The people here are nicer.

I’m serious, I’ve been in Lisbon, Portugal for 9 full days now and there is no denying it, the people here are really nice. Or, they just really love little kids! Every time we get on public transportation, the number of women that have jumped up and offered their seats are surprising. They see a young family of four and insist that Tim sits down with Vera and Oliver has a seat. Literally, climbing over other riders to get to us, tap us on the shoulder and give us their seats. It almost seems offensive, not to sit down, given all the work they’ve done to offer it. So, we sit graciously.

There is a genuine sense of honesty and helpfulness about the Portuguese that we’ve come in contact with. I’ve had multiple women (mostly grandmother or great grandmother aged women) reach out and hug Oliver. More like snuggle him into their bosom. My first instinct was to think, “What are you doing touching my kid?” and then I realized it is a cultural difference. In Portugal, it is normal to dote on someone else’s child.

How heart warming to show love to another child the same as you would your own family. Children are meant to be cared for and doted on. We live in an often cynical world that has made us skeptical of the intention of others.  It didn’t matter to our fellow Portuguese passengers that we don’t speak the language. They pulled Oliver out of the rain and snuggled him under the bus shelter. They’ve seated him in their lap on the long tram ride because there were no other seats on the tram. They are just nice and have made the tiring task of traveling and getting around a city we don’t know a little easier.

Tim was stuck at the top of a castle with an entourage of people around his back cooing over Vera, whom he was wearing in the back-pack carrier. He said it felt like having Paul McCartney strapped to his back in 1963. Granted, of course we think Vera is as cute as a button, but she’s our kid, we’re supposed to!

We went to the grocery store the other day and were surprised when the cashier insisted we jump the line to the very front, with 5 people already in front of us, groceries on the conveyor belt, she made us come to the front. Pointing at the sign above the line and insisting that this was a priority line: people that were old, handicapped or had young babies get priority. We sheepishly came to the front apologizing to the customers we were cutting as we purchased our 3 bottles of wine and some other necessities.

These small acts of kindness reflect a sense of humanity that I think many of us could improve upon. Could we put aside our skeptical opinions of people and show small acts of kindness and love to strangers?