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  • Often in my life a stranger has, out of the blue, given me something of great value that I had not asked them for, but turned out to be exactly what I needed, not just in the physical thing given, but for the feelings the gifts conveyed.

    One time, I'd gotten the last train home but misreading the platform monitor and then sticking my nose in a book for the journey, I had taken a wrong train. I had not noticed until arrival that I was stranded in another town with no money for even a phone call and no way to get home. I was horrified.

    A man saw me hesitate not far from the phone box, not knowing what to do as I had no money at all and he immediately emptied his pockets, and gave me a couple of handfuls of coins with an apology that it was all the money he had. It was not enough for me to get a cab home but plenty change for the phone maybe even some buses. I was so relieved. He wouldn't hear of me not taking all of it and wouldn't let me offer to send the amount back to him. He'd known by my look I was in a situation that he'd been in sometimes himself, he said, and didn't want to see me stranded with nothing, or to feel obligated. Such unselfish kindness, unasked, touched me more than anything anyone had done for me before in my entire life. I was seventeen.

    An earlier time I'd sneaked out with a friend to go to a nightclub when I was underage, just fifteen. I'd gotten separated from her and was very, very drunk when the club closed. My friend had all our money and belongings and I couldn't find her. Some girls took me home to sleep on their couch and gave me bus fare home the next day. I was too young and careless to be truly appreciative of the situation they got me out of, wondering around Soho, drunk and alone at that time of the night would not have been wise, but I have never forgotten those girls or stopped wishing the universe would send them good things. I never forgot how nice it was to slip under a clean duvet on that comfey sofa and feel looked after when I was lost and alone.

    And then there is Cowbird. Jonathan, Annie and Dave have given me something here that truly exceeds my words but I will never forget the giving of it or the gift of having ever since. The hands of these strangers are the hands of friends and what they give was given as freely as the man at the telephone box gave, but unlike him, or the girls at the club, or other kindnesses I've experienced, these people have come to feel more like friends. To gather here beside one another to share little bits of ourselves, unquantifiably precious moments of our lives and thoughts, is a privilege. It's an unasked for gift that doesn't stop giving.

    None of these gifts are ones I can ever repay. Only humbly value the immense grace of the giving and make full and happy use of the endowments life places in my hands.
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