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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Craven: Kindness Of Strangers

Movie touring provides a passport into the distinctive worlds of each town – where every audience is also different. Thanks to the local library, the crowd at the Montgomery Town Hall braved a deluge to pack the house, and our friends at the Weston Playhouse, Bennington Museum and Rutland’s Paramount also wrangled big crowds – thus proving yet again that community arts partnerships are essential.

When we played a recent date at the rural Piggery Theater in North Hatley, Quebec, half the audience feasted on a buffet dinner beforehand as they roamed the theater’s patios and lawn. It felt like a North Country version of Ingmar Bergman’s bucolic Smiles of a Summer Night .

Then, driving home from a Peterborough screening, I stopped to buy groceries in Lebanon. I don’t know why – but I was still holding my wallet along with three full bags of food when I got back to my car. So with my teeth, I edged the wallet onto the car roof; then with my knee, swung the car door open far enough to cram the groceries into the back seat. Relieved to be free of the bags, I slipped into the driver’s seat and started north.

Around the time I passed the sign for Thetford, I got a call on my cell phone. An amused voice asked me plainly: “Would you like your wallet back?” At first, I didn’t get it, then I remembered the ordeal in the Lebanon parking lot. “Oh, yes,” I said.

“I found it on the bridge from Hanover to Norwich,” she said. “Cars were running over it and your cards were spread all over the road but I think we got most of ‘em.”

Thoroughly embarrassed, I thanked my good Samaritan and arranged a pick-up later that day - when I’d be headed back south to the Claremont Opera House. But first, I drove on home to attend the Peacham Acoustic Music Festival. As I parked and walked around the back of my car, I spotted my driver’s license perched against the rear window on the windshield wiper. I grabbed it quickly and slid it into my pocket - hoping to avoid being seen.

When I finally retrieved my wallet, I found everything intact except for my debit card. I groaned a bit, but realized things could have been a whole lot worse.

Later that evening, as we loaded projection gear back into the car after the Claremont screening, I checked email. One message read, “Are you the Jay Craven who lost your debit card today?”

“Yes,” I replied instantly.

“Well,” came the answer, “I found it at the edge of the Connecticut River. I slid down the riverbank to launch my kayak and there it was, lying in some river grass.”

My reaction to all this was initially a feeling of abject humiliation. But now it’s evolved to one of gratitude and pleasure for having been privilege d to experience such an unforgettable demonstration of community, culture – and generosity.

Jay Craven is a filmmaker who teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and directs Kingdom County Productions
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