Norwegian newspaper VG has reported a truly amazing story from 1988 about a newlywed trying to get to Norway to be with her new husband, and the stranger who helped pay an unexpected luggage surcharge. Mary Andersen was at the Miami airport checking in for a long flight to Norway to be with her husband. An airline representative informed her that she wouldn't be able to check her luggage without paying a $103 surcharge. But Mary had no money. Her husband had traveled ahead of her to Norway, and she had no one else to call. "I was completely desperate and tried to think which of my things I could manage without. But I had already made such a careful selection of my most prized possessions," says Mary.
As tears streamed down her face, she heard a "gentle and friendly voice" behind her saying, "That's okay, I'll pay for her." Mary turned around to see a tall man she had never seen before. "He had a gentle and kind voice that was still firm and decisive. The first thing I thought was, 'Who is this man?'" Although this happened 20 years ago, Mary still remembers the authority that radiated from the man. "He was nicely dressed, fashionably dressed with brown leather shoes, a cotton shirt open at the throat and khaki pants," says Mary. She was thrilled to be able to bring both her suitcases to Norway and assured the stranger that he would get his money back. The man wrote his name and address on a piece of paper that he gave to Mary. She thanked him repeatedly. When she finally walked off toward the security checkpoint, he waved good-bye to her. Who was the man? Barack Obama.
Twenty years later, Mary is thrilled that the friendly stranger at the airport may be the next president. She has voted for him already and donated $100 to his campaign. "He was my knight in shining armor," says Mary, smiling. (She paid the $103 back to Obama the day after she arrived in Norway. At that time he had just finished his job as a poorly paid community worker in Chicago, and had started his law studies at Harvard University.) Mary has even convinced her parents to vote for Obama. In the spring of 2006, Mary's parents had heard that Obama was considering a run for president, but that he had still not decided. They chose to write a letter telling him that he would receive their votes. At the same time, they thanked Obama for helping their daughter 20 years earlier. And Obama replied. In a letter to Mary's parents dated May 4, 2006 and stamped United States Senate, Washington, D.C., Barack Obama wrote: "I want to thank you for the lovely things you wrote about me and for reminding me of what happened at Miami airport. I'm happy I could help back then, and I'm delighted to hear that your daughter is happy in Norway. Please send her my best wishes. Sincerely, Barack Obama, United States Senator."
The parents sent the letter on to Mary. Mary says that when her friends and associates talk about the election, especially when race relations is the heated subject, she relates the story of the kind man who helped out a stranger in need more than 20 years ago, years before he had even thought about running for high office. Truly a wonderful story, and something that needs to be passed along in the maelstrom of fear-and-smear politics we are being subjected to right now. Remember: This happened back in 1988, when $103 was quite a bit of money, compared to today's value. By the way, this would be the perfect antidote to the smear emails going around.
(The blog "Leisha's Random Thoughts" translated the Norwegian newspaper article and reported this story on the Internet.)