by Melodee G.
In June 2010, I flew from Chicago to Barcelona, Spain, with 10 classmates, excited at the opportunity to study abroad.
On our second day in Barcelona, we headed out to see the sights. We hadn’t had a chance to stop by any banks to take out cash, but we had our bank cards, which, to our American way of thinking, would naturally be accepted anywhere. Our teacher led our little rag-tag group through the subway and to La Sagrada Familia, a church which has been under construction for over 100 years.
She let each of us decide whether we wanted to pay for entrance to the church or return to the hotel after our long day traveling about the city. Many headed for the subway and returned to the hotel. Two of my friends and I wandered about the plaza, but soon the other two decided they wanted to return to the hotel also. I was confident in my abilities and had a subway ticket, so I felt comfortable without them; I got in line to enter the church.
When I reached the window, they asked for the 10-euro admission price. I confidently handed over my bank card, which they denied, asking for cash only. I was aghast. I only had three euros on hand, and my entire group had left. I went across the street to a small courtyard with a food and wine truck, and tables set out. We were leaving the next day to fly to Madrid, and I wasn’t going to get this opportunity again.
Listening to the conversations around me, I overheard English being spoken. It took about ten minutes to marshal my courage, but I rushed up to the table and explained my dilemma: American student, no cash, priceless landmark, no other opportunity to see it. One smiling woman handed me a 20-euro bill. “Go buy me a glass of wine, and you can keep the change,” she offered. I did so without delay, grateful that I wouldn’t miss this fantastic opportunity. Perhaps seven euro didn’t mean a lot to her, but it meant a lot to me, and she offered it in such a friendly way that I didn’t feel like a beggar.
I wish I had gotten her contact information to pay her back later, or at least send thanks. That simple act of kindness remains in my memory as one of the nicest things a stranger has ever done for me.