the kindness of strangers….

Source – 2008: Mary was a newlywed and ready to move to Norway, but was stopped at the airport because she didn’t have enough money for the trip. Then a stranger turned up and paid for her.

Mary Menth Andersen was 31 years old at the time and had just married Norwegian Dag Andersen. She was looking forward to starting a new life in Åsgårdstrand in Vestfold with him. But first she had to get all of her belongings across to Norway. The date was November 2nd, 1988.

At the airport in Miami things were hectic as usual, with long lines at the check-in counters. When it was finally Mary’s turn and she had placed her luggage on the baggage line, she got the message that would crush her bubbling feeling of happiness.

“You’ll have to pay a $103 surcharge if you want to bring both those suitcases to Norway,” the man behind the counter said.

Mary had no money. Her new husband had travelled ahead of her to Norway, and she had no one else to call.

“I was completely desperate and tried to think which of my things I could manage without. But I had already made such a careful selection of my most prized possessions,” says Mary.

Although she explained the situation to the man behind the counter, he showed no signs of mercy.

“I started to cry, tears were pouring down my face and I had no idea what to do. Then I heard a gentle and friendly voice behind me saying, “That’s OK, I’ll pay for her”.”

Mary turned around to see a tall man whom she had never seen before.

“He had a gentle and kind voice that was still firm and decisive. The first thing I thought was, Who is this man?”

Although this happened 20 years ago, Mary still remembers the authority that radiated from the man.

“He was nicely dressed, fashionably dressed with brown leather shoes, a cotton shirt open at the throat and khaki pants,” says Mary.

She was thrilled to be able to bring both her suitcases to Norway and assured the stranger that he would get his money back. The man wrote his name and address on a piece of paper that he gave to Mary. She thanked him repeatedly. When she finally walked off towards the security checkpoint, he waved goodbye to her.

The piece of paper said ‘Barack Obama’ and his address in Kansas, which is the state where his mother comes from. Mary carried the slip of paper around in her wallet for years, before it was thrown out.

“He was my knight in shining armor,” says Mary, smiling.

She paid the $103 back to Obama the day after she arrived in Norway. At that time he had just finished his job as a poorly paid community worker in Chicago, and had started his law studies at prestigious Harvard university.

In the spring of 2006 Mary’s parents had heard that Obama was considering a run for president, but that he had still not decided. They chose to write a letter in which they told him that he would receive their votes. At the same time, they thanked Obama for helping their daughter 18 years earlier.

In a letter to Mary’s parents dated May 4th, 2006 and stamped ‘United States Senate, Washington DC’, Barack Obama writes:

“I want to thank you for the lovely things you wrote about me and for reminding me of what happened at Miami airport. I’m happy I could help back then, and I’m delighted to hear that your daughter is happy in Norway. Please send her my best wishes. Sincerely, Barack Obama, United States senator.”

The parents sent the letter on to Mary.

“It’s amazing to think that the man who helped me 20 years ago may now become the next US president,” says Mary delightedly.

Original Norwegian newspaper link

17 Responses to “the kindness of strangers….”

  1. 1 Ruth
    November 8, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    God Bless him.

  2. 2 CTGirl
    November 8, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    I remember reading this story and thinking that there must be something special about this man – this was WAY BACK in the beginning when he was in the primary race with many. He is more than we deserve but I for one am happy to have him lead the free world.

  3. 3 Thro67
    November 8, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    This is who he is. I would rather have this man, than the man everyone is calling for him to become (i.e. a bully who gets into the mud with the Republicans). What an amazing person.

    • 4 CTGirl
      November 8, 2010 at 10:10 pm

      I agree. Already you are hearing the “weak” memo being touted. “He is not a fighter” they are saying and Dan Rather came out with the “soft” label. Our president is a decent person and I think this is one reason why Mrs. Obama was not crazy about him entering politics. He is a special man and we are just not worthy.

    • 5 Kelly
      November 8, 2010 at 10:42 pm

      Absolutely, I 100% agree with this comment.

    • 6 Ruth
      November 8, 2010 at 11:45 pm

      I am so glad you said that because that is all I’ve heard from the media- How our President “Doesn’t Get it and He is Out OF Touch” Well I agree with you and I am sure President Obama sees the evil and cruel intentions of the Republicans. They want to bring him down, belittle him and discredit him. He has more manhood and honor in his little pinky than any of those bully Republicans will ever have and they know it.

