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Beyond Words: The Kindess of the People in Paris

This article by Julianna Leverette tells the story of overcoming unexpected challenges while traveling abroad through the kindness of Parisians. Facing canceled flights and a lost phone, it highlights the warmth of strangers and the beauty of unplanned experiences, ending with a reflective moment at the Arc de Triomphe. The article celebrates the transformative power of kindness and the serendipitous triumphs that shape our lives.

I've always believed in the transformative power of kindness, a theme I recently explored in an article for Grice Connect. Little did I know, this concept would soon resonate even more deeply after my own experiences during an unforgettable journey abroad.

My partner David, his family, and I embarked on a trip that originally centered around a martial arts seminar in Germany, an amazing opportunity that emerged from their dedicated training. Eager to make the most of our travels, we planned an extension to explore Paris for two days. However, what was meant to be a straightforward itinerary unfolded into a series of unexpected events, each extending our stay and teaching us invaluable lessons about human kindness.

Our adventure into the unknown began with a canceled flight back home due to nationwide airline strikes in Germany, affecting our layover and leaving us stranded in Paris. Then, in a twist that seemed to compound our travel woes, I lost my phone on the Paris metro, causing us to miss our rescheduled flight once again.

Despite the initial panic and frustration, these mishaps became blessings in disguise, revealing the unmatched kindness of Parisians—a strong contrast to the stereotype of rudeness or standoffishness sometimes associated with the city's residents.


The kindness we encountered in Paris was overwhelming. From locals patiently helping us navigate language barriers to spontaneously drawing maps or offering unsolicited discounts, their warmth and eagerness to assist were heartwarming. Every person we met was incredibly kind, helpful, and warm, excited to share about their love for Paris.

Our interactions weren't limited to simply seeking directions or tips; they extended into genuine, and sometimes lengthy, conversations on the metro or in cafe lines, where locals were just as curious about us as we were about their lives in the City of Light.

One memorable encounter was with a woman who recounted her travels to America, reflecting on the joys of exploring new places with her children and now grandchildren. Her stories highlighted how travel enriches our appreciation for home, echoing our feelings of discovery and connection.

"Traveling makes us appreciate our homes more," she shared, her words resonating with our own journey. This spontaneous connection on the metro was a testament to the depth of interaction possible when we open ourselves to the stories of strangers.

A lost phone -- and kindness found

The pinnacle of Parisian kindness was experienced in the midst of our predicament with my lost phone. The urgency to recover my phone was heightened by the fact that it contained all of my current work notes for articles and photos from the trip that hadn't been backed up yet, risking the loss of invaluable material along with the device. Initially fearing it stolen, we approached a metro information booth in a state of distress. The booth attendant, sensing our urgency, facilitated our free passage on the metro to retrieve my phone, sending us toward the end of the line to what we hoped would be a quick resolution.

However, as we tracked the device through Find My iPhone, it became clear that my phone was not at the end of the line but instead had found its way off of the metro and into a French hospital.

What followed was nothing short of remarkable. My partner, David, and I were propelled into action, navigating through the hospital with the help of a map, guidance, and advice provided by a welcoming attendant, who worked their best to help us despite the language barrier. Our quest was then joined by a post officer working at the hospital who dedicated himself to aiding our search.

Guiding us through restricted areas, running around long, winding hallways, and enlisting the help of colleagues, he embodied the spirit of kindness and community we'd come to associate with Paris. He insisted we exchange emails– wanting to maintain a relationship with us and make sure we returned home safely; his generosity was sincerely moving and helped to give me a sense of peace during a time of extreme stress.


Ultimately, our search was in vain, and we rushed to catch our flight, only to miss check-in by ten minutes. Resigned to another night in Paris, we filed a police report and settled into a hotel. Clinging to a sliver of hope and in a last-ditch effort, we called my phone, and to our astonishment, someone answered—a man who had safeguarded my phone with the intention of returning it to me.

"You are very lucky. I have your phone," he said, a statement that encapsulated the unexpected fortune we'd found in Paris. And as luck would have it, he requested that we meet him at one of the most famous places in the entire city, one of the only places we hadn't managed to see during our trip: the Arc de Triomphe.

Arranging to meet at the Arc de Triomphe, we were finally reunited with my phone, thanks to Sebastian, my guardian angel in Paris. Our gratitude was immense, expressed through hugs and customary cheek kisses. "Thank you profoundly for your kindness," we said over and over again through tears, overwhelmed by his selflessness, to which he responded, “Think nothing of it. If this had happened to me, I’d hope someone would have done the same thing.” 

Triumph at the Triomphe

As we stood before the Arc de Triomphe on our last night, the feeling of triumph was palpable, stretching beyond merely retrieving my phone. It was a moment of profound reflection and realization. This iconic monument, a symbol of victory and endurance, now held a personal significance for me; it was a testament to our own journey of navigating our first trip abroad, of overcoming obstacles and adapting to unexpected changes. The beauty of Paris, bathed in lights from the city just after sunset, served as the perfect backdrop to our moment of triumph. 

It was hard not to be moved by the serendipity of it all—how our adventure, filled with its ups and downs, culminated in a place we hadn't planned on visiting but were undeniably meant to see. The Arc de Triomphe, majestic and resilient, stood as a reminder that, despite the best-laid plans, life's most memorable experiences often come from the unforeseen and the unplanned.

It underscored a deeper triumph, one of personal growth, resilience, and the undeniable power of human kindness that carried us through. In that moment, looking up at the Arc, it was clear: our success was not just in navigating the challenges of travel but in embracing the beauty of the unexpected, finding alignment in moments we could have never anticipated. The kindness of strangers, the new friendships formed, and the memories made were the true victories of our trip.

This journey, with its unforeseen challenges and acts of kindness, underscored the ripple effect of compassion and the lasting impact it has on those who receive it. Far from insignificant, these experiences became the foundation of our trip, a reflection of the importance of gratitude and the power of looking for and embodying kindness. 

To the city of Paris, thank you for your unforgettable historical sights and beautiful streets, for your undeniably delicious crepes and croissants, but most importantly, thank you for your people—those who showed up for two strangers, showing us the true value of moving through life with a spirit of kindness, compassion, and assistance.