Wisdom//

A Girl With an Umbrella Changed My Life

How a five-minute encounter with a kind stranger on a hot sunny day changed how I saw my role in the world.

Jennifer A Smith/ Getty Images
Jennifer A Smith/ Getty Images

We were in Goa. It was one of those trips where new parents try to do it all with a baby in tow. We were no different. My husband and I took off on a family trip to Goa — our first, with our 8-month-old baby girl.

I was that mom who had read countless blogs on how to travel with a child, and had armored myself with baby gear, countless bottles, and baby food options. And there we were at Fort Aguada, on a bright, sunny, and crowded day.

The temperatures were soaring. It was late November, and we were surprised at how sunny it could get. However, with all the zest of new parenthood, we decided to quickly perch ourselves on one of those broad fortress walls you can walk on. We would take a series of cute baby pictures, and then get on our way back to the car. It was really hot, and we did not want to expose the baby too much to the sun. She was sleepy now, and I covered her with my black stole.

As we painstakingly walked back to the car, which was still a good 500 meters away, I suddenly found an umbrella over me and the baby. I turned around to find a tall 20-something girl, in jeans and a shirt, with the kindest smile, looking right at me. She asked me to keep walking under the umbrella and put my stole away as it might make the baby uncomfortable. The woman’s name was Dimple. She was from Chennai. She walked with us until we reached our car, and then bid us goodbye. It seems like nothing as I write about this event, but that five-minute walk changed the way I interact with the rest of the world.

She did not know me, and there was no chance of her meeting me ever again. She was not even a mom. Yet all she wanted to do was protect my baby from the fiery sun. I wondered why she cared so much. I asked myself if I would ever think so kindly about a stranger, and then act upon those thoughts. Of course, I would not want to see a baby being discomforted in any way, but would I really snap out of my own existence and act upon a kind thought, just because? Usually, as a quiet and introverted person, I never break out of my shell and act upon my thoughts, because I never think of the profound impact it may have on others.

And sometimes, I may be just lazy.

I would probably think, “Why should I put my umbrella over a stranger while I carried it all the way to the top of the fort, while this stranger with a baby was absent-minded enough to not even consider that she might need one?”

But Dimple taught me that kind thoughts can turn into meaningful actions. She preferred a few minutes exposed to the sun while a stranger and her baby found respite from the scorching heat. That meant more to her than her own comfort. It was nothing for her probably, but it filled my heart with gratitude.

I decided to pass on that sense of gratitude wherever I go. To date, every time I see someone looking for some help that I have easy access to, I oblige, whether or not they are a stranger to me. Dimple’s random act of kindness, changed how I perceived my role in the world.

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