The Beautiful Country

Kindness has an undeniable and solid architecture.


My daughter Ellie is studying architecture in Copenhagen this year. Though we miss her smile and easy-going personality, she’s having the time of her life traveling Europe, taking in all of its architectural wonders and sending us photos of her watercolor paintings of Copenhagen. Architecture major. Art Minor.

Yesterday, my wife and I skyped with Ellie. She led us through a photographic journey of her recent trip to the World Expo in Milan, Italy. Advancing from photo to photo from each country’s incredible architectural and design installations, Ellie gave us a personal tour of all her curated photos. She then told us a beautiful little story about her new haircut.

Ellie had spent the previous afternoon visiting the massive Gothic cathedral, the Duomo di Milano, one of the world’s largest churches. On her final day in Milan, Ellie had six hours to burn before getting on a plane back to Denmark.  When she stepped into the smaller Basilica of San Lorenzo, she was delighted to discover a small side chapel where she spent time reading a favorite book and singing alone. Then she got a panini sandwich. A gelato ice cream followed. Ellie then decided to get a haircut.

So picture this… a sandy-blonde haired American girl walking in the streets of Milan donning a large red backpack and enjoying her gelato.

Ellie knows I’m no fan of the Taken movies.

“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want… If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”

Sorry. I digress.

So Ellie pops into the first haircutting establishment.

The place was empty except for the two guys that worked there.

“What do you want?”

“A haircut.”

“No. Only men.”

The next hair salon was for women, but they didn’t have any open appointments.

Third was a charm. Ellie stepped into a warm salon filled with women and busy hair stylists.

Yes, there was an opening, but since none of the stylists spoke English, Ellie didn’t have any idea how she was going to explain how she wanted her hair done. Holding her gelato, Ellie didn’t speak a lick of Italian!

Seeing her dilemma from across the room, an older American woman in her sixties introduced herself as Rachel and offered to translate for her. One of the first and most essential phrases Ellie had Rachel translate was to ask whether or not it was okay for her to finish her gelato inside the salon. She didn’t want to be an ugly American dripping sticky gelato all over the floor. Mama mia!

Once the gelato etiquette issue was settled, the warm and gracious Rachel asked Ellie what she doing traveling alone in Europe?

“Oh, if you were my daughter, I’d never let you do that.”

Rachel laughed and then explained how she had traveled on her own in Europe when she was the same age. Minutes later, Ellie reveled over the incredible feeling of having the stylist wash her hair, the warm water rushing over her scalp… pure pleasure! As her hair was being cut, Ellie and Rachel chitchatted about travel, food, and the wonderful Italian culture.

When the stylist finished, Ellie’s haircut was perfect. Just how she wanted it.

Ready to say goodbye to Rachel and thank her stylist, Rachel surprised Ellie by telling her she just treated her to the haircut and paid the tip as well.

Relating the story over Skype to Krista and I, Ellie’s eyes lit up as she gushed over how wonderful and gracious Rachel had been to her.

“This lady was a complete stranger and she paid for my haircut! I almost cried it was so sweet!”

Ahh… simple joys and loving acts of kindness.

Kindness is like warm water rushing over our heart, mind and soul. It is not a random act, but an intentional choice based upon someone having the eyes to see the need of another at any particular moment. Kindness has an undeniable and solid architecture. Like the cathedrals of old, loving acts of kindness have always endured the centuries, passing from one person to the next.

When someone goes out of their way to bless us, how incredible does this feel? To step into the warmth of a kind heart. To be fussed and doted over. Noticed without any expectation of return. Welcomed as a friend instead of a stranger. To be the object of someone’s time, attention and fond affection.

In a world that can be so cold, there are kind people who are truly making this world a more beautiful place.

For Ellie who didn’t speak the local language, Rachel spoke the language of love. Hearing Ellie’s story, I couldn’t help, but be amazed at the generosity of a stranger towards my daughter.

It’s no wonder Italy is named Il Belpaese. The beautiful country.

Rachel’s heart is a beautiful country.


You’ve just read The Beautiful Country.

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Question: Tell a story of a stranger going out of their way to help you? What went on in your heart and mind when this happened?

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