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Kindness, down under

My cousin and I have been visiting family in Australia. I've discovered this country is full of things I love. Family first, of course, in their brand new Melbourne home. But then, spectacular beaches and sunsets and beautiful harbors; a striking downtown straddling the gorgeous Yarra River, teeming with vibrant life on both the south and north banks as well as in the river itself; interesting architecture and old bridges; a hilly wine country out of the city with thousands of rows of grape vines and some top notch vintages. I'm as enamored of the language as anything. Of course an Australian accent is seductive to begun with as any Keith Urban fan will attest. And since we are immersed in family life, we can eavesdrop the daily conversations. Aussies will ring their neighbor, message a friend, and organize the rubbish bin pickup. They will grab your details to arrange a pickup and discuss when we might arrive at the football oval. They will post your mail and receive it in their letter box. Shoppers will put their groceries in trolleys and their drinks in a stubbie holder. But the real kick is when you experience the simple personal interactions as with the taxi driver who smilingly directs two puzzled Americans, exploring on foot on our own, to a spot we want to find at the end of the day; the nice man we stop on the corner who smilingly points when we ask is downtown this way or that way?!; or the middle aged lady on the tram who offers us her seat and then lets us pepper her with questions until she must exit, followed by the younger gal who picks up the thread and continues helping us get our bearings. Then there's the lovely man in the awe-inspiring cathedral who encourages us to take the free New Testaments with the green Australian covers - and the bicyclists who graciously pedal around us on the river bank with only the slightest ding of a bell because we can't figure out which the heck side to walk on. When you travel halfway around the world, to another hemisphere, you want to experience new things. But it's also nice to experience the moments when kindness is universal and the willingness to help has no boundaries.

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