Ikke Altid Håbløs

, , , , , | Hopeless | December 3, 2018

(While riding the Metro — Washington DC’s subway — one day, my dad and I notice two teenage girls with hiking backpacks looking extremely worried as they stare at a map. Between the few words we can hear and the flags on their bags, we realize they must be Danish. Dad, an army officer in uniform, gets up and goes over to talk to them.)

Dad: *in Danish* “Excuse me, but could I help? It looks like you might be lost.”

Girl #1: “Du taler Dansk?!” *You speak Danish?!*

Dad: *in Danish* “Yes. I lived there for two years. Beautiful country!”

(The rest of the conversation continues in their language. They admit that they can’t make sense of the very bad map they have. My dad marks notations to help clarify things — including drawing on the Metro Lines so they can find which ones are closest to their destinations — and helping them locate major tourist attractions and their hostel. They chat about their other planned destinations, as well, and he gives them some advice, as he’s traveled to all of them. And, of course, they talk about Denmark; where they’re from, where he’d lived, things he misses most, etc. As we near their stop, Dad gets out his business card, writes his personal phone number and address on the back, and hands it to them.)

Dad: *in Danish* “Please call me if you have any more trouble. And if I don’t answer my office number–” *flips it to show them the back* “–please call my house. My wife only speaks a little Danish, but she’s home all day.”

Girls: “Thank you!”

Dad: “My pleasure! I do hope you enjoy the rest of your trip, and let me know if you need anything, even if you’ve already left town. I know folks in each of the cities you’re visiting, so don’t worry. You’ll never be far from a rescue if you get turned around again!”

(We didn’t hear from them again while they were on their trip, but several weeks later, a package arrived from Denmark. Inside was my dad’s favorite brand of chocolate — which he’d mentioned missing — and a thank-you note from the girls and their parents. Apparently, randomly running into a military officer who spoke their language the one time they got lost was the highlight of their trip, and their parents were very grateful he’d stepped in to help. My folks still exchange Christmas cards with them, and write notes about little things special to America, while they catch him up on the news from Denmark.)

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