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#1 | Back to Top11-18-2006 12:04:09 AM

Yasha
Bitch Queen
From: Edmonton, AB, Canada
Registered: 10-15-2006
Posts: 6018
Website

The Kindness of Strangers

I'm wondering how common this is, so I figured I'd ask all of you.

How many times has someone who doesn't know you helped you, just out of kindness?

I have several of my own stories. More, maybe, than I should. I don't know, I hear people talk about how mean other people are and I just can't believe them. There've been too many times in my life when I was down, lost, scared, when I needed something, and out of nowhere, someone I didn't know came to lend a hand. I appreciate it immensely. I've never felt that strangers are something to be afraid of, simply because there've been so many times in my life when they helped me out so much.

I'll start with a more subtle story; I think it's the most recent one. A little more than a year ago, I was starting college. I hadn't been in school for years and years, and I was very upset because I wasn't sure how I could perform under the kind of pressure I was going to be under. I don't have much money, and I don't have a way to pay for most of my schooling unless I get scholarships or loans. Obviously, one of these is to be avoided if at all possible. The particular day I was to start classes, I hadn't slept well the night before. I think it was some form of self-handicapping-- if I couldn't do what was asked of me, I'd have the excuse of a bad night's sleep to fall back on. I ended up with an hour and a half to spare before I had to be at the school, so I picked up a couple of energy drinks and pulled over into a random parking lot to chill out for a while. This parking lot happened to be at a park, and in early fall, the sun is bright and warm here in Edmonton, and the air is cool. It's lovely.

I couldn't resist getting out of the car and going for a little walk down the ravine. Edmonton has so many trees that sometimes it feels like you're in a forest; everything was shady and pleasantly cool. I was trying to calm myself down, but it wasn't really working. I was smoking cigarette after cigarette, unable to enjoy the million little flickers of the wind through the leaves. Eventually I sat down on a bench along the path and just gave in to the urge to brood. I sat there in the midst of all of those gorgeous trees, the sky peeking through overhead, piercingly blue, and agonized. I couldn't believe that I would be able to keep up; I wouldn't allow myself not to keep up. I couldn't imagine what I would do if I failed to achieve; I've had a lot of second chances, and I know one day my second chances will run out. I hoped that this time wouldn't be the time I needed a second chance and it wasn't there.

In the midst of my brooding, I heard clicking on the path, and the jingling of a collar with tags on it. An old man was walking a dog, a gorgeous young German Shepherd, I believe. I'm not a dog person; I just ignored them. But the old man stopped, letting his dog sniff around, and asked if I minded if he sat down on the bench next to me. I said yes, of course, and being a polite person, I struck up a conversation.

The details of the conversation aren't important. What's important is that we talked like friends, even though we were strangers. He told me the reason his dog wore a harness instead of a collar, and how because of her slightly deformed spine, she'd almost died and he had to be very careful with her. I told him about my cats, and how one of them had recently died of a heart attack. He told me about how he used to teach at Nait, and how hard it was to become an engineer. I told him about my aspiration to become a psychologist, how I was nervous because it was the first day of my classes, and how I wasn't sure I could measure up or even pay for my schooling.

By this time, we had talked for quite a while. He fell silent, and he looked at me and after a long moment said, "I've been a PhD for thirty years now, and I've never stopped studying. I'm going for my master's in physics, and I can tell you this: anyone who listens and asks questions the way you do can't fail. If you love knowledge, you will succeed." He smiled, then, and continued, "Don't be nervous. I'm one of the people who helped to set up the transfer program you're in, ten years ago, when I was still involved in the school system. We set it up especially for people like you."

His dog escaped from her harness just then, and we had to spend some time catching her and putting her back in it. The conversation was effectively over, and I said I'd better be getting along to class. He said he'd better get home before his son and his daughter in law came over for supper. So we left, not having exchanged names, and I felt keenly that I would never find out who he was, or see him again.

But I felt so much better. Whether he'd known it or not, that man had given me exactly what I needed. Sometimes kindness is nothing more than a vote of confidence at the moment you need it most.

Wherever he is, I hope life treats him well.

Anyone else have a story of kindness from strangers? Share, please-- we all need to be reassured sometimes that the world can be kind.


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#2 | Back to Top11-18-2006 03:08:40 AM

Arki
Dark Whisperer
From: Croatia
Registered: 10-28-2006
Posts: 1121

Re: The Kindness of Strangers

"As much as there are people who will kick you around, stomp you when you're feeling the worst, only to be proven that it can get even worse than what you're already feeling, people who will be evil because they can and because they're human...

