It was December 26, the day after Christmas, in Copenhagen, where I, a San Diego resident, somewhat randomly decided to spend my holiday season. I arrived with a thirst for adventure and spent two incredible days exploring this beautiful city I would soon be leaving behind me to visit my parents in the south of Russia.
Viking Land welcomed me on Christmas eve with biting cold, a “lovely” Danish breeze blowing the glasses off my face, pouring rain and deserted streets. I don’t usually tend to trust my first impression, but on that particular evening, I had some forces working against me. I was trying to find my way around in the darkness and rain, my phone battery had died, and I had lost the address of the hostel I had booked… so the evening did leave a rather negative memory. Since Christmas in Denmark is celebrated on December 24, every store, restaurant and bar was closed (even buses stopped running later that day), and so it was probably not the best time and place to be for a tourist.
Eventually, I was able to re-charge my phone’s battery just enough to take a quick peek at the map and check the address and directions. As the evening progressed, things got a bit better. Even though my hostel room was a tiny dump with 4 people squatting inside, overall it was a fun place: a traditional Danish Christmas dinner gratis, lots of cheap beer, extremely friendly employees and an amazing community of travelers from around the world. My first impression of Danes and Denmark slowly got washed away by the light beers and interesting conversations…
By the end of my short 3-day stay in Copenhagen, my icy Southern California heart was melted by delicious glögg (mulled wine) I had on a “white” Christmas day, warm smiles and interesting stories of my Danish tour guides and strangers I met on the street and a beautiful ride across the Baltic to the Swedish town of Malmö with my new friend.
However, it was not until 3 hours before my flight that I experienced an act of incredible kindness and compassion I will never be able to forget.
My eyes well up with tears as I write this — it is impossible to contain the deep feelings of gratitude I still feel just thinking about the situation I am about to describe.
On Friday evening, December 26, I took a one-way DSB-provided train leaving at 8.40pm from København H (Copenhagen Central Station) to Københavns Lufthavne (Copenhagen Airport). While on the train, I took time to reflect on my trip which had turned out very well, I thought. However, missing out on sleep for several nights in a row, getting around the city on foot and a still lingering feeling of jet-lag from my trans-Atlantic flight had made me a tired adventurer and my mind was definitely not as sharp as it normally tends to be when I travel.
After the short train ride (about 20 min), I got off at the airport and started moving slowly towards Terminal 2 walking with my two luggage bags. I still had about two and a half hours before my flight, a fact I felt rather proud of given that I tend to always find myself running late.
It was then that I suddenly realized something was wrong. My steps felt too light; carrying my two bags was just way too comfortable.
Oh my God, my small backpack was not with me, the backpack containing my MacBook Pro, passports and a lot of cash…
This thought alone put me in a state of immediate despair. Trying not to freak out, I turned around and quickly ran back with my two large bags to the subway platform, hoping the train might still be there (as I heard the airport was its last stop).
While trying to locate the train’s track number, I got lost and my mind started racing. Upon finally running down the escalator, I realized the train was no longer there and I began to cry uncontrollably. I was freaking out, freaking out quite badly. My brain searched frantically for solutions while I raced towards the DSB train information booth.
Trying not to sob, I explained the situation, but unfortunately, the DSB employee was neither very understanding of my problem nor helpful. There was no way to get in touch with anyone on the train, which was now headed to Sweden, he said, and so my only alternative would be to go to the company’s website and submit a request to report my lost backpack. With my international flight leaving in a matter of hours, this did not seem to be a practical solution, so I remembered seeing another information booth earlier and I ran over there. Everyone was busy and while waiting for my turn, I began to cry in the middle of the airport thinking there was no way I’d be able to get to Russia and see my parents without a passport.
There was a bit of hope left in me though; somehow, deep down I simply could not believe that this would be it that I would be stuck in Copenhagen for days waiting for a new set of travel documents and changing passwords for every web service I’ve ever used. I suppose you could say I was still waiting for some miraculous way out of my predicament, a kind of post-Christmas day miracle.
Out of nowhere, an airport employee, a young man, approached me with a warm smile asking what had transpired. Still sobbing, I explained the situation and immediately felt engulfed in a wave of empathy. He took me to an information booth where another DSB representative called the company’s main office, but by then it was past 9pm on Boxing Day an so no one picked up the phone. It was at this point that I learned my backpack was going to travel all the way to Sweden and my only option, it seemed, would be to wait for a reply from the train company after submitting a request online to retrieve my bag. Until then, I would have to remain in Copenhagen.
She was a young, attractive girl, the train conductor, and she ran towards us screaming “What is your name?”
Before I could even finish pronouncing my name, she said, “Run quickly with me! We have your backpack. You left all your passports in it and lots of cash — don’t do this anymore!”
It was a cute comment to make in a truly bizarre moment, the moment I had hoped for, the miracle after Christmas I had that peculiar, lingering feeling about. As we made our way down the escalator, the conductor girl kept saying how lucky I was. As it turned out, the train driver had found my bag and sent her to the airport to search for me; he was convinced I would be there looking for the bag.
When we approached the train’s head car, the driver smiled at me with an incredibly warm smile, a smile I will never forget, and then proceeded to stretch out his arm through the driver’s window to personally hand me my backpack.
It was a moment when all-encompassing gratitude filled my heart, a rare moment when the kindness of other human beings, of total strangers in fact, touched my soul. Looking back, it was not the fact that I had got all my stuff back (though I was very happy about that also) but the remarkable, heart-warming compassion and humaneness of this Viking-looking Danish (or Swedish) man that mattered most.
It was an act so stunning and unexpected, it shook my belief system; a gesture that made me think again we humans, as a galactic civilization, have a great capacity to treat each other with loving kindness and honesty; an example of the connected awareness and ultimate power we should all tap into every day of our lives; an experience I wish to share with everyone until every heart on the planet is touched by my story.
Now this may sound cliche, but I have since made the decision to challenge myself, as I would like to challenge each and every one of you, to perform one kind act a day. It does not matter how big or small, randomly executed or pre-planned. Kindness, as everything, is a contagious energy that can be cultivated and grown, an invisible force, I believe, that can change the world, one kind act at a time.
As for my story, unfortunately, in my haste I was not able to get the names of the driver and the conductor girl who found me.
All I know is that it was a DSB-operated train that left Copenhagen Central Station on December 26, 2014 at 8.40pm going to the Copenhagen Airport and then on to Sweden. If this post ever reaches the two incredible souls I encountered that evening, I hope to express my deepest gratitude and appreciation for what they’ve done.
The events of December 26 inspired me to build a “kindness community”, a vehicle for recording and passing on kind acts, a place where kindness and compassion can become key forces for creating positive change in our world. I am not sure about all the ins and outs of it yet, however, so if you would like to help and have your own story to share — please, drop me a line, I would love to hear from you!
Katerina is a passionate start-up enthusiast and entrepreneur, women 2.0 instigator, technology lover, self-taught geek, avid book reader, world traveler, runner and wine aficianado fascinated by the sunsets. Thirsty to learn and make an impact.
Article was originally published here.