“Experiencing Random Kindness in Taipei” by John Liu – Taipei – March 2021

An ordinary but beautiful thing happened this morning and I would like to share it with you. Shirley had a medical appointment to get test reports on her unexpected high blood pressure situation. I had an appointment to check up on an abdomen pain that may or may not be related to the prostate surgery I had last November. Both of us were a little weary as we walked into the day clinic of the largest hospital in Taipei.

It was like a day at the market, people everywhere though everyone did obediently have masks on. As some of you might know, Taiwan’s universal single-payer health insurance is so good and so efficient that most people, especially older folks, consider going to the hospital as a day at the department store. Next-day appointments are easily arranged on-line, most treatments and medicines are free of charge, and medicines are picked up immediately after you are seen by the doctor. I watched as an old man picked up his medicines, 17 different prescriptions, gleefully saying to a family member, “Now we can go home and share all these!” “Well, it’s all free.” Imagine all this rampant medical consumerism! Besides, there are many gourmet restaurants and vendor type food stalls right in the hospital which people visit regularly after their medical appointments. Occasionally you might even see in-patients in their hospital pajamas, having a grand time in the restaurants, and then get back on their wheelchairs returning to their hospital beds. This is the everyday hospital scene here.

I was behind her on an escalator ramp (not stairs), going up to the second floor. This morning it was chilly and I had a knit yarn hat on. As I was taking it off, it caught my eye glasses and they fell over the edge of the escalator ramp onto the floor below. The ramp was moving and I turned back to look. A person behind me said she did see the glasses fall. Shirley had gone on ahead unaware of what had happened. When I got up to the top of the ramp, I quickly came around and back down to the first floor to look for the glasses. There is a row of chairs with people seated waiting for their turn at a registration counter. I began looking all around causing a slight commotion. A few people got up and looked around for me. Well, you guessed it, no glasses on the floor below the escalator ramp!

I went up the ramp four or five times, each time reenacting the location and how the glasses fell off, and where they could possibly have landed. Each time I would try to think of alternative scenarios of what might have happened to the glasses. Could someone have picked them up before I got down and turned them to the service counter? I asked at all the nearby service counters. There was no sign of my glasses. Perplexed, I went to see about Shirley. She had just gotten out of the first appointment and was going to the second one to see test results. I told her what had happened to me and that I had missed my own appointment. (By now, preoccupied by the weird occurrence, my pain had cured itself.) I walk her over to get the test results and told her that I would go check at the main building information desk to see if someone had turned the glasses in to them. Then I would come back and meet her at the counter to pick up her medicine. Well, there were many glasses at the main information desk, but mine were not there. I left my name and contact hoping eventually someone might turn the glasses in.

Back at the medicine counter I waited for Shirley and finally she showed up, dejected over the test results which showed she is high on blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride. Both of us had sad faces and didn’t know what to say to each other. After a bit of consoling each other, we went back to the escalator ramp and checked one more time. By now it’s almost two hours since I lost my glasses. We scrutinized every possible corner again to see if we had missed seeing something. Finally I gave up and began to think of when and where to get a new pair of glasses. Shirley said, “let’s go up the ramp again.” I had given up but followed her up. She was looking all around and a young woman became curious.

This young woman, apparently going to her own appointment, after hearing our predicament, decided to help us look. She was very methodical, checked the details of my story, looked at my hat, and began to go up the ramp and down the stairs to look, even using her cell phone light to check the dark places. She also went to the service counter to see if anyone had turned in the glasses. By now Shirley and I were overtaken by this enthusiastic young person willing to take the time to help us. She was cheerful, matter of fact, none of the “feeling sorry” kind of language.

Meeting this person was like a breath of fresh air and we began to feel brightness and positivity, rather than bad luck and remorse over our situation. She spent a good twenty minutes helping to look, but then she also could not find the glasses. So we thanked her for her help not wanting to delay her appointment any further and she went on her way up the escalator ramp. We felt good meeting her even if the glasses were lost. She had turned our spirits around and made our day.

This is not the end of the story.

As we were about to leave, I saw her hurrying coming back down the stairs. She told us to wait for another moment because she wanted to check one more place. After a few minutes she came back around the other side of the escalators with a pair of glasses and a big smile. We were so surprised and couldn’t wait to find out how she found them. “Well, there is a staircase in the back of the escalators that goes down to the basement. I checked there and found them down below. Now I really have to go. Bye.” This whole episode had by now delayed her at least 30 minutes.

We did not have time to ask her name, to take a picture with her, and to thank her. So here it is, an ordinary day in Taipei, a freak accident of losing my glasses, a chance meeting of a stranger, and a totally random act of kindness that retrieved the glasses. As recipients of this kindness, its uplifting power reverberated for the rest of the day, and continues to be with us. For the young woman, being kind and helpful not only to those that you know, but also to anyone you come in contact with, seems as natural as breathing. With the lightness of her disappearance into the crowd, we could sense that she felt good, even late for her appointment.