Oct 05, 2008
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 100 surcharge:
When it was finally Mary's turn, she got the message that would crush her bubbling feeling of happiness.
-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 traveled 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?
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'.
The parents sent the letter on to Mary.
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 kind man who helped out a stranger-in-need over twenty years ago, years before he had even thought about running for high office.
Truly a wonderful story, and something that needs to be passed along in the maelstorm of fear-and-smear politics we are being subjected to right now.
UPDATE: Thanks for the recommends, folks! Also, remember this was 1988, when 100 dollars was quite a bit of money, compared to today's value.
By the way, this would be the perfect antidote to the Smear E-mails going around. If anyone has a good long email chain list, shoot it out, and let it be passed along.
Comments: The text above consists for the most part of a translation done by Oslo, Norway blogger Leisha Camden of a news story that appeared in Verdens Gang, Norway's largest daily newspaper, on Oct. 14, 2008. The original article included a photo of 51-year-old Mary Menth Andersen of Asgardstrand, Norway displaying a letter her parents received from Barack Obama in 2006.
Andersen, who was born in the United States and whose parents still live in California, married a Norwegian man in 1988 and was about to fly across the Atlantic to join him when an unexpected baggage surcharge threatened to ground her in Miami. A tall, well-dressed good Samaritan stepped forward to pay the $103 fee in full. The name he wrote down on a slip of paper over a return address in Kansas was "Barack Obama."
Eighteen years later when Barack Obama was considering a run for the presidency, Mary Andersen's parents sent him a letter of encouragement, also thanking him for the good deed he had done for their daughter so long ago. Obama's cordial response is quoted in the email above and is on display in the Verdens Gang press photo of Andersen.
A reporter for the Santa Rosa, California Press Democrat confirmed the story with Andersen's mother and father, Peter and Mary Menth, in an article published Oct. 26, 2008.