TURIN — Riding their bicycles along the banks of the Po river last Sunday, a university professor and his wife came upon a scene that caught their attention: A man and a woman, armed with shovel and spade, were busy digging out a bench, just before the Sassi bridge in central Turin, that had been submerged by mud from the recent flooding of the river.

The professor and his wife asked the couple why they had taken on this public chore. They told them it was a special place, a kind of secluded "lovers' bench," where couples would come to share a tender moment in this northern Italian city. To discover that it had been swallowed by the mud had seemed like something that needed fixing.

Moved by the simplicity of their words, the professor's wife asked permission to photograph them and send the picture to the newspaper. The couple said yes, provided that they remain unnamed. Such people do still exist, capable of performing a small act of altruism in a spirit of public good and perhaps a romantic memory of their own. Bearing witness to this kind of story is not sentimentalism, but rather a basic duty to report: No, not everything is awful out there.

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