As much as people can be bad, they can be good too. This is for one of those people that I've had the honor of meeting. Heck, this is for all those who had been kind to a stranger or friend for no real reason, but because they want to. Because they know how hard life can be and help out when it's most needed. Even when it isn't needed, they help because they want to. Because they care. Because they saw something in you that others didn't, just because others don't look close enough. Or because you don't want others too see. But those people always do. Because they're special. Why? Because they can see that you're special.

I'll be a damn idiot if you think there's no one like that around you. There is. You have to look as much as they looked at you and saw the kind person inside."


http://www.sheezyart.com/view/619142/

This is something I wrote a year ago, in response to the kindness I got from someone who I couldn't even call an acquaintance. I would very much like to describe the situation(s) in detail, but I keep bumping into a wall that I could swear wasn't there yesterday. I would call it a writers block or just a result of trying to write something early in the morning. (: So I apologise & promise that, when my muse wakes up, I'll edit this into something worth while. Into something like Yasha's post, that really put a smile on my face and made me feel guilty for all the times I've lost hope in humanity.

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#3 | Back to Top11-18-2006 04:50:50 AM

UtenaFanGirl
Ballgoer
From: California
Registered: 10-17-2006
Posts: 145
Website

Re: The Kindness of Strangers

i never got out much to meet total strangers...and i'm not a bard so my storytelling is blunt

emot-keke; but one time when i was little i was out on the beach, on thoes peirs looking around. my family were on the sandy beaches so they never were in watch of me but knew i was somewhere on the peir. anyways alone on the peirs full of people i watched people walk about and others that are fishing. So i sat on a bench and watch as fishers threw their lines and if they got a hook or not. fishing did seem boring to me at first but as i watch longer the more i wanted to try and some old guy fishing seem to notice my analitical look of learning how to fish by trying to stare, asked me over. curious as i am did come and he said to hold the fishing rod he was holding. really i was bewildered on why but i did as he ask and as he was sitting back in his little chair he told me to wait till i felt some tugging on the line. couple of mins past and there was a large jerk on the rod, mind i was little holding a huge arse rod (i think around the age of 8) i was struggling for it. He just told me to hold on and use the crank to reel em in not even budging to help me. and so i did. the next thing i knew i was pulling in a line with 4 (each about 1/2 armlength) fishes up on a mutiple hooked line. then i brought them over the railings and he said to give him the fishish so that he could put in his bucket. O.o when i did i notice a bunch of people staring/crowding at me cause i was so little fishing...and catching something so big. the old guy just smiled and then gutted a fish then wraped it in paper to give to me. he then said "hard work always have its rewards"....and i brought it to my mom and said "i caught it" lol boy was my family surprised XD you can guess what we had for dinner that night


to this day i still want to go out and fish...that old man sparked my interest in fishing and it was the best learning experience i never had and no one i ever knew could give me...


Chu chuu CHU!!!!

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#4 | Back to Top11-18-2006 11:32:31 AM

Frosty
Everyone's Best Friend
From: United States
Registered: 11-16-2006
Posts: 1269
Website

Re: The Kindness of Strangers

Oooh! What a lovely topic! I have several instances to share, but not with the poetic finesse that Yasha used to described her story. My heart surged when I read about the man saying he was a PhD, and the program was designed for students with her situation in mind. Wow! Nice lift.

    When I was 18, I got my license. I waited a long time, I know, I know. I had learned to drive in a small town with not much traffic, and I had never been on the interstate. So, one weekend, I decided to force myself to learn everything all at once and I snuck away to Houston. It is a pretty large city, with more traffic in one square mile than the entire 50 mile radius where I grew up. I just found an 18 wheeler, and kept my car behind him the entire ride. Of course, my ending destination was the Galleria Mall. But I took several really wrong turns, and ended up on a huge bridge reminding me of a scary rollercoaster, complete with "Danger" signs about traveling too slow on you way up the side of the bridge. Traffic was bumper to bumper, but everyone still kept the nice easy pace of 70 mph. I laugh much easier than I cry, but I was in red-faced tears. No clue where I was going, how to get back, couldn't remember the name of the interstate I was on. I felt I had been thrown through a portal and I was destined to be sold into slavery whenever I stopped my car and found I couldn't speak the language any longer. Ha! I finally did stop at a trashy gas station, but my lack of knowledge about my own circumstances (names of interstate, roads I traveled to get this far) left everyone pretty irritated, therefore, seemingly unwilling to help. Then, in walked my angel. A random man, middle-aged, grabbed a map and tried so hard to make me understand where I needed to go to get home. He could tell I was clueless, and so he told me he was going to let me follow his car to the main interstate I needed. So I hopped in, followed him along several roads, we would stop at a toll, and when I pulled to the front, they let me know the car in front had already paid for mine. I followed him about 30 minutes, and eventually ended up on the road that took me home. I saw him take the first exit, waving goodbye, as he probably turned around and went back to where he needed to be. After a few months, when I learned more about roads and maps. I noticed that this man had taken me through a special shortcut, and paid all of my tolls, going quite far out of his way to do so. Actually letting me follow him OUT OF THE CITY so there would be no room for error.
    Because of that experience, I am now great with directions and rarely get lost. I can always spot the frazzled person, and see their questions of, "Where's that again?" are annoying everyone, so I take special care to be polite with other lost people.

