveling to London he might walk into a deli and be treated with the same warmth and care that you showed us because your son reminds them of their own kid.
Even if karma doesn’t come around in that way, I wanted to say thank you. It wasn’t just that you saved us money, or that I had the best goats cheese I’ve ever tasted, it is the fact that you looked past our sand-caked clothes and windswept hair and saw your own child in us. When I was in third grade we learned the golden rule; “treat others the way you wanted to be treated.” I guess when you’re a parent the rule is “treat others the way you want your children to be treated.” So, Italian shopkeeper, thank you. I’ll try to keep the karma ball rolling.