The Kindness of Strangers

A few days ago My husband had to work late and the baby guy and I didn't feel like cooking dinner. Nothing says "night on the town" like walking to KFC with your 6 month old for some piping hot chicken-like products. While we were ordering (yes, spicy) the manager pulled out a little plastic container of something white and handed it to me.

"For the baby" he smiled. It looked a bit like milky rice pudding. Then he rustled around until he found an orange Marinda soda under the counter. "For when he grows up" he said, thrusting it at me with a pumpkin grin.

Halfway through the meal, after a handful of people had stopped to kiss baby guy on the noggin, the manager came back over and brought us an extra piece of chicken. Instead of explaining that my baby has no teeth (and also that he doesn't generally eat food given to him by strangers with their bare hands directly after a smoke break) I discreetly added it to the things at the bottom of my bag I was grateful for but would not be eating.

This baby is a big deal around here.

There are at least six people, and often times more, that little "Master Felix" pays homage to every time we walk the neighborhood. I'm not sure if they are actually calling him "Master" or "Mister" but either way, he is King of the block. The boab with a shock of white hair gets the best grins out of Fix and he will often take him by the hand and kiss his chubby knuckles. The man who sits in front of the optometry clinic, who once offered the dog his fried chicken, is a bit more wary of the baby, but still gives a nod of respect. Walking one length of our block takes about ten minutes, as we ping back and forth across the street to greet the regulars.   

And these are just some of the many kindnesses I've noted in my journal over the last few months.

Last week I took baby guy to the fruit and vegetable souk and en route an Egyptian woman caught my eye and asked about the baby. We walked a few blocks in step while I tried to ask her basic, very basic, questions in Arabic. Sharboot said to me as we parted "Your Arabic will come, Shwayuh Shwayuh. Inshalla." Little by Little. If God wills it. And then she welcomed me to the souk.

A large woman with filthy fingernails at the market wrapped an extra bushel of mint in an already bulging bouquet as I fished in my pocket for money.

I found a lovely local bookshop this week with English titles and they basically let me treat it as a reading library. Without access to a local library this has rocked my world.

I sometimes stress that I've gotten every parenting thing wrong, every expat thing wrong, every modern feminist thing wrong. But these small kindnesses remind me to be as generous to myself and others as people have been to me.     


  1. So beautiful...be generous to yourself...I know it's hard but wow...there is so much love around you!

  2. I love your posts about having a baby in Egypt, because they remind me so much of newborn Clara in Casablanca. We had an entire box of lollipops that the corner store gave her over the years starting when she was 12 weeks old until we left when she was two and still didn't eat lollipops.