    My car broke down once, it was raining, and as I was walking to the gas station to call my mom (cell phone dead) a man stopped, allowed me to use his phone, gave me a ride to the gas station after telling me that he was a father, would want someone to do the same for his daughter, etc. Speaking to him on the ride, I found out that his daughter was killed a few years earlier on the train tracks, and she and I shared the same name. An art major, with a drawing concentration, I promised him a portrait of his daughter for the kindness he had shown me that day.
   
    In the parking lot of a fast food restaurant, there was a van with several children hanging out inside. As soon as I stepped out of my car, a Hispanic woman approached with her child. The woman looked at me desperately, and her little girl began to tell me that her mother did not speak English very well, but that their van was empty and they needed gas money to get to Houston where the father was waiting. I handed her just over 40.00. The mother, had a necklace on with a Catholic icon of Christ. She took her necklace off, and put it around my neck, as she thanked me with tears in her eyes. I have kept her necklace hanging from my rearview mirror ever since.
 
    The most recent incident, would be at a Waffle House. This was a few weeks ago, I was visiting my Korean friends in Atlanta, we had just stopped to have the 'all American breakfast' after our visit to the karaoke room. Whilst I was leaving I noticed the waitress, who we had met several nights prior, who was a friendly African-American who exuded this 'toughness',  was crying. I stopped and asked her what was wrong, and she proceeded to tell me about strange threatening phone calls she was receiving from a disgruntled former employee. I told her to phone the police, but she told me that she had already done so only to be told it was out of the jurisdiction of whichever suburb it was. I redialed the police from my cell phone and demanded that an officer be sent out to our location. Then, I persuaded my drunk friends to sit back down and wait for the police to arrive. So we had a second breakfast that consisted mainly of coffee. We did not leave the Waffle House until the cops arrived, and the waitress assured us that she was fine.

   Finally, my last story involves a book. Kinda embarassing, but very funny. When I lived in Houston, I lived with a rage-a-holic boyfriend who once got very mad and tossed one of my books out of our third story apartment. (I was pretty young...18-19...don't worry folks, cynical, world-weary Frosty would never tolerate that sort of behavior now) A few weeks later my mother called and told me a book had been mailed to her home. Apparently, there was an envelope inside of the book, with my home address, and this runner had found it and decided to mail it back to the address. My mom wrote him a little note, "Thank you, God Bless the kindness of strangers" thanking him, and that was several years ago. Now they even exchange Christmas cards with one another! I still remember the book, Voltaire.

Last edited by Frosty (11-18-2006 11:34:20 AM)


Just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever, he said. You might want to think about that. / You forget some things, don't you? / Yes. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.

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#5 | Back to Top11-18-2006 11:46:50 AM

Alithea
Dark Whisperer
From: Westminster, CO
Registered: 10-16-2006
Posts: 1152
Website

Re: The Kindness of Strangers

You know I've never been random helped by a stranger, but I do randomly help strangers. I suppose that's why I've never been helped, or I'm saving up karma points for the day I need real big help from a random stranger. Hmmm... I try not to think of that too much.

Most recently I helped out a straving teen at a convention who had apparently not remembered to bring enough money with her to eat. I gave two dollars. I got a big hug. *shrug*

Looking back most of my random helpfulness seems really small, like giving directions, spare change, or the time, but I suppose, though, small, it's still helpful.


"The only reason to write is to write for love. Write for passion. If you have the privilege of being able to write, then don't do it for any other reason." - Stephen Sondheim

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#6 | Back to Top11-18-2006 03:46:59 PM

Nessy
Sunlit Gardener (Prelude)
Registered: 11-04-2006
Posts: 169
Website

Re: The Kindness of Strangers

Once I was crying at a bus stop (longish story, but suffice to say I cry very, very easily) and the man standing next to me, after watching nervously for a few minutes, handed me a huge wad of kleenex and told me he hoped I felt better soon. Like I said, I cry a lot, and I have trouble hiding it--usually when I'm sniffling on the streets people either ignore me or give me funny looks. Him taking the time to acknowledge it and give encouragement was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me.

