Some days, it can feel like the world is falling apart. Other days, decent humans step up and make it better.
When I was a little girl traveling with my grandma, we once got stuck in a Florida airport due to a storm. Hotels were already booked, and my grandma was preparing me to sleep near our gate. An elderly couple came over and offered us a place to stay, took us back to their house, gave us dinner, and when I told them how I loved rocks and nature, the husband brought out his rock collection. He gave me one with a tiny garnet, which is my birthstone, embedded in it. I still have that rock and I will always remember that couple.
It's a small example of human kindness, but it's one I've thought of many times, and it heartens me every recollection. The impact has lasted a lifetime.
I was reminded of this story when writer Nicole Cliffe tweeted a simple question:
"What's the kindest thing a stranger has done or said to you?"
She received more than 7,000 responses. Of course, Cliffe isn't the only one curious about this — there are several Reddit threads where people tell their stories, too — but it's a great example of humans being their best selves. Here are a couple of examples.
Of course there's drama:
When I was 8 mos pregnant I slipped on some ice & fell, knocked out cold. When I came to, there was a crowd of strangers around me, all without coats (this was in Saskatchewan, Canada in December). Their coats, I realized, were all on top of me, except the one under my head.— suzy (elena) krause (@krausesuzy) March 4, 2019
And group efforts:
So I talk to this guy and I answer questions, and I try to be encouraging and I’m maybe sounding a little frantic and I’m definitely ignoring the 4-5 customers in the store, and this angel of a woman puts her hand on my shoulder and asks for the phone.— 💁🏼♂️ (@TweetChizone) March 4, 2019
“My turn,” she says.
And SHE, this 50-something lesbian talks to this stranger on the phone. And a LINE FORMS BEHIND HER. Every customer in that store knows that call, knows that feeling, and every person takes a turn talking to that man.— 💁🏼♂️ (@TweetChizone) March 4, 2019
That story comforts me so much to this day.
Side-of-the-road rescues were a definite theme.
"I had a tire pop in the middle of winter on my morning commute. While waiting for AAA to come, a woman drove over and gave me hot cocoa, snacks, and a paper with her address and phone number in case I needed anything or wanted to wait somewhere warmer," wrote jellogoodbye.
my first summer in L.A., my transmission went out on the 134 Freeway. No smartphones yet, and I had no idea where I was or what to do. A dad with three kids (all in car seats) saw me crying, pulled over, called AAA and stayed with me to calm me down until the tow truck got there.— Laura J. Nelson 🦅 (@laura_nelson) March 4, 2019
Many people agreed that the stories that included a language barrier were often the best, because when you don't speak the same language, what's left is pure humanity.
I fainted on the subway once and a kind, elderly Chinese woman who spoke no English waited with me, held my hand, and fed me grapes while we waited for the EMTs. When they finally came, she patted my hand three times and put my hand on her heart before leaving.— Lauren Rankin (@laurenarankin) March 4, 2019
But sometimes the stranger who helps isn't even a human:
I was in the middle of a silent panic attack while waiting on a flight. Another passenger’s assistance dog evidently still noticed my condition and pulled its person to come by me. That dog put its head on my lap for 20 minutes until I felt better. https://t.co/oDQM07NOM0— JudgeYouHarshly™ (@JudgeYouHarshly) March 4, 2019
Some are quite simple:
"This was at my big state university long ago. I walked out of class into a summer shower. Someone walking by offered to share their umbrella. We parted at a corner and I thanked him. Then another person going my way offered their umbrella. This happened twice more. I made it mostly dry to another class thanks to the kindness of 4 strangers. Edit: I'm an ugly nerdy dude," wrote Pamplemousse.
"Just today, I was getting breakfast at Dunkin' Donuts on my way to work and managed to leave my phone at the counter (v smart). TEN MINUTES LATER a woman tapped me on the shoulder right as I was about to go into my office building and said, "Is this yours?" She'd chased me down that far, for that long, just to return my phone," wrote 1-800-CAN-YOU-NOT.
And some are all about living a nightmare — and making it all OK:
A TA found me hyperventilating and sobbing because I had missed the final. She scheduled a make up and said “You know that anxiety dream where you miss a deadline? Well now you’ve actually done it and it wasn’t that bad, you don’t have to have that dream again” and I haven’t.— alicia (@alicia) March 4, 2019