The Lady with the Withered Hand

It was a most memorable day—a day I shall never forget. We were in Salzburg, Austria, the birthplace of world famed 18th-century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. WOW! We had made our way into the historic “Old Town” section of the city which is surrounded by an ancient wall. We were immediately enthralled by its uniqueness and could hardly wait to visit the shops, see the sights, experience its ambiance and its internationally renowned baroque. This was going to be a wonderful day to be alive.
And we were not disappointed! It turned out to be one of the most beautiful and interesting days of our entire vacation. We would go back again tomorrow. But as intriguing and romantic as those wonderful shops and restaurants were, those memories paled in comparison to the beautiful memories we still cherish of a particular sales lady in one of the shops, and a series of little acts of kindness shared between her and us.
As is our custom, when we experience special days and places such as that, we like to bring back souvenirs unique to those experiences to keep those memories alive. And, as it seems to always happen, the very first quaint little shop that we visited had all sorts of European artifacts and collectibles from which to choose. This was the place to find our cherished souvenir. As we entered the shop, we were greeted by an attractive young blonde with a withered hand. She was cordial enough but seemed very shy—especially shy for someone working in that position. We figured her shyness to be a direct result of that withered hand. Our hearts were immediately touched, thinking that she had probably spent most of her life embarrassed by her infirmity. But, her pleasant countenance immediately compelled us to treat her with absolute kindness, respect and dignity, totally ignoring the fact that she had a withered hand.

Although it had already become apparent to us that we would make our purchase there, our purpose and goal inexplicably became geared more toward making that day a good day for her, rather than simply the purchase of any curio we might take from there. We began asking her non intrusive questions which would allow her to introduce herself to us. “Was she a native of Austria? How long had she been in Salzburg? Did she still admire the awesome beauty of her surroundings? Were most of her customers tourists? Etc.” She seemed equally intrigued to find that we were from Dallas! World famed Dallas; the hometown of the notorious Ewings!! Besides her outward attractiveness, we soon found that she also had a wonderful hidden beauty. Perhaps because of our interest in getting to know her, she soon warmed up to us. Her shyness disappeared. It nearly seemed like a developing mutual kinship.

When we explained the nature of memorabilia we were seeking, she began taking pride in introducing us to their more rare collectibles. She proved to be quite knowledgeable and finally directed us to a pair of exquisite Hummel figurines that had long since been retired. They had become well sought after treasures. As she was showing them, she explained how they had risen in value each year since the day that they were retired. Our interest in them was piqued. Since we also dealt in collectibles, we were well acquainted with that phenomenon, but we were also intrigued by her professional approach. She was a joy.

Since we had just arrived in their picturesque Old Town, we asked if she would hold them for us until we had finished visiting as many shops and restaurants as we could squeeze into our day. She assured us that they could and would, so we went on our way. (It’s very possible that she thought it to be no more than a 50/50 chance of us actually returning to their shop). But we did! And, to our dismay, when we returned, our new-found friend was not there. Bummer! When we asked of her whereabouts the owner told us that she was taking a lunch break and would not be back for about a half hour. She kindly asked if she could help us to which we replied, “No thanks, we won’t mind waiting for her return.” (That would pose no problem; Salzburg Old Town is a great place to easily kill an extra half hour.) When she returned, she seemed totally surprised and somewhat overwhelmed, not only that we had returned, but that we had also awaited her return before finalizing our purchase. Her inward pleasure shone through. She then took them to the back room, carefully wrapped them in ample bubble wrap and packed them securely in a nice corrugated box. She obviously took every precaution that they would make it safely back to the states. At the end of our time with her, we shared a brief hug and were on our way.

When our package finally arrived back home, we anxiously opened it, hoping to find that our new treasures had made the trip safely. And they did. Not only were they perfectly intact, but much to our pleasant surprise, our new-found friend had also enclosed a beautiful box of chocolates, embossed with the image of Mozart on each one. It was her special thank you. We will always believe that she was thanking us, not for any purchase we made, but rather for our shared acts of kindness. And, as you might suspect, that box of chocolates meant more to us than our rare Hummel figurines.

The joy of that whole experience should come as no surprise to us. Not only do a number of Scriptures implore us to act with kindness (Ephesians 4:32 et al); but our pop culture also admonishes us to act with kindness. During the 60’s, Glen Campbell released a hit song, ‘Try a Little Kindness’; and there is even a website, ‘Random Acts of Kindness Foundation’, inspiring people to practice kindness and pass it on to others. ‘Acts of kindness’. What satisfying deeds they become. The rewards are immediate! They are among the virtues leading us to the abundant life promised in John 10:10. But we cannot realize the total benefits until we experience them first hand.

It has now been 30 years since our trip of a lifetime. But of all those 16 memorable days in the Alps— the one most memorable—the one forever etched indelibly in our minds is—you guessed it!—the day we spent in Old Town Salzburg sharing equal acts of kindness with the beautiful young lady with the withered hand.

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