Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Kindness of Strangers

When I was 12-years old, our car broke down while my family was on our way to my uncle’s wedding. My Dad went to the nearest house to ask to use their phone to call for help. Instead, the couple that lived there loaned us their car so we wouldn’t be late for the wedding. When we returned, we learned that they had arranged for all the repairs on our car. It was completely fixed and ready to drive home.

A number of years ago, my husband and I were traveling in Scotland. We discovered a very old cemetery in the middle of Edinburgh. We’d read a little bit about it, but didn’t know nearly enough to truly appreciate its historical richness. While we were wandering about, a kind gentleman approached us and offered to show us around. He graced us with an hour-long personal tour, enriching us with little known facts about the place, including how he’d acquired his information. He was not only informative, but he was also slightly drunk and funny. It was one of the most memorable travel experiences of my life. Afterwards, we offered to take him out for dinner to thank him for his time and effort. He declined. He said the pleasure of our company was thanks enough.

When I was born, my parents were very poor. They lived on the $27 per week my father made at his factory job. As I approached the age when I would begin to walk, they needed to get proper shoes for the task. However, there wasn’t any money to do so. One day, a couple months before my first birthday, my Mom was approached by a kind stranger while she was taking for a walk. The stranger cooed and talked to me and then gave her $5 and told her to buy something that I needed.

About a year ago, I was on my way to work. I was running late as usual. As I approach an intersection, I noticed a young woman with a backpack and a duffle bag. When I stopped to wait for traffic, she approached my window. She was trying to talk, but it was difficult because she was crying. I managed to understand that she had 5 minutes to get to an address about 10 blocks away. I told her to get in the car and I’d drive her there. After a minute, I realized that the address she’d given me was for the Greyhound Station. I never knew anything else about her because she cried the whole way there. Still, I couldn’t drive away until I knew she was safely on the bus. I ended up being 15 minutes late for work. A week later, I received a disciplinary notice from my supervisor about being tardy.
… Some things are more important than being on time for work … like young women crying on the side of the road.

I could tell a dozen other stories about the generous things strangers have done for me over the years. When such things happen, I’m astounded and amazed. They give me faith and hope. They humble me and make me think that there’s so much more I can do to bring joy to this world.

1.) How have you been blessed by the kindness of strangers?
2.) What things have you done to pass generosity along?


At 12:45 AM, Blogger ZooooM said...

Mr. Zoom and I had a similar incident in Ireland. We were exploring a Castle when a farmer informed us we were on his property. But instead of getting upset, he took us on this great tour. Wouldn't accept any compensation, then introduced us to his wife (when she came around wondering where he'd disappeared to). And their kitty cat.

I've had my keys returned when I lost them (today); I've had my wallet turned in with everything in it, cash included. I never did find out who returned it for me when I left it at an ATM once.

I've returned at least 2 ATM cards I found in an ATM with no owner around - and once there was $200 in cash withdrawn that I also returned with the card. I helped track down the owner of a wallet Mr. Zoom found by calling information and trying to convince a total stranger that we had found her son's wallet. Her name and address were all over everything in his wallet, because he was a student at the nearby college.

At 8:24 AM, Blogger Al said...

"I've always depended on the kindness of strangers" - what a great movie line.
I'm a huge believer in Karma (yep long before Earl)
I can honestly say I've been help by more people than I can count.
Whether it was the first person to give me shot at my first real career type job - That person is still someone I turn to for advice when things get nutty. The person who helped me find my lost dog. The nice couple who gave me a lift Atlanta to Orlando after my car died.

I've changed flats for people, Helped the ederly to cross busy streets, and returned lost jewelery/wallets.

I think that we do things not just because it makes you feel good (the whole - tis better to give than recieve, even thought you don't believe it as a kid). but it's also a "there but the grace of" thing. Last year, with all the Hurricanes, all the neighbors were pitching in - we helped each other board up and after they passed we were out helping each clean up. We realised that we are all in this together and we had to rely on each other to get through.
I think that feeling of wanting to help you fellow man and act charitable id the reason I love the holidays - everyone is a little nicer, you tend to let people merge in front of you, you've always have some change for the bell-ringers and we invite family and friends and sometimes even complete strangers into our homes. Wouldn't it be great if we didn't need to volunteer at soup kitchens because there were no homeless. Wouldn't it be great if we didn't have to send care packages to Iraq, because there was no war (not just this conflict - but war in general) Wouldn't it be great if we didn't have to donate toys to Toys for Tots because ills that put people in those positions were nonexistant.
I know that this has turned into a "We are the World/Do they know it's Christmas" thing sorry.

At 8:58 AM, Blogger Laurie said...

Theresa, that was so kind of you to help that girl - who knows, she may have been running from an abusive boyfriend or something, and you saved her with your kindness. She'll probably always remember you helping her, regardless of the circumstances.

At 1:26 PM, Blogger littlefeet said...

most recently...we acquired the cosleeper, carseat and numerous other baby items for Trout...for very cheap...

i donate my time...at the school, at Planned Parenthood, where ever...

i believe that what you do for others, comes back 10-fold...and in ways you may not realize...


At 1:50 PM, Blogger AndyT13 said...

