Sometimes friendliness catches a person off guard.

I have been doing a lot of traveling for work lately. Ever since the beginning of the year, it seems as though that each week I have been traveling to someplace different. Just this past week, I was in Esslingen, near Stuttgart for a day and then in Birmingham for the rest of the week. Needless to say, I was not in the best of moods on arrival.

I was visiting what has to be my favorite client, but I couldn’t help but feel worn down and nearly resentful for being there. Not that it was the client’s fault, but I was just physically exhausted and longed to be home again. As much as I tried, my demeanor must have betrayed me because they mentioned how fatigued I appeared to be.

Despite this, the first day went really well, albeit a bit taxing. During a break that first day, they asked me if I had any big plans for the weekend. To which I replied that I was hoping to do some (or a lot of) cooking to relax. I explained that Elise and I enjoy cooking together and that it would be nice to spend some quality time in the kitchen together and forget about my peripatetic lifestyle for one weekend.

After returning from lunch the next day, before resuming the afternoon session, Wendy, on behalf of the whole team, presented me with a token of their gratitude. It was a cookbook written by the organization’s head (and Michelin-starred) chef. I was quite taken aback. I had been so lost in my self-pity that such a thoughtful and insightful gift came as quite a shock. It took me a few seconds to express my gratitude.

I am married, so it goes without saying that I have someone in my life who continually does thoughtful things for me. And I know it sounds bad, but bear with me as I try to explain: whenever Elise does something thoughtful for me, it is not that I take it for granted or am not appreciative, but it does not shock me. I am quite grateful that I have a wife who does take such excellent care of me. Therefore, being at a client’s site feeling borderline lugubrious, and having such a thoughtful gift given to me out of the blue had tremendous impact on me.

It shook me up a bit and reminded me to stop self-indulgently dwelling on my perceived raw deal in life and realize that I don’t have it all that bad. I would not consider Wendy and the team strangers (far from it), but the old phrase “kindness of strangers” seems suiting here. Because sometimes it is the kindness of strangers that reminds one how fortunate one really is.

Maybe I will be able to make it all the way to vacation in the spring after all.

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