Flashback: The Kindness of a Stranger

(Harvard, c 1988)

Source – Extracts: 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.

….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


Mary watching Barack Obama’s first inauguration


It’s Sunday, so I thought I’d dust down this gem.

86 Responses to “Flashback: The Kindness of a Stranger”

  1. 1 MightyPamela
    May 18, 2014 at 1:36 pm


  2. 5 Nena20409
    May 18, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    Congrats MightyPamela for your Au. It says leave a message, yet I see your Golden Medal shinning already.

    Good Afternoon Fellow TODable TODers.

    Happy Sunday.

    Love that story. Thanks Chips. I never get tired reading about this story.

  3. 6 anniebella
    May 18, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    That was real nice of the Nazi socialists Black Muslim birther, who is not a christian.

  4. 8 vcprezofan2
    May 18, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    Ooooo! I see Chips has been rifling through my flashback/vintage folder. You go, girl; reminders of our president’s character are always welcome!

  5. May 18, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    The right wing sees this as weakness. “He’s a sucker, giving money to a stranger.” It is, in fact, the ultimate strength, giving of yourself with no expectation of reward or remuneration. It’s people like Obama that we need leading in the 21st century, in a world where one false step can send us hurtling into a Dark Age.

    • May 18, 2014 at 1:54 pm

      Oh damn it LL, I lurve ya, you find the words for every occasion.

      • May 18, 2014 at 2:09 pm

        Lurve you back,

        Just finished reading “1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed”, about the Late Bronze Age collapse, where civilizations which had lasted for hundreds of years disintegrated due to a number of factors. It has some bearing on our own similarly interconnected, globalized world, where collapse in one part of the world can lead to a general catastrophe. LBA leaders didn’t have the communications and predictive tools that we do. But because we do, we need leaders who can see beyond the next election, who can see the world in 10 or 20 years time, or even longer. That’s what we have in PBO, and he needs to be cloned, because this world we take for granted can easily go pear-shaped.

    • 12 derbingleguy
      May 18, 2014 at 2:24 pm

      Not just the right wing.

    • 14 Vicki
      May 18, 2014 at 2:46 pm

      You couldn’t be more right or have said it any better, LL

  6. 15 vcprezofan2
    May 18, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    Congrats on your grand entry, Ms MP. I’m reading a long online article so I keep switching back and forth. Almost done now, I hope.

  7. 16 Nena20409
    May 18, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    Pres Obama said:

    Don’t be hoodwinked.

    So why is it that The Clinton Body-Politics is on just about every other page?

    I am pledging Not to engage in this Politicking of 2016 any longer. 5 months to November 2014. There is plenty of time for distractions. Let Us us please not play the Rove, Media and TBGOPers Games.

    • 17 derbingleguy
      May 18, 2014 at 2:25 pm

      Because the media is playing their usual games.

      • 18 anniebella
        May 18, 2014 at 3:27 pm

        Whenever I see the media talking about Hillary running, I turn the channel. I don’t mind telling you that I am sick of it already.

        • 19 SUE DUVALL SMITH
          May 18, 2014 at 10:16 pm


    • 20 MightyPamela
      May 18, 2014 at 2:31 pm

      I’m with you, Nena.

  8. May 18, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    • 22 derbingleguy
      May 18, 2014 at 2:28 pm

      Hillary should be. I think Bill Clinton is. I know he’s scheduled to do some campaigning for other Dems not named Grimes.

  9. 24 Nena20409
    May 18, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Please someone help me out here. If the NYT was paying Ms Abrahamson less than the male counterpart before her……how come she didn’t know that since top pay for such people are generally known?

    2ndly, the NYT has had fewer subscribers, has been not as financially stable as can be and has downsized over the years due to loss of and in ad revenue. So it begs to argue that her salary would be lower even though she was making over $700K.

    Last but not least, Didn’t NYT struggle with monetizing their Digit Content? So where does that apply if she failed to make money for the Paper.

    On Full Disclosure, I stopped my subscription from the NYT many years ago. I just have questions that I have not seen, read or heard explained fully.

    • May 18, 2014 at 2:25 pm

      Please someone help me out here. If the NYT was paying Ms Abrahamson less than the male counterpart before her……how come she didn’t know that since top pay for such people are generally known


      I argued all morning the other day at another blog about this.

      I simply didn’t believe this part of her story.

      The rarefied air she runs in…she didn’t know?

      I don’t buy it.

      • 26 57andfemale
        May 18, 2014 at 2:50 pm

        Some ‘journalist’.

