A Priceless Experience Of Spontaneous Group Kindness

by Randy Jones
(Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica)

This story actually took place in San Jose which, in a way, makes it even more special, since San Jose is a large city and not a small town community like Manuel Antonio, where I've lived the past nine years.

One day, I needed to get to the American Embassy, so to make sure the bus driver knew to stop there, I told him where I wanted to go as I boarded the bus. I was soon to find out how many Ticos on the bus had overheard me...

A number of blocks before the embassy, a gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and said in very broken English, "Your stop is coming up in a few more blocks".

A few moments later, the woman sitting behind me leaned forward and said, "We're almost at the embassy".

A few seconds later I heard a male voice somewhere behind me shout, "Almost at the American Embassy, Gringo".

Each block that brought us closer to my destination was the occasion for a new voice to join in the "Help the Gringo" moment. In all, around six Costa Rican passengers on that bus participated in the group effort to make sure I was properly alerted so as not to miss my stop.

Not wanting to spoil such a beautiful moment, I played the part of a VERY GRATEFUL TOURIST.

I assumed that THEY ALL probably assumed that I was a tourist in need of some assistance from my embassy while visiting their country. It seemed to be important to them, a source of pride, maybe, that I get a good dose of Costa Rican kindness during my stay.

Maybe they were just being Ticos--not missing an opportunity to assist their fellow man.

All I know and remember was the sense of guilt and shame I felt afterward. I realized that, up until that moment, I had let a few "bad apples" warp my view of this culture.

I'm so thankful for that experience. And not just because it mentally prepared me for the routine aggravation I was about to endure in a typical visit to the American Embassy in San Jose...

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