After spending ten days with my siblings in Lucca, Italy, I planned to take the train back to Venice, have a bonus afternoon in my favorite city, then fly home the next day. That plan began to unravel  when I went to buy my train ticket and discovered a 24-hour strike was scheduled for exactly the time I wanted to travel.

I made numerous telephone calls to find an alternative option, but was assured that some trains would still  be running. What I wasn’t told was that I’d be making a five hour sidetrip to Bologna. That little surprise didn’t arrive until we’d all gotten off the train in Bologna. Many of my fellow travelers were visibly upset.

Realizing there was nothing I could do about the change in plans, I decided to look for the gift in this delay. I also suspected I was being naively optimistic. Nevertheless, I attached myself to the Del Prado family from the Philippines who were backpacking around Europe with their five delightful children.

Wing, the mother, was not coping with the delay very well so I invited her to have a cappuccino with me. When I answered her question about what I do, she said, “You’re talking about me!”

I spent the next several minutes learning about her business selling handmade children’s clothing. Then I chatted with the eldest son, Ramon, who had started a business as an animator and was about to have his first film shown on television.

While getting to know these entrepreneurial folks was great fun, the thing that everyone noticed about the Del Prados was how kind the children were to each other. That same kindness was extended to me and when we finally parted at the train station in Venice, we were all on the verge of tears.

We hugged each other and Mr. Del Prado said, “Thank you for making our trip so pleasant. We’ll always think of you as Auntie Barbara.”

As I walked off into the darkness toward my hotel, I immediately noticed the sidewalk was covered with water. Raised platforms had been brought in to make walking possible. When I got to the hotel, I asked about the flooding and was told there’d been such a storm all day in Venice that it looked like a hurricane was coming through.

Had I arrived at the time I wanted to, I’d have gotten drenched and had to spend the afternoon and evening in my hotel room.

Meeting the Del Prados was a lot more fun than that.