        I remember a line from the wonderful Ron Howard movie, The Paper. The editor (played by Michael Keaton) is pissed that everyone knows he’s interviewing for another job. “It’s a newsroom, Henry,” said his assistant, played by the wonderful Lynne Thigpen.

        The notion that the editor of the NYT didn’t know the salaries of her predecessors either doesn’t pass the smell test or makes her the worst. journalist. ever.

  10. 27 Nena20409
    May 18, 2014 at 2:11 pm



    (CNN) — They may be the biggest boys on any block — any block, ever.
    In fact, the dinosaurs unveiled Saturday by Argentina’s Museo Paleontologico Egidio Feruglio may be the largest to grace the Earth. At about 130 feet (40 meters) long and 180,000 pounds (80,000 kilograms), it’s no wonder, then, that these colossal creatures are dubbed titanosaurs — titan being a nod to the giants of ancient Greek mythology.
    “It’s like two trucks with a trailer each, one in front of the other, and the weight of 14 elephants together,” said Jose Luis Carballido, a dinosaur specialist at the Argentinian museum who played a big part in the discovery.

  11. 28 carla4obama
    May 18, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    The kindness of a stranger speaks about the character of a person. This is a good man, he knows who is is. So does his wife. A quote I keep on my desk from FLOTUS—” One of the lessons that I grew up with was to always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals. And so when I hear about negative and false attacks, I really don’t invest any energy in them, because I know who I am.” Truth.

  12. 29 MightyPamela
    May 18, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    TY everyone, have been working on cleaning up inbox lately, quite a fluke to post gold. This story always brings tears to my eye and a lump in my throat, but my Heart swells up with love and admiration for The Man! Back now after finishing up R&S (yes, I know, slowcoach), find the ongoing focus and intent on the b/hill sh*t just too draining to read through. I am so sure it’s a non-event-to-happen, I cannot even bring myself to remark on it, have no investment or attachment to ‘them’. Busy for a while today, many blessings and big hugs all around. PBO lives each moment, of each and every day, with his Heart and Mind open and fully synchronized. It has taken a great effort on his part, his entire life, to become so caring, compassionate and determined as an adult, to help as many people as possible, while possible. Truly, he has done incredibly remarkable things, has made enormous steps forward. Just as he as always said he would. God Bless Him. Let us stand and walk with him, and strive to reach so high with our concentration. This is what he has asked us to do. Try to avoid the distractions.

    • 30 desertflower
      May 18, 2014 at 3:53 pm

      Every single bit of this. Good Sunday to you, MP:)

    • May 18, 2014 at 4:59 pm

      Absolutely MP. I have posted a PBO candle on this site since I first learned of him and the site back in 2007. There are more of us than there are haters, so don’t let it get you down. We know our President is one in a million and I know he is blessed by God. Blessings my friend.

  13. 34 MightyPamela
    May 18, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    I am reaching a point again, where the comments on this candle page are so hate-filled, vile and ugly, I may delete the link altogether. If I am providing an outlet for the Darkness to emerge, I would sooner not do this. I feel sickened reading some of the messges, have reported it to the Gratefulness group, waiting for response. I must go.

    • 35 57andfemale
      May 18, 2014 at 2:51 pm

      That is despicable.

    • 36 sjterrid
      May 18, 2014 at 3:08 pm

      That is vile that anybody would make any negative thoughts on this site that is about gratefulness, prayer, & light. Please don’t delete the link. It says more about how evil these people are. I’ll light another candle.

    • 37 MightyPamela
      May 18, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      It appears they use some tod user names or initials, so seem real. My intuition tells me it is likely trolling lurkers, blocked by Chipsticks and NW, but they can still click on links, and go in there to spread their low soul vibration of hate and ugly.

    • 38 99ts
      May 18, 2014 at 3:52 pm

      That is new MP – in all the times I’ve been there – never have I seen such – probably one person – I shall help flood them out

      • 39 MightyPamela
        May 18, 2014 at 4:01 pm

        Yes, please, 99ts, and thank you to 57 and sjterrid, I feel better already. We shall overcome!

        • 40 99ts
          May 18, 2014 at 4:05 pm

          I knew there was going to be a good reason why I am up at 5am – there are some folks who just want to spit on themselves – but in this case – I think it is very few. They are defined by their hatred.

          • 41 MightyPamela
            May 18, 2014 at 4:16 pm

            Sounds as if there was a fair bit of Abbott butt-kicking in your fair land yesterday! Amen, don’t stir the possum and it won’t bite ya’, eh? Methinks the poss has been stirred, when the Aussies rise up, they will be fierce! Huzzah!!