Another really nice thing a stranger did for me was lil less direct--I was running down the el platform (for non-Chicagoans, el = train system, especially the elevated train system [although we call the subway the "el" too, go figure]) on a snowy, slippery day in an attempt to get back down to street level in time to catch my bus. As I ran past this little girl (maybe six or so) she yelled out, "be careful, you might fall down!" I did end up catching the bus (even though I stopped to thank her and slowed a bit) and I probably wasn't directly in any kind of danger, but I was really touched that she worried and said something.


There's also the odd time I've been stranded somewhere without money and a stranger has given me a few dollars for a train. I can never get over how kind an act that is, especially since there's almost zero chance that I could ever pay them back.

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#7 | Back to Top11-18-2006 04:24:14 PM

Mylene
Fighting Evil By Moonlight
From: Next to Paradox
Registered: 10-19-2006
Posts: 3704

Re: The Kindness of Strangers

I'll start with sharing my 'receiving kindess' story, and then go through some of the 'giving' my family has done.  I love topics like this.

I was driving to my house in the country from the 'big town' that was about an hour drive away.  The trip is done completely on backroads with hardly any traffic, and I was alone.  As I drove along, I got a flat tire.  Pulling off, I went to change it, but I honestly couldn't figure out how to get the jack to work, as it didn't have any directions with it, and I'd never seen one get 'started' before (you had to twist it a certain way to make it start lifting).  I was upset, alone, and didn't really know what to do.  I started to walk for a house in the distance, but panicked and headed back to my car.  A creepy older guy asked to give me a ride, but I refused.   There was no way I was getting into someone's car (especially someone grinning like that), and he drove off.  Finally, another car happened by.  It was two boys that were probably a year or two younger than I was.  They hopped out and changed my tire for me.  They were so sweet about it, and the kicker was the fact that they were heading home from work to get ready for Prom.   I hope they weren't late, and I hope their dates understood why. 

I've long since learned how to work the jack, but still appreciate them stopping and helping, especially when they had a much more important place to be.

Now for a couple of stories that I've always loved.

This ran as a letter to the editor in my hometown newspaper in the very early 1990s.  It was written by an elderly couple who had had car trouble and were touched by the kindness of a stranger.  Basically, their car broke down, and a shaggy haired, dirty, Firebird-driving teenager stopped to give them a hand.  They figured out the problem, and the man gave the teen $20 to go buy the part they needed.  The couple waited and waited, but the teen didn't show up.  Just when they'd given up hope an hour or so later, the teenager showed back up.  He apologized because he'd went to several auto stores but had been unable to find the part, and then gave them back the $20.  I can't really remember if the teenager gave them a ride somewhere or what, but it all ended up pretty well regardless.

That teenager happened to be my big brother. emot-keke  My heavy metal-listening, long-haired, grease monkey big brother.  He's such a softy.

My family has a habit of helping stranded motorists.  One time my mother and I picked up a family of 3 whose car had broken down on the interstate.  While they waited for it to get fixed, we took them to our house, fed them, and let them hang out and relax for the 6 hours it took.  That was back in the early 1990s as well.  I loved the ability to trust kindness that existed back then.

And oh yeah, there is one more story. 

My family lived in South Carolina for several years because my dad was in the Navy.  One day (circa 1979) when he was driving along, he witnessed a crash.  A VW bug was struck from behind by another car.  The driver of the VW was trapped, and her car caught fire.  My father, a big, strapping Navy man, punched out the window and pulled the woman (who was several months pregnant) from the vehicle and took her to safety.  And then, fearing she might have had children in the backseat, he ran back to the car to make sure it was empty.  Just as he got back to safety, it totally went up in flames.  Until he died in 1998, we received a Christmas card from that woman every year, and it always included a picture of her three children, because she felt none of them would have been born if it hadn't been for him.

I grew up with some pretty good influences when it comes to helping others.  My husband and I have stopped a many times to help stranded motorists or people who were lost.  I've also tracked down a few missing mothers and kids in stores.  Kids seem to latch onto me (I guess because I'm quiet and short?), so they don't get scared when I talk to them, even though they're upset in general.  But thankfully, aside from the above mentioned experience with the flat tire, I haven't had many moments when I'd needed kindness.  I just hope that when I finally do, I'll receive it too.

