Vienna, red shoes, and medicine.  What could possibly be the connection?  I'm glad you asked.  The answer is, one small act of kindness.  I was at the airport, on my way to Paris.  A couple at the check-in line struck up a conversation with me.  They were on their way to Vienna and Malta.  I told them I always wanted to go to Vienna.  They had been married there, and shared a wedding photo.  I shared with them my experiences in Malta.  We parted ways at the security line, but ran into each other again on the way to our gates.  The husband had just converted dollars into euros, and I began to lament the low value of the dollar.   I told them I had decided not to convert any money into euros until I arrived in Paris and could obtain a better rate.  Immediately, he opened his wallet and offered me 20 euros.  Stunned, then overwhelmed with emotion, I politely refused explaining that I was just being cheap.  I told them it wasn't that I didn't have money, but that I didn't want to lose money on the conversion.  The husband said they weren't concerned about any of that--to take the money.  Then my pride kicked in (because I couldn't see that this wasn't about me!), and I insisted that I didn't need the money.  Undeterred, the husband put the money in my hand.  I finally gave in, saying that I would pay it forward.  He said, "that's up to you.  Just take the money."  We decided to have lunch together, and then we parted ways promising to keep in touch.

As we were disembarking the plane in Paris, I admired the red shoes of a woman standing in front of me.  She was going to visit her daughter and some friends.  She asked how I was getting into the city.  At the time, there were strikes and her daughter had sent a message saying the metro might not be running.  I said I was taking a shuttle into the city.  After asking if I thought the shuttle might take her without a reservation, she asked if they took credit cards because she did not have euros.  In that moment, the act of the couple giving me the 20 euros hit me like a brick.  Why?  Because the shuttle cost 20 euros.  I told the woman that if the shuttle would take her, she didn't need euros.  I told her the story about the couple, and that the money hadn't been for me so I was paying it forward to her.  She had the same reaction I had when the couple offered me the money.  First she was stunned, and then emotionally overwhelmed.  She thanked me, but refused the money and set off to find an ATM.  Fortunately, she was able to catch the shuttle into the city.  Through additional conversation I found out she lives where one of my friends is planning to move.  She agreed to help him do some networking.

While riding the shuttle, we met a young doctor who was in Paris for a medical conference.  It was her first time in the city, and she was all alone.  I offered to show her a few places and made some suggestions on other things to do.  At dinner, she expressed her gratitude that I would do this for a total stranger, and I told her the story of the couple at the airport.  It moved her in the same way it moved me and the woman with the red shoes.

I absolutely love to give, so I understand the pleasure it must have given the couple to give me the 20 euros.  Just attempting to pass on the kindness they extended to me brought me immense pleasure.  And then it came right back to me.  I was renting a short-term apartment during my stay in Paris.  When I met with the landlord to pay the rent and security deposit, she would not accept the full security deposit.  When I asked why, she said that once she met me, she just didn't want to.

I learned so much from these experiences but one of the most important things was to never underestimate the power and reach of one small act of kindness--it could connect lives, make someone's day, and/or change a life.