Samantha Kelly had just finished one of those last-nerve arguments that make you decide to get out of the car and walk home when she decided to cut through downtown Port Coquitlam.
It was Saturday, late afternoon. Kelly was wearing a cotton hoodie and there was a chill in the air that made you feel like fall was lying in wait for summer to end.
Kelly was going to pick up a tea from Waves before heading to her basement suite but, unhappy with the selection at the coffee shop, she headed to the 7-Eleven at Wilson Avenue. It started to rain.
She ducked into the store for her tea and was greeted by the relative stranger behind the counter like an old friend.
Kelly only had $3 so the woman offered her a warm personal pizza, free of charge. Kelly declined but her new friend wouldn’t hear of it.
Standing outside the 7-Eleven with a pizza in her hand and a walk in front of her, Kelly contemplated the rain and wondered if she would get sick.
“The rain and I don’t mix for some reason,” she said. “I’m probably not living in the best city for that,” she added.
She noticed a man outside the store with a shopping cart and some umbrellas. He was old and a little dirty. Looking at him, Kelly considered her situation as well as his.
“I thought, ‘I’m not going to eat this damn pizza.’”
She walked over to him. They exchanged a few words and she realized he was polite, sweet and thoughtful.
“He was coherent, he was not under the influence but he was just down on his luck,” Kelly said.
He also looked like he could use a warm meal. She offered him the pizza and he accepted.
“Please, let me give you an umbrella,” he told her.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Oh you’re colourful, you’re tattooed. How about you take the colourful one?”
She took it.
It was a small moment but Kelly said it gave her a sense of her community.
“People are so quick to pass judgment,” she said. “Any of us could be in this man’s shoes.”
Kelly doesn’t deny there are problems in Port Coquitlam.
“There’s been a gentleman who tried to take things out of my carport,” she recalled. “I scared the bejeezus out of him.”
Despite feeling some general apprehension about the negativity inherent in social media, Kelly decided she wanted her neighbours to know what happened that afternoon.
“I’ve seen many posts about riff-raff and hoodlums convening at 7-Eleven so I wanted to shed some light and tell this story,” she explained in her post.
Her Facebook post about the incident drew nearly 400 likes and two dozen mostly positive comments.
“I really want to remind people just, get back to basics here,” she said. “Let’s come back to community, folks.”
Kelly works as office manager at Mile 37 Craft Canning on Kebet Way. During a break, she reflected on Port Coquitlam and the importance of gratitude.
“If you perceive the world as a bunch of . . . degenerates and people that are out to get you, you’re going to walk around resentful and defensive,” she said.
“It just comes back to being kind,” she said. “Everybody has their own struggles, everybody is leading their own lives which we know nothing about. We briefly pass by these people who might look like they’re about to punch you out because they have such an aggressive look on their face but, did you try to smile at them?”
“It’s really easy to be kind,” she said. “Just try.”