  4. 7 graciouslady
    November 8, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    My goodness what a chilling and heartwarming story. President Obama seems to have always had a giving and kind spirit. I doubt if he even remembers this encounter without someone reminding him. When the giving is “sincere” you seldom remember how you helped someone that needed you. This was a perfect stranger and out the goodness of his heart he gave her his money in exchange for his address if she chose to repay him, and she did. This kindness encounter goes to the root of one’s character and a good upbringing: his mother. Our President does not seem to have the desire for stockpiling money. His money from the Nobel Peace Prize (2M I think) was all donated to Cancer Research and H.B.C.’s. He has a 3rd book coming out 11/10/11 (Amazon.com will have it.). It is a children’s book entitled, “A Letter to my Daughters” and it is dedicated to Malia and Sasha, his daughters. All proceeds are being donated to an educational scholarship fund for the children of our fallen troops. What an amazing man, and America is too blind to appreciate this gift we have been given. Sorry,I am a bookworm.

    • 8 Hachikō
      November 9, 2010 at 9:48 am

      Can you imagine Shrub or Screech Palin or McLame doing any of those selfless things, graciouslady? I can’t.

      • 9 geegee
        November 9, 2010 at 1:55 pm

        Hach, that’s why they are constantly trying to malign him. He is like a mirror held up to them to show their smallness and ugliness, and they can’t stand him for that very reason.

  5. 10 globalcitizenlinda
    November 9, 2010 at 12:03 am

    The true essence of a person is what he/she does when there no cameras or crowds watching and no hope for future repayment of a kind act. When I first read this account during the campaign, I was so happy because it confirmed to me what a kind and genuinely decent person President Obama is. we are really lucky to have the first couple in place and leading this world during a very trying time

  6. 11 Chi
    November 9, 2010 at 1:28 am

    I have always been and remain in awe of the man –

    Those who ask him to lower his standards to meet that of his multi-faceted group of detractors seem to forget that this man promised that he would do politics differently…

    They also forget that even though they dogged him with the same demands during the campaign, he refused to get dragged down in the mud, and still won-

    With each passing day, I marvel at this very superior man and his effortless determination to set a new example for what it means to be a leader in the truest sense of the word…

  7. November 9, 2010 at 4:25 am

    I just saw President Obama touch down in Indonesia on http://www.metrotvnews.com/index.php/metromain/streaming

    I can’t understand a word they are saying but at least the video feed is good.

    • 13 graciouslady
      November 9, 2010 at 8:39 am

      Hi Donna, I watched the link and I am not sure these people were very kind to the image of President Obama with a goat with a “monkey” caricature face tied to a goat’s head. Very demeaning of our President. The video shows a muddy boot stepping on a “Monkey” face of President Obama. We don’t usually see this sort of thing on this site. This outlandish behavior is what you generally see on one of those “Hate” sites. What do you think?

  8. 14 Sue in Minnesota
    November 9, 2010 at 7:47 am

    “You must be the change you want to see”, Ghandi. I have always felt that President Obama lives by this very profound wisdom. I believe that many of us recognize in President Obama the extraordinary strength, determination and focus it takes to embody such profound wisdom.
    Millions of Americans, inspired by his message of change, have yet to internalize the personal implications and responsibilities that true change asks of us. Younger voters failed to go to the voting booths this last election, allowing older Americans to play a bigger role in determining their future. The road block to progress (Republican gains) is hopefully temporary, and acts as a wake up call to those who failed to vote.

    • 15 eleroy
      November 9, 2010 at 10:51 pm

      You are right Sue!!! It seems that Americans don’t quite grasp that he IS leading by example and doing exactly what he said he would: Set a new and civilized tone in politics and government!!!

      When I hear people ask him to degenerate into exactly the slime we all claimed to abhor – I shake my head in confusion – WTF???

  9. 16 Ruth
    November 9, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    A kindergarten class taught me something in 2008 .I was helping out in a kindergarten classroom during the 2008 presidential election. When the children were told that Barack Obama had just made history by being our first African American President the kids looked confused and asked, “what does that mean?” , we said , “He is our first black President.” and a little girl said , “well, I like his big teeth and big ears” … all the kids giggled. They didn’t care about the color of his skin and just liked him because he smiles really big and has big ears ….Sometimes children can make more sense than us adults and they taught me something that day…There is more to President Obama than just being the First African American President…he is intelligent, he is giving, he has a kind spirit, he is a husband, a father, a brother and for us he is the Hope for our future as our President and we must rise above all the mud and ugly lies that the political right try and use to demean and disrespect him. Together we stand by him , together we will help move America forward, not by fear but by might.

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