Monday, November 17, 2008

For OJ

I'm not much for motivational mumbo-jumbo, and while I loved the Chicken soup series when I was a teenager, I've come to abhor much of the spiritual bestsellers that prompt you to bring out the best in you. Mostly because, I'm increasingly jaded, and mostly because, I've always argued that growth - spiritually and emotionally - had to be sustainable. Of course, that means that I myself have never personally grown - I've gone back and forth on philosophies and principles and things I swear to hold sacred.

But just sometimes, you get a forward in your mailbox teeming with junk mail and lovely brochures from Anthropolgie that you can never afford, a mail that sends small pinpricks in your eyes, and goosebumps in your nape. And suddenly you stand in awe of how much the heart is yearning for the good to believe in. Sometimes it happens like that with people also, even those who you've never met - and really don't even know. This is one such fantastic story. And it is for one particularly die-hard Obama fan, OJ.


The Norwegian newspaper VG has reported a truly amazing story about a newly-wed trying to get to Norway to be with her husband, and the stranger who helped pay an unexpected luggage surcharge. The blog 'Leisha's Random Thoughts' has translated the story.

It was 1988, and Mary Andersen was at the Miami airport checking in for a long flight to Norway to be with her husband when the airline representative informed her that she wouldn't be able to check her luggage without paying a surcharge.

-You'll have to pay a 103 dollar surcharge if you want to bring both those suitcases to Norway, the man behind the counter said.

Mary had no money. Her new husband had travelled 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 whom 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 towards the security checkpoint, he waved goodbye to her.

Who was the man?

Barack Obama.

Twenty years later, she is thrilled that the friendly stranger at the airport may be the next President and has voted for him already and donated 100 dollars to his campaign:
-He was my knight in shining armor, says Mary, smiling.

She paid the 103 dollars 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 prestigious Harvard university.

Mary even convinced her parents to vote for him: 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 in which they told him that he would receive their votes. At the same time, they thanked Obama for helping their daughter 18 years earlier.

And Obama replied: In a letter to Mary's parents dated May 4th, 2006 and stamped 'United States Senate, Washington DC', Barack Obama writes: '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'.

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 k ind man who helped out a stranger-in-need over twenty years ago, years before he had even thought about running for high office. Also, remember this was 1988, when 100 dollars was quite a bit of money, compared to today's value.


OrangeJammies said...

For ME??!! Aww... here come the pinpricks in the eye-backstage area. I received this email right after the Big O's win and my jaded heart hoped the story was genuine. The Boy, on his part, is convinced it is and all set to honeymoon in Norway at the President's expense. That the country isn't on my honeymoon wishlist is, of course, a minor inconvenience. And the fact that a wedding, if it happens, is in the binocularly distant future. ;0)

Hugs. May the struggling spark in each of us get regular doses of oxygen.

momstir said...

Thanks, OJ! okay, thanks NM too. Loved the tale.

Brown Girls said...

I feel jealous of the Americans. When will India have a leader who will inspire such feelings? It'll be nice to suspend all cynicism, dispel disbelief and revel in this unadulterated feeling of hope, even if it turns out to be euphoria.

Anonymous said...


I am a jaded and cynical person - all though the campaign, though I voted for and volunteered for BHO, I was/am still waiting for the other shoe to drop, to find out the guy has some serious failings....but this was so heartwarming (and I don't seem to have found any dirt so far!) - maybe he *Was* born in a manger :-)


Nino's Mum said...

OJ - LOL. Maybe you could dangle the future wedding invite to incite and then make a trip to a place you want, just to see what a honeymoon feels like before you marry! On an aside, I'd go anywhere on anyone's expense :)

momstir - me too!

brown girls - you know, somehow, I'm surprised that the exact same feeling has not occured to me yet, when it should have struck me the minute he got elected. Maybe it's the lack of a single person that we can all believe in like this - and maybe it's because we in India are dealing with more divisions than colour of skin. Too much for a single person. And part of that euphoria is because a large number of americans believed they were on the brink - of either greatness or a bottomless pit - and they chose. We're yet to reach our brink.

M - *fingers crossed* I really hope so too!

Broom said...

What a cool story!!

Awww I HEART Obama