A stranger online recently did something really nice for me.

It was a bit of a fluke, really. I belong to a Facebook group called “You know you’re from Victoria, BC, when…” It’s a group I love to follow because I still strongly associate with being a Victorian. I lived there for nearly half my life; in fact, only recently did I pass the “I lived somewhere else longer than in Victoria” mark, which actually felt a little weird. (Part of me totally wishes I could move back there; the other part of me loves my not-new-anymore Surrey home and never wants to leave.)

Anyway, so, this fellow posts about downsizing his dad’s belongings, and wanting to pass on his 1940s-era Victoria High School yearbooks to an archive that would be grateful to get them. To his surprise, he heard nothing back after a few attempts at contacting the obvious candidates — the school, the BC Archives, a few others he could think of — so he asked for more suggestions for eager recipients from the YKYFVW members.

I wondered if there was any chance that one of them might be the 1945 yearbook, and if someone named Phyllis Stroud was in it. Turns out, one was, and yes, she was in it.

Whoa, cool… (I almost thought I could feel the universe vibrate, just a little, in that moment…)

So, I told the group my story, and my connection to Phyllis Stroud.

It’s a very sad, but interesting tale about her and how I found out about her, which I’ll save for another post because it’s long enough on its own. In short, however, she was my great aunt in my birth family, sister to my grandmother, and she died tragically, shortly after graduation.

In response, another member of the group said that she also went to school with my Great Aunt Phyllis, only in a different grade, and well remembered that terrible story about what had happened to her. (In that moment, I could swear I felt the world shrink just a tiny little bit more.)

And the original poster, a fellow named David, very kindly offered to send me the yearbook. He wanted it to go to a good home, and I got lucky! True to his word, he packaged it up and mailed it, and it arrived a couple of days ago.

imageAnd there she is, my Great Aunt Phyllis, a member of my birth family, in print, in her graduating yearbook, just a few short weeks before her death.

I can’t begin to say how special this treasure is to me, or how grateful I am to this complete stranger named David for his kindness in giving it to me, filling in a missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle of my family history and helping me feel more connected to the family I didn’t know anything about until after I’d already started one of my own. It would have been so simple for him to blue-bin it, and I’m so glad he didn’t.

The longer I live, no matter how much the daily bad news in the media — or awful experiences in my life or the lives of people I love — grinds away at my faith in humanity, the more convinced I am that there is still good all around us, and kind people really are everywhere.

Thank you, David from YKYFVW, for keeping my faith — and hope for the future — alive.

Kindness matters.