This happened one summer on Cape Cod while I worked at a series of awful, low-wage jobs with my girlfriends: waitressing, pressing t-shirt emblems at a tourist shack on Route 6, and cleaning toilets at a sketchy hotel. It was a sour economy and I barely made enough money to pay rent or finish payments for a college semester in Kenya – my anticipated great escape from a life which seemed nothing but struggle.
The groceries were a blessing.
“There goes Mr. Q again!” I quipped when my friends gave me suspicious looks. Mr. Q would leave a brief note. Sometimes, there was some cash. He never knocked or stayed to say hello. I may have met him in person all but twice.
Mr. Q had been an acquaintance of my mother’s during the glamourous early 60s in New York City. She was a stewardess among other European gals arriving to give the American Dream a go. I guessed that Mr. Q had a crush on her that eventually became a long distance admiration. He’s dead now so I can’t ask him. My beautiful mother will deny any past romantic interests, so she’s no help on this matter. I never knew about Mr. Q until my first semester at college when a check for $50 arrived with a note: “For books ~ Mr. Q”.
The groceries appeared after I graduated and worked in more low-wage jobs in Boston. This time the goods were left outside of a depressing room I rented just shy of the landing strips at Logan airport. The trend continued when I could afford a “real” apartment with a friend in the North End overlooking the old Boston expressway. Ida, an Italian grandmother perched at the second floor window, kept watch over our comings and goings – and she took in my infrequent mail, including the occasional package from Mr. Q.
I can’t imagine my daughters launching into adult life as I did or even as my German mother did crossing the Atlantic on an ocean liner all by herself. I, too, had an early job at an airport and it was hardly glamorous. My first and last assignment as a marketing assistant was digging up information about the Cape Cod canals for a transportation speech to be given by the executive director. (That meant spending days in Boston Public Library’s card catalog room.)
For whatever reason, Mr. Q seemed to think that writing might be a good career for me. Mr. Q, it turned out, happened to be the owner of a small newspaper in a Boston neighborhood. When he learned I was taking a trip up to Montreal for a reason I can no longer remember, he called and suggested I write a travel story for the paper. I felt obligated. After all Mr. Q was a benefactor of sorts and I did not want to disappoint him. I scrabbled something together on the bus ride home and typed it up at work. I had assumed an editor would do some magic.
An endlessly long and uninteresting article appeared. I only knew this because Mr. Q clipped it and sent it in the mail. Looking back, I’m thankful the Internet didn’t exist. It was terribly written. But he was terribly kind.
I’m not sure why Mr. Q popped in my mind these last few days. I haven’t thought of him in ages. Then it occurred to me; I’m a writing a book. A first book. Somehow he knows this. He planted the seed that took a long time to germinate. That my book is about kindness is even more fitting. I’ve been scanning my past – a sort of “kindsight” of the lessons I was meant to learn to grow my soul. In those lonely years of starting out, I simply wanted encouragement from the people I loved the most. For whatever reason they couldn’t provide it and I don’t fault them for it. Yet, the odd Mr. Q gave a damn.
Mr. Q. Untouchable. Mysterious. Benevolent. Timely. Just like an angel.
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If you have a story about kindness, as a giver, receiver or witness of a gesture or act of generosity, love or compassion, please do share. I’m collecting contributions for The Kindness Cure.
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