Never Under Estimate the Kindness of Strangers


A quick tale of how getting lost turned led to a random act of kindness by total strangers.

On a recent trip to California I had the opportunity to do some sightseeing and photography. One of the places I was headed to was Sequoia State Park, or at least that’s where I thought I was headed. Did you know there’s also a Sequoia National Forest and that it’s not the same as the state park? I didn’t.

The GPS in my phone dutifully led me right where I had asked it to go, but when I got there something wasn’t quite right. There were no crowds, now big signs like most national parks have, and I was driving through ares that reminded me of scenes from The Hills Have Eyes. I was seriously worried about mutant cannibals coming out of the woods. Where the hell was I?

After taking another look at the GPS I noticed that there as both a Sequoia State Park and a Sequoia National Forest and I was not at the one I wanted to be at. While the scenery was quite nice, mutant cannibal land not withstanding, the time it took going through the national forest left me arriving at the park late in evening, around 6:30pm.

I went into the park to try to shoot whatever I could before the sun set. But like much of this trip Mother Nature was being a total bitch, it was overcast and starting to rain. As I head back out I’m starting to wonder where am I going to stay the night?

Pardon me sir, do you have a room for rent?

Sequoia State Park has a small town just outside it’s south entrance. But as you might expect it’s basically booked up during the summer. None the less I decided to go into the hotels despite the no-vacancy signs just to see if anything opened up. I was also concerned that a room this close to the park would be very expensive leaving me to travel an hour and half or more back to next town.

I started at the Comfort Inn with no luck. Then I tried the Westerner. They had no rooms but the nice lady there suggested the place down the road that rents cabins. Since I had no cell coverage she kindly called down and inquired for me. They had an empty cabin and it’s only $125 for the night. Awesome, my lucks changing.

I head down, pull in and knock on the door. Turns out the cabins are rented by the nice older couple that live there, Hector and Juliet. Hector walks me over to the cabin and shows me around and then leads me back to sign in with Juliet. All the while we’re talking about photography and travel and even his time in the Korean War.

Once back at the house, that’s their office, I sit and begin to fill out the paperwork. After a few minutes Juliet mentions that they are not set up to accept credit cards of any sort. Damn! Unfortunately I only had $65 on me at the moment.

Juliet let me know the bank down the street has an ATM. Great! So off I go, but when I get there I don’t see an ATM. After a moment I realize part of the bank parking lot is marked off with yellow caution tape, the part where the ATM is or should I say was. Turns out someone had tried to rob the ATM and in doing so basically destroyed it. Now what? How was going to get the money I need to rent the room?

Hector and Juliet had been so kind I didn’t want to just drive off and not let them know why I couldn’t stay. Besides, I had to pass right by them on the way out of town, so I stopped back in. I told them what had I had found at the bank and that I wasn’t able to get the money I needed.

After exhausting all other options Juliet called down to another motel to check if they had a room and they did. Problem is it was $265 for the night. Then it happened.

“I never do this. Send me the money when you get home.”

Out of nowhere Juliet offers to let me send the money. I can’t recall another time when a complete stranger made such a noble gesture. I had seen the movie Pay it Forward but never, until now, experienced it to such a degree. I was truly moved.

If you ever find yourself going to Sequoia State Park through the south entrance be sure to stay with Juliet and Hector. The cottage I stayed in was very nice and cozy, and could even be described as romantic if your there with someone you love. Just don’t ask them if you pay them later.

Times like these I wish I had a better command of the english language. Maybe there just aren’t words strong enough to fully convey just how much that kind gesture truly means to me. All I can do is say “Thank you Juliet and Hector, from the bottom of my heart.”