            • 42 99ts
              May 18, 2014 at 4:20 pm

              No publicity before the event – first I knew of it was from amk. Those who voted for Abbott got what they deserved. Those of us who didn’t – knew well what was/is coming. He might be the 1st 1 termer in a long time (I can dream).

              • 43 MightyPamela
                May 18, 2014 at 4:27 pm

                I had heard of it on FB, so there was some social media activity. When I visited last in 2011, my old friends could see what was coming, filled me in on all the harm which would be done, especially to women, children and the elderly. The bullies always pick on the weak and defenseless, it seems.

        • 44 sjterrid
          May 18, 2014 at 4:37 pm

          Your quite welcome!

    • 45 Dudette
      May 18, 2014 at 4:42 pm

      These are some really sick bastards. What kind of person leaves that type of message with a prayer candle?

      • 46 MightyPamela
        May 18, 2014 at 4:52 pm

        Paid trolls, I guess.

        • 47 MightyPamela
          May 18, 2014 at 4:58 pm

          I suppose, however, they are caught in their own trap – whenever they light a candle, despite the vile and vicious rhetoric, essentially they are putting Light all around PBO!! If they could close the candles, they probably would. In effect, they add to the light while encasing themselves in their own downward spiral of hatred. All that remains is the Light. If they are reading this, may they grasp their own foolish
          and cheap gimmicks.

  14. 48 jacquelineoboomer
    May 18, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    I loved this story when we first heard it, and I love it now. Thanks for posting some of the precious memories, Chips!

  15. 50 jacquelineoboomer
    May 18, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    LL – Thanks again for the Bee Gees “revival” last night … for anybody interested, Barry Gibb will be spotlighted on CBS Sunday Morning on May 25, and apparently was in Boston doing a concert a week ago. Talk about a flashback!

    If you’ve still got it, flaunt it!

  16. May 18, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Feedback on FLOTUS’ speech in Kansas… 🙂

    • 53 pkayden
      May 18, 2014 at 4:10 pm

      I’m glad to see that she spoke. I thought she had withdrawn after some students protested.

      • 54 anniebella
        May 18, 2014 at 4:53 pm

        pkayden, yes indeed FLOTUS spoke and when she was introduce she got a wonderful welcome, and she gave a great speech. I listen to every word.

  17. 55 Alycee (@jazziz2)
    May 18, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    What a wonderful thread to greet me as I take a break. This story touches me each time I read it. Thank you for sharing again.

    Status update on my closet clean-out: All closets completed, still have a few bins and baskets to weed. 35 bags of clothes (some with price tags still fluttering) loaded in my car for delivery to the Goodwill tomorrow. Gave a few items to my Mom, and have set aside a few things for my cousin. Once I’m finished with the clothing, I’m going to tackle the linens; I have an abundance of those also. Will fill the linen closet with my favorites, then donate the rest.

    I am truly embarrassed to have so much stuff. My great uncle, “Grand-pop” Drew, always said “if it’s on your ass, it ain’t an asset.” While I have quoted him often, and thought I was living it (shopping sales & thrift stores), it is obvious that I was only paying lip service. I will do better…

  18. 57 Don
    May 18, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    That’s a great story about President Obama, I was born and raised in Miami. Just think, in 1988 while Barack Obama was helping a complete stranger move halfway around the world, my friends and I were probably somewhere in Miami acting like complete idiots.

  19. 58 canadabarb4obama
    May 18, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    The lady in the story living in Norway, happens to be best friends with my good friend’s sister. We’ve been to the exact area pictured in Norway where they both live.

  20. 74 hopefruit2
    May 18, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    This story simply reinforces our notion that this man is bigger than the US Presidency. Even before he ran for President he was already leaving his mark on the world. And he’ll go on to do even bigger things after he breaks free from the constraints of the WH in 2017….I look forward to this journey with him!!

  21. 78 Alycee (@jazziz2)
    May 18, 2014 at 3:59 pm

  22. 80 Alycee (@jazziz2)
    May 18, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    If you need uplifting, click the link to view/hear a family singing The Lord’s Prayer. They are KILLING IT! Harmony is Tight! Wish I knew how to download Facebook video’s

  23. 82 Bill R.
    May 18, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    Love the 1988 story! But not at all surprised. Barack Obama has a heart overflowing with loving kindness. That is why he touches and encourages so many people around the world.

  24. 85 Nena20409
    May 18, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    It all boils down to what Mrs Michelle Obama said on 60 Minutes in Nov or Dec 2008.

    That her husband is STEADY.

    I say, Rock Steady.

  25. May 19, 2014 at 5:21 am

    That was a beautiful story, I’ve never heard it before (Which is strange, because I’m Norwegian). What a beautiful kindhearted man he is.

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