Bridget’s Blog: Kindness of Strangers

The package arrived in a re-used LL Bean plastic bag, and I did not recognize the return address, handwritten. Where’s the bar code, I wondered? 

To be sure before opening, I called LL Bean to question the package I assumed was a mistake. But it turns out that it was an order I’d placed months ago that was put on backorder. Somewhere along the trail, a mistake had been made, and my order inadvertently went to the wrong recipient. 

A bathing suit I’d ordered months ago went to some guy in Maine with the last name of Littlefield. Imagine his surprise as he opened up a package with a tiny woman’s swimsuit. I doubt it would fit. And I wonder what his wife thought? 

LL Bean staff had a lot of laughs over it, but what struck me the most was that this gentleman took it upon himself to find out the rightful owner, and even though the company offered a free return and subsequent shipment to me, he paid over $6 to mail it to me directly. 

Who does that these days? 

I’m not originally from Delaware. I hail generally from Pennsylvania, both Southeast and Northeast, but also spent significant time living as a student and young mom in Washington, DC and Boston. City girl experience, and quite used to keeping to myself. I’m used to anonymity, people not looking me in the eye while passing, etc. Just part of city life. 

One of the first idiosyncrasies I noticed upon moving to Delaware in 2019, therefore, was the prominence of hellos, hand-waves and head-nods. From strangers. 

Granted, this goes on in plenty of other communities around the country, but I was a bit surprised – and pleased – by the pleasantries offered, even when people are in a hurry or simply don’t know you personally. In fact, one of my first walks on the Georgetown-Lewes trail days after we moved in was filled with lots of hellos worthy of a celebrity. 

Of course, there will always be curmudgeons no matter where you live, but I’ve noticed that the ratio of niceness versus complacency is different here. The local saying, “Lower Slower Delaware” has a bit of merit…unless you are on the Coastal Highway at Noon on a summer Saturday. I’m suddenly Ma’am or Miss instead of Hey Lady, or worse, no greeting at all. 

I think that the older one becomes, the more appreciative one is for the art of politeness. A nice word or a smile can get a lot of mileage. Kudos to the polite and kind people of Delaware. 

I ended up writing a brief thank you note to the stranger named Littlefield because his stranger’s generosity compelled me to write back. Anyone could have thrown that swimsuit in the garbage, but he went out of his way to get it to me. I’ll probably smile and think of that stranger every time I don the suit to go for a swim. 

Meanwhile, I enjoy the friendly people here. 

Keep it up, Delawareans. A smile goes a long way, even all the way up the coast to Maine. 

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