Wow, I've got so many stories like this I can't even begin. I never miss a chance to out of my way for a stranger, in distress or otherwise and I think that's the reason so many people have gone out of their way for me. Two examples. Receipt: I showed up in France for two weeks with a backpack, a guitar and $200. Alex, a young black Frenchman I met on the plane helped me negotiate the week. They helped in too many ways to enumerate. Gift: I can't count how many timess I've helped strangers negotiatew the NYC subway often giong way out of my way to make sure people get where they're going. And not just pretty girls either! :-)

At 7:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is going to sound pretty stupid, but it's the first thing I thought of when I read the post:
I was at a seminar in KC about 6-7 years ago. After one of the sessions, some of us went to a bar (Kelly's) in the Westport area of downtown. Apparently it had started out as a drinker's bar a long time ago but trendy Westport had grown up around it so not it was more of a post-college kid bar. We were sitting at a table by the jukebox when I noticed an older (mid-50's?) couple walk in. As they looked for somewhere to sit, I got a sense that they knew this place from a long time ago, but were kind of taken about by the changes that had occurred. That can be a pretty disconcerting feeling when you realize that a institution that holds such an important place in your life/relationship just isn't the same anymore. So anyway, I watch them as they walk hand-in-hand all the way to the back of the place. I could just see the disappointment on their faces as their hopes of rekindling a moment they once shared were dashed. They jukebox was playing some innocuous pop song as I unplugged it from behind, then plugged it back in reset. I dropped in two quarters and pressed 52-06, Patsy Cline's 'Crazy'.
He looked at her and she looked at him. By now they were halfway towards the door to leave, but they both stopped at the same time. And started dancing. Right there in the middle of the bar.
It was only then that I could turn away to let them share a moment that I had no business watching.
After that they went and found some chairs in the back and were still there when I left.

At 8:55 AM, Blogger theresa said...

Zoom - Those darn Irish are always competing with the Scots to see who's the most sweet and hospitable ... or is that, who's the most fierce on the Rugby field? I forget.

Al - Great points to bring up about the holidays and disaster responses. My favorite story is Dicken's "Christmas Carol". I try to keep Christmas in my heart all year round. Just please don't play the music year round.

Laurie - I never thought of that. I just thought she was a spaz like me and she was really late and broke. In the right circumstances, that could make me cry.

Monkey - It's true, generosity has a way of making its way back around.
Yesterday I was having lunch with my boss and a Sales Rep. We were at an outdoor cafe when a raggedy unkept young man approached us and asked for some money. I gave him a couple bucks. My companions kinda looked at me funny and the Sales guy gave me a little shit for it. Finally, I said, "Hey, I owed the guy some money, Dude." Come-on, this poor guy asks for a hand-out while we're sitting there with our bellies full, in our fancy office clothes, with our slick leather briefcases, bouncing our hundred dollar shoes at the end of our ankles, as we prattle on about the last time we were in Europe. *Blech* I feel dirty.

Andy - You know Sweetie, you just sold yourself as my personal guide the next time I'm in the City. I instist on nothing but the best!

Anon - That's one of the best stories I've read in a long time. You were thinkin' fast. What a thoughtful thing you did!

At 9:27 AM, Blogger AndyT13 said...

By the way, since you've been coming by and saying such nice things to me for HNT inquiring minds want to know: when are we going to start seeing you na..I mean half naked? Show us soime skin baby! :-)

At 12:28 PM, Blogger JayneSays said...

What a great post idea and stories from everyone! Thanks for sharing this. Everywhere I go, people are for the most part kind and want to help. So many instances - introductions that led to great jobs, calling to apologize, picking me up stranded on the freeway, returing my lost wallet, showing me the sights in Bangkok. . . also in blogging! There were a couple lovely souls who were the first to comment on my blog, very encouraging! : )

I'm a pro-active do-gooder (except I don't pick people up in my car, too paranoid then I feel guilty : ( ) and I agree with others that we get back what we put into the world! Thanks again, I love the positive energy you put out there with this . . .

At 10:46 PM, Blogger Yoga Korunta said...

Having been the recipient of much kindness over the years has taught me to be generous when I am able. But for the kindness of strangers, I would not be alive.

At 11:46 PM, Blogger Kyle Stich said...

Wow, this is a tough one. I've been withdrawn most of my life, so most people don't notice me enough to be generous to me. But, here's one:

1. While hitchhiking through Southern California, we wound up on a deserted desert highway in the middle of nowhere, at night. The few cars that did pass us, picked up speed as they went by. We started to give up hope, to look for some shrub to crawl under for the night. Then, one of the cars turned around to pick us up. Blaine, a mobile window repair guy, said he almost kept going but felt sorry for two nice looking people and wouldn't be able to stand himself had anything happened to us.

2. I pick up as many backpack wearing hitchhikers I run across and take them right to the trailhead. I also go out of my way to make sure elderly tourists get on the right bus and off at the right stop. Sometimes, I take them on mini-historical tours of Ashland.

At 7:41 AM, Blogger Al said...

Ohh t-
you mean you don't wanna hear Burl Ives - Have a Holly Jolly Christmas in June?

At 3:21 PM, Blogger ReddyMan said...

Good post. I just recently changed the flat tire on our mail-lady's car. lucky for her it went flat close to my house.


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