A Stranger Bought Me Dinner And Changed My Life

Charles - Teaticket, Massachusetts
Entered on November 11, 2008
Age Group: 65+

“Would the young man like to eat dinner with Father Murphy and me? ” the slender gentleman in a white suit asked the maitre d’ of the crowded dining car where I went to eat dinner.

I was 13 and taking the train back to Washington. “Don’t talk to strangers,” my father had warned me, when I boarded the train in New York. That meant no talking to anyone!

However, I thought talking to a gentleman dressed in white and seated next to a priest was a safe decision, back in 1953.

I listened as Thomas Dooley, M.D., related his work as a navy physician, treating thousands of Vietnamese refugees fleeing the horrors of Communism in North Vietnam. He would become famous as the humanitarian physician whose courage and dedication founded MEDICO, the international medical organization sending medical personnel to undeveloped countries throughout the world. I was so impressed with this gentleman who bought my dinner, telling me that one day I’d do something nice for another person to repay the meal. “Good things will happen to you because of your future kindness.”

I began to become involved in church youth work and service groups, joining the Peace Corps in 1963 to help establish an ETV Network

for Colombia, S.A. My tour of two years completed, I continued my television career and education, looking for another opportunity to make a difference. A recruiting service told me of another television project the government was developing, in Viet Nam, where my “mentor” had worked. The director was going to be my Peace Corps Training Director and he thought it would be great working with me. My past was helping me with my future.

The tragic events of the Viet Nam War interrupted this project. I continued to be involved in using Cable TV to help communities where I lived, working in the insurance field for many years.

I always wondered how the Peace Corps TV Project turned out after I left but lost track of volunteers with whom I served. I did, however, keep up my Spanish and my wife and I retired to Falmouth, Massachusetts. We bought from a woman I had previously insured some 20 years before who remembed me for my good service. The house was the same style my wife had grown up in, on the street with my supervisor’s name, down from a landing on the Bay named for my insurance associate. Was this a reward for helping others throughout my life like Dr. Dooley had told me? I was sure it was when I learned from our family’s genealogist that our family had been an early settler in Cape Cod. He asked if I knew the town he settled. Yes, it was Falmouth, the first settlement only a few miles from my house. I was amazed again when a woman came to a Spanish conversation class I had started to keep up my Spanish. She said she too had served in the Peace Corps, in Colombia, as my volunteer replacement in 1965! My past returned again to guide my future.

Yes Dr. Dooley, just helping others in life gives back tenfold, and that has made all the difference in my life and, I hope, in the lives of others.