August 3

Times Staff Writer

Two things worth noting happened to me in Paris. One was a surprise, and the other was expected. Together, they seem emblematic of this city, the way it thinks and goes about life.

A little old lady, about 4 feet tall and who has a hard time walking because of her arthritis, lives in the apartment below mine. She accepts packages for people in the building and watches over things. I gather she’s been here since World War II.

When I saw her on the stairs yesterday, I mentioned my concerns about the bum who sometimes sleeps in the foyer. “The poor man,” she said, “he’s not bad. When it’s cold or hot, he needs a place to stay.” It was a lesson to me in one-on-one generosity. While doing errands the same day, I lost two letters sent to me from the States. Later, I retraced my steps, asking merchants whether they’d found them. No one had, but I still wasn’t overly concerned because I expected someone would find and return them to me.

That is precisely what happened. I must have dropped the letters in the post office on Boulevard Raspail. Anyway, that was the return address on the envelope I received today, containing my lost letters.

The moral of this story is that my Paris neighborhood is still a village, where people look out for one another.