Compassion is universal.

When a group of tourists from Korea got stranded in Buffalo, New York during a blizzard this past winter — a local couple came to the rescue. Some months later, that same couple visited Korea, this time invited by the Korean government.

This past Winter, Buffalo saw one of the worst blizzards in its history. The storm dropped more than 22 inches of snow on the town, and claimed the lives of 40 people in cases linked to the inclement weather.

How Korean Tourists Got Stuck in a Snow Storm

snow storm
Photo by Pixabay

Many were trapped in homes and cars, while authorities and first responders were unable to use the roads. A group of travelers visiting from Korea were on their way to see Niagara Falls, when they unfortunately got stuck in Buffalo during the storm.

Lucky for them, they happened to stop near the Campagnas.

Alex and Andrea Campagna, a married couple living in Buffalo, were prepared to hunker down and wait out the storm in their home, when they heard an unexpected knock on their front door. When they answered their door, Scott Park and a tour guide greeted them, asking if they could borrow shovels to dig their bus out from the snow.

“We’ve had snowstorms, but not to that extent. We knew we were going to be stuck at home for many days. So when we heard the knock on our door, we wondered who would be outside in this weather,” Alex Campagna told a Korean publication.

The Campagnas, Buffalo locals, knew better than to attempt and shovel the bus out, and instead invited the travelers in for tea, warmth, and conversation. Naively, the travelers thought that after a cup of tea they would be back on the road, but the Campagnas knew better.

How an American Couple Opened Their Home to 9 Tourists

Without hesitation, the couple opened their home to 9 Korean travelers, as well as the bus driver. The group ended up staying for two nights and three days — trading stories, cuisine, and even watching American football.

Funny enough, Alex and Andrea apparently love Korean food, and already had many traditional ingredients in their kitchen.

“We were surprised to see all the Korean condiments from soy sauce and mirin to chile powder and chile paste. There was even a rice cooker and Korean cookbooks as if they had prepared all this for us,” said Park, one of the travelers.

Fast forward a few months, a seasonal change, and the roles were reversed.

In May 2023, the Campagnas traveled to Seoul for a 10-day tour of South Korea, at the invitation of the Korea Tourism Organization, who caught wind of the story after it circulated widely online.

“To see everyone in Korea again is such a blessing,” Andrea told reporters in Seoul.

“We’ve always had an appreciation and interest in Korea. They ended up in the right place at the right time,” Andrea Campagna said. “Now we have people we can call friends for a lifetime.”

As guests in Korea, Alex and Andrea were now on the receiving end of hospitality, as Park’s wife cooked Korean dishes like jeyuk bokkeum, spicy marinated stir-fried pork, and dakdori tang for the couple.

How One Couple Proved the Importance of Compassion

Back in Buffalo, they also received many kind messages — ranging from cards in the mail to gifts of appreciation. One local Korean barbecue restaurant even gifted the couple a coupon for a year of free Korean fried chicken.

The story got picked up by major news outlets, such as the New York Times, and quickly captured the hearts of many — for good reason.

Particularly after the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, spontaneous cultural exchange like this has been rare. Everyone seems eager to socialize, and this story allowed people to share in the serendipity of the situation — if vicariously.

Speaking on her new Korean friends, Andrea Campagna added, “They endured the horrible storm with us. When you spend time together in a disaster situation, you feel very bonded.”

The group was able to turn a disastrous situation into a lasting friendship, and can inspire us all to be as open and welcoming. Hospitality can transcend language and culture, and bring us all closer together. The warmth that the Campagnas showed to a group of strangers exemplifies human behavior at its best.

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