When Daniel receives a message from Simon that his grandmother is dying, he returns home to find the door locked with his sister and grandmother inside. Although he is angry at first that no one broke down the door, he learns that they have at least been passing bread through the window. Once he manages to get inside the house, other neighbors help him by providing broth, hot coals to start a fire, and an oil lamp. Reflecting on this unexpected friendship, Daniel realizes "he had forgotten there was kindness" in the village. The neighbors also participate in the funeral and prepare a funeral feast. The most generous act, however, is the litter that "an aged carpenter who lived a short way down the road" built to transfer Leah to their new home. This act prompts Daniel to ask himself, "Why should they show such kindness to a stranger and an outcast?"
Although Elizabeth George Speare doesn't directly answer this question, readers can infer that the townspeople act as they do because they sympathize with Daniel and Leah. The two young people have endured a great deal of trauma that they didn't deserve, and most of the townspeople would be familiar with their family's plight. When Daniel was eight years old, his father and uncle were crucified by the Romans in a cruel display that was meant to strike fear into the hearts of the Jews. Daniel's mother died shortly after from grief-caused illness, and Leah became reclusive and unhealthy after that.
The town is a close-knit community drawn together by their common religious beliefs and shared oppression under Roman rule. Although Daniel finds it surprising, their kindness springs from heart-felt sympathy for the tragic events that have affected Daniel and his sister.