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Jelena Maricic | Drexel university, Philadelphia | USA

View Blog | Read Bio

Discovering kindness

The most peculiar thing happened to me on Saturday. Together with a bunch of my Double Chooz colleagues I waited for the train to arrive at the train station in Reims, France. We were coming back after the Double Chooz meeting. Since the train was delayed, I took a seat kindly offered by my DC colleague Maury and we started chatting about fun ways to explore Paris later that afternoon. I naively put my backpack next to me, but leaning forward to look closer at the map, the backpack ended behind my back. An that is when the thief seized the opportunity and took it. Everything really important for my trip was there – my passport, all of my documents, money and credit cards, my laptop, my cell phone and other minor things. In a few moments I realized that my backpack vanished! It was a horrific feeling. I was in shock for a moment. Maury and his wife Sharon started looking for it with me, but it was nowhere to be found. Still hoping that the thief may have just took the money and left the backpack laying around, I quickly went to the group of my colleagues to ask for help. Everyone started looking, but no luck. They were all very disturbed by the news. Guillaume and Michel asked at the information desk hoping it is there, but it was not. So, my last hope to find my documents at least was gone. I knew that I had to wait until Monday in Paris to get to the US embassy and ask for a new passport and I knew that I need a police report to show that the passport was stolen. I also knew that it will take several days to do it. It was bad. But  it would be much, much worse, if the kindness and care of my DC colleagues did not instantly start pouring on me. Maury gave me cash and offered to pay for my hotel stay in Paris. Guillaume took cash from the ATM machine and gave it to me. Both him and Michel offered to go with me to the police station to file a report, which I could never do by myself, since I do not speak French. Michel missed his train and a non-refundable ticket in order to help me with the police report. Thierry offered me to stay with his family in Paris until things get resolved and notified my husband back in US about the event. They all gave me their cell phone numbers and addresses to contact them in Paris if I need anything else. All this care and kindness that my collaborators showed HELPED immensely. Instead of feeling alone and desperate with no money, documents and place to stay, this looked like a solvable straightforward inconvenience that will just take a few extra days. AND THIS IS A DIFFERENCE THAT ONLY TRUE FRIENDS CAN MAKE! At that point I was not even seriously upset, and only thing that I still felt really bad about was the fact that my children Una and Luka will have to wait even longer to see mommy again in spite of my promise that they would see me in just one more day. Deceiving children is a very bitter feeling even when it is not your fault.

And then things turned around. While sitting in the police office and listening to Michel describing to the police officer the unfortunate event, and appreciating his presence even more (I understood almost nothing and police officer spoke no English at all), Michel’s phone rang. It was Guillaume calling from the train. He was just notified by the lady at the information desk at train station that my backpack was found with everything in it. We rushed back and it was there indeed! I was so happy and grateful that my lucky star shown on me that day so strongly. The rest of the afternoon, Michel and I spent in a pleasant chat while waiting for the next train to Paris.

In the end, the only way I can explain things is that all of my colleagues (10+ of them) looking for the backpack at once scared the thief and he decided to leave it rather than risking to get caught. I will never find out, but I do not wish to question my luck. I was so fortunate that day: fortunate to get all of my things back and fortunate to have such great friends and collaborators on Double Chooz  that  cared and helped me when it was really needed. It seems, that sometimes it takes being in trouble to discover all the greatness and kindness of the people  you know.

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