There are lonely days, days of yearning for something or someone from home, days you don’t want to hear a foreign language let alone try and speak it.
And then there are days when the unexpected happens. Sometimes you fear the unexpected only to learn it wasn’t so bad or that you overcame a major hurdle.
A couple weeks ago, I was peacefully lying in bed in the early morning… Everyone in the house was still asleep. And then I thought I heard a knock on the door.
Who the heck could that be? Too early for deliveries.
After the second knock, I was finally out of bed and wrapped in a robe as I made it to the front door.
I opened the door and peered out through sleepy eyes, but didn’t see anyone. Well, not immediately anyway.
And then I saw a man just returning to a park bench directly across from our house. As he turned to sit, he saw me. And I could see the hesitation in his eyes.
I knew then that he was the knocker, but could tell he wasn’t sure if he should return to our door.
I kept the door open though and waited. I had seen him before… his snow-white hair, salt-n-pepper beard and mustache, and he was always walking his chocolate brown dog. Definitely too finely dressed to be homeless and he always stopped at the bench to enjoy a cigarette before continuing on his walk.
As he approached the door, he started to ask if my husband was home (as most people do when they know I am a foreigner and that German is not my first language).
This conversation was all in German, mind you (not translated word-by-word though).
Me: He is sleeping right now.
The Man: I was wondering if I might be able to buy a couple cigarettes.
Me: I don’t know. Good question… Uh… hold on just a second… I’ll be right back (I closed the door, which is a self-locking door, by the way).
I ran downstairs and fumbled through Kay’s clothes from the day before.
I know he always keeps a pack in his sweatshirt pocket. Heck, I’d rather this man smoke my husband’s cigarettes than Kay. Oh, wait. He’ll just buy more anyway. Whatev’.
I rushed back to the door and the man was still standing there with his dog.
I reached out holding two or three cigarettes (I don’t remember how many I grabbed).
Me: You can have.
The man looked at me for a second making me think either he didn’t understood me or was thinking, Really? Are you sure?
Me: You can have. No money. It’s ok.
The man reached out to grab the cigarettes.
The Man: I asked for your husband because I know he smokes; I’ve seen him smoking outside before… And I didn’t think you spoke German.
Me: Oh, a little. If you speak slowly, I can understand.
The Man: Thank you. (He nodded.)
Me: You’re welcome. Bye.
I closed the door thinking, I don’t know how far he walks, but if I were a smoker, I’d be annoyed getting to my bench sitting down only to realize I’d forgotten my cigs.
Some people may think I’m a bit nuts; I’ve done some really daring and stupid stuff in my past like accepting rides from strangers or picking up a hitchhiker (once and only once… that was creepy and way too awkward).
As an American, you don’t open your door to strangers let alone give them cigarettes. Ok, people share cigarettes on the street… I said cigarettes not joints for the burnouts reading. Although, they probably share joints in Seattle on the streets now too.
But sometimes it pays to have faith in humanity, realize most people are genuinely good, and to also follow your gut because I left that conversation feeling really good and proud.
The man must have heard me speaking English to Fynn each time he saw us and figured I didn’t speak German.
This encounter made my week though; it felt so good to hear German, understand it and respond back in German, unexpectedly. And not too bad for having just woken up.
As an Expat, sometimes it’s the little things that help build our confidence and we have to take them and savor them until the next success because all too often it feels like the failures outnumber the triumphs.