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#8 | Back to Top11-18-2006 08:19:59 PM

Giovanna
Ends of the Forum
From: Edmonton, AB
Registered: 10-12-2006
Posts: 8731
Website

Re: The Kindness of Strangers

Yasha wrote:

I have several of my own stories. More, maybe, than I should.

I agree. emot-mad

I don't get helped by random strangers much. The first (and kinda only...) thing that comes to mind is when I needed money to move and continue hosting the site, and a bunch of people came through for me and donated. etc-love I'm not sure that counts though, since...I can't really consider that a bunch of strangers. emot-smile


Also, do thou wear thine suits and cuffs, be thee male or no, for such attire doth please my girl parts. - Gios 3:15
Chiefest of Calamities

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#9 | Back to Top11-19-2006 09:14:20 PM

Nessy
Sunlit Gardener (Prelude)
Registered: 11-04-2006
Posts: 169
Website

Re: The Kindness of Strangers

I just read this & it definitely applies:

http://www.yahoo.com/s/441527

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#10 | Back to Top11-27-2006 01:49:09 AM

Yasha
Bitch Queen
From: Edmonton, AB, Canada
Registered: 10-15-2006
Posts: 6018
Website

Re: The Kindness of Strangers

Definitely, Nessy. That's a gorgeous story.

The best story I have of the kindness of strangers comes from a couple of years ago, while I was on a bus ride. It's long, so please bear with me.

I go down to America quite often. For the last couple of years, it's been twice a year. I have friends in Florida (obviously) and Missouri; you all will never meet my friend from Missouri, as she's not in the least interested in SKU. Back when I first went to visit her, I was poorer than I am now, so I had to take the bus down to see her. The first time I was ever on the bus, it was that three day bus ride to Missouri. No stops at hotels, nowhere to sleep but on the bus, middle of February, and no one else to talk to. Sounds hellish, no?

Well, it got worse. After about a day on the bus, we were doing a long stretch in the middle of the night, and a poor old man died (natural causes, I think) on the bus, which meant we had to wait for the authorities and the ambulance to arrive. Incidentally, they dragged him out by his feet, and I almost cried to see him treated that way.

Not to negate the impact of his death, but in essence what it meant as far as the bus was concerned was that we were an hour late getting into our next stop, where I had a transfer to make. I missed it, of course, and it was the only bus that day. I'd have to wait a full day to catch the next one. Unfortunately for me, circumstance had left me with almost no Canadian money and no way to get any; my budget for the two weeks was only four hundred dollars, and the only hotel within walking distance was charging $150 for a room. I decided to wait in the bus station, because at least that way I wouldn't have to go outside. I spent nine long hours in that bus station, and by the end I was so sleep-deprived that I could barely write coherent sentences. I have a problem with sleeping sitting up. I actually can't do it at all. At that point I think I was near 35 hours awake.

That's when they told me I had to get out. Apparently the bus station closed at midnight. I stepped out into the Winnepeng cold, hoping I would be able to keep warm for six hours until the bus station opened again. I found a little sheltered spot, out of the wind, and sat there with my fingers and face stinging from the cold for some unmeasurable length of time.

After a while, a cab pulled up. I knew I wouldn't be able to last the night out in that cold, so in desperation I grabbed my bags and walked over. I ended up spilling the story to the cabbie, and I asked him if he knew of any all-night diners that I could get a cup of coffee and get warm in. He looked at me for a moment, and then said, "I know a place. Grab your bags."

I told him I couldn't go far, because I only had ten dollars, but he said it wasn't far and he was right. We pulled up to a large house, and he said "It's a hostel. They might still be open, but you'll have to hurry." I grabbed my bags and started fumbling for my cash, but he waved me off. "Don't worry about it right now. I'll wait outside in case they're closed for the night, and you can come back out and pay me then."

So I went inside the hostel and explained my situation, and that I didn't have much money. I ended off by asking whether I couldn't just sit down in their TV room and get warm for a while. The girl behind the counter told me there was no need, that she could bring me in for the night for sheet deposit and a small, small fee for the bed-- a very reduced rate. I told her I didn't know if I could pay because I had to pay the cabbie first, so I went to the door and opened it. The cab was just pulling away.

The girl set me up with a blanket and promised to wake me in time to catch my bus. I went up to my room and met my new rommates-- a guy from Montreal, named Gabriel, and a Japanese guy whose name I didn't catch. Gabriel took a liking to me, because he offered to go outside and smoke with me, and I suppose the Japanese guy did too, because when I came back upstairs to the room, he gave me an origami chrysanthemum, made from the foils out of a cigarette pack.

I kept it until it was shreds. The next morning, awake, showered, and on time, I got onto my bus and continued on.


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