Nfld. & Labrador

'Do you have a car?': Story of Newfoundland kindness finds national audience

An Ottawa family found a nice surprise on Signal Hill last summer, when a local woman offered them her car for their vacation.

Adriana Anon and her family visited N.L. because of the commercials, but found more than expected

Adriana Anon and family during their visit to Newfoundland. (Adriana Anon/Facebook)

An Ottawa woman's travel tale proves Newfoundland and Labrador's tourism ads can draw people in — but they're nothing on the hospitality tourists might find when they get here.

Adriana Anon visited the St. John's area with her family last summer to spend a short vacation hiking at various points along the East Coast Trail. 

But her plans took an unexpected and welcome turn when the family came across a local woman — Alma Lake — near Signal Hill. 

"They were sharing their stories of different hikes we had to do," Anon told the St. John's Morning Show on Thursday. "It took about two seconds for Alma to ask me, 'Well, do you have a car?'"

The family — including Adriana's husband, the Uruguayan ambassador to Canada, and their teenage children — did not. No rentals had been available, so they planned to take taxis to the various hiking spots they hoped to visit. 

Sharing this information led to an unexpected offer from Alma, and a friendship that has continued well after the end of Anon's quick vacation.

'I thought no, let them take my car'

"That's when she said, 'Take mine.' Just like that," Anon said of Lake's response.

"It was so plain that she was resolved in giving us her car. Eventually she convinced us and handed over her keys." 

Lake's response surprised Anon. She's been fortunate to visit many places around the world but has never had a stranger offer the use of their car.

Anon shared her story in an essay published Wednesday in the Globe and Mail, and it has since taken off with hundreds of shares and comments about similar experiences.

Adriana Anon with her husband Martin and two children, and Alma Lake with her husband Ed Lannon, in Lake's kitchen. (Submitted by Alma Lake)

It was just a way to help out, Lake told the St. John's Morning Show.

"That was probably my first time handing over my keys to my car, but they looked like such good decent people who were visiting," Lake said. "I thought about driving them but I didn't want to impose myself on their vacation so I thought no, let them take my car."

Lake had a bit of assurance that her good deed would work out for the best — she had seen proof that Anon's husband had a driver's licence, and he told her about his job as an ambassador.

"I had his card. He was going nowhere," Lake laughed.

An island of kindness

She can't say that giving over her vehicle for a few days is the norm, but Lake said that she does try to help others out when she can.

"My parents always instilled [in] me to do good for other people and it'll come back to you," she said. 

Alma and her friend Renee, who was with her on Signal Hill when they met Adriana Anon. (Submitted by Alma Lake)

"My mother always talks about always having to have extra food on the table just in case my dad would bring someone home unexpectedly.

"It's my way of living, to do random acts of kindness, and I just like to see that expand into the volatile world that we live in."

A Globe and Mail article about a chance encounter and a random act of kindness is once again bolstering the province's reputation for being a friendly place to visit. 3:27

She's found herself on the receiving end of local generosity as well, Lake said. She recounted her own experience as a tourist at home this summer when she and her husband rented a cabin in Southport with another couple.

"A knock came on the door inviting us to go to a stage party that evening," Lake said. "And the next morning, another knock on the door with a loaf of bread to enjoy for breakfast. And the next thing was fish, and the next was blueberries. So it's all over the island."

Enduring friendship

Anon and Lake's friendship has continued beyond their short summer holiday. After two days of great hikes, Anon and her family finished their vacation with dinner at Lake's home. 

And at Christmas, Lake received a package from Uruguay's embassy in Ottawa, courtesy of Anon.

Now the two have the experience of the article's popularity to share as well, along with memories of a great family vacation.

"Newfoundland was exceptional. It exceeded expectations, really," Anon said of the visit. "I will forever associate Newfoundland with Alma, and that's a wonderful thing. She really was the ambassador to her land."

Alma Lake in her home. (Carolyn Stokes/CBC)