There's only one rule that I know of, babies
November 13, 2017 10:35 PM   Subscribe

The Washington Post asked readers to submit stories of a time a stranger performed an act so unexpectedly kind that it stayed with them. Here are some of the most poignant ones, in honor of World Kindness Day. (yesterday at this point, but every day is immeasurably improved by kindness)
posted by Johnny Wallflower (45 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
 
The comments are worth reading, with one glaring exception. Post mods, you suck. I flagged it and told you why, something that's not even possible on the internet's Most Civil Weblog.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:39 PM on November 13 [1 favorite]


paywall cheat? need me some wkd stories!
posted by j_curiouser at 10:52 PM on November 13


Here you go.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:59 PM on November 13 [1 favorite]


Top this guy, if you can.

When my mom was dying of cancer, and was in the hospital, one time I went outside for some air -- and got a few steps out on the lawn and fell down and started crying. So I'm sitting there, a grown woman, sobbing my heart out on the hospital front lawn, and an old man walks up to me and wordlessly just hands me a stuffed animal, smiles sadly and kindly at me, and walks away. Wherever you are tonight, I love you, stuffed animal guy.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 11:06 PM on November 13 [58 favorites]


I didn't know it was world kindness day. Now I am really happy about this little moment that just happened.

I was just at the supermarket unlocking my bike, and a young lady came out of the store and up to her cute little dog that was tied up to the rack. Bending down to pet him, she said "I'm sorry Ziggy. I didn't have enough for your food." Overhearing this, I was about to tell her that I could give her enough to pay for the food for her dog when I heard her add, "Oh I'm so sorry. I'm just so poor right now. Payday is in two days"

So I told her that I could pay for the dog-food, and she very reluctantly took a $5 bill from me, protesting that she had some money at home she could get. I knew that she was embarrassed, and that this wasn't true, so while she was inside getting her pet the food she was struggling to afford with the last money she had, I tucked a couple of twenty dollar bills into the mutt's collar, and then watched through the store's window from around the corner, to make sure no no one else spotted the money and took it.

The look on her face when she went to unleash the dog was probably the most rewarding $40 I've ever spent.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 11:19 PM on November 13 [86 favorites]


Google doesn't know of any previous occurrences of this link on MeFi despite it being maybe the highest rated comment on reddit, so I might as well post it. Here's the day one Disney World employee decided to work in the character department.
posted by Jpfed at 11:39 PM on November 13 [29 favorites]


Well, now I'm sobbing.
posted by greermahoney at 11:47 PM on November 13 [15 favorites]


Buskers and panhandlers must be given money (It Is Known), and Victoria, BC's downtown is full of both. When we walk back to the hotel after dining out, Mrs. W. jokes that it would have been much cheaper to take a cab.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 12:01 AM on November 14 [6 favorites]


I'm a pretty severely depressed person in general, and about once or twice a year I have one of those seemingly interminable crying jags where even Snuggles the stupid laundry mascot can make me fill up a beach towel with tears. I was having one of those days a few years back and I decided to distract myself with some drive-thru coffee. I went to my local Tim Horton's because it was open 24 hours and pulled up and ordered a couple of coffees. I paid and waited for my coffees, but the woman handed out a bag first. I said, "What's this?" She just smiled and said, "A surprise." Then she handed out my coffees and wished me a good night. I drove home and opened the bag in the kitchen. Inside there was 3 or 4 of every kind of cookie that Tim Horton's sells and a note that said, "We hope you feel better. Eat some cookies. Love, The Staff."
posted by xyzzy at 1:08 AM on November 14 [56 favorites]


When I was in Poland last year on a 9 hour transit on my way back to Australia, I decided to take the airport train into the city to do some last minute sightseeing. I pushed the buttons on the ticket machine to enter in my destination, waited for it to display the amount required, put my credit card in, waited a minute, then a message popped up, it ejected my card, and dropped a piece of card with stuff printed on it into the ticket hole. So I took the 'ticket' and boarded the train, and the controllers came along checking everyone's ticket.

Turns out my ticket was only a note saying my card had been denied. So I had no ticket. And although the controller was willing to sell me a ticket for cash, I had no cash, because I was only there for 9 hours. And as we pulled in to some random stop in the middle of the Polish countryside, the controller told me I had to get off the train. They were also kind of angry with me, because I think they couldn't really believe I was such an idiot.

But then this random dude came over and bought me a ticket, and also told the controller to stop being mean about it all. It was really sweet. And he very clumsily found a way to mention his girlfriend in the first sentence to make it clear it wasn't an attempt to hit on me. I was so grateful I burst into tears, which was kind of embarrassing.
posted by lollusc at 1:16 AM on November 14 [44 favorites]


Oh my god, that Disney story, Jpfed. I'm with you, greermahoney.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:16 AM on November 14 [6 favorites]


Oh, and another one: I was transiting through LAX a couple of years ago and I had a really short window between flights, and the lines were crazy long, and I was sure I was going to miss my connecting flight. (Also had just come off a 10-hour flight or something, so was already pretty exhausted, with another 10 hours to go). I got to a security check point and the woman there pulled me aside for extra checks - wanted to go through my hand luggage and wave the bomb detector thing over me, and I expressed my frustration, said something like, "Oh god, I was already so late for my flight! Now I'm definitely going to miss it." She said something grumpy in reply and we both glared at each other for the rest of the pat down.

Then she said I could go, and I reached into the tray and scooped up the rest of my things, and took off running for my gate. Made it there just as they were about to close the gate. As I was passing through, someone running towards the gate yelled 'wait, wait!'. It was the woman from security. I had left my phone in the tray. She must have run for a solid 10 minutes all the way to my gate to get there only a couple of minutes after me. She was sweating and panting. She handed the phone over and said, "You were having such a terrible day and I didn't want it to get even worse."
posted by lollusc at 1:27 AM on November 14 [57 favorites]


I don't think I've ever told this story before, but it fits here.

Almost 20 years ago I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mozambique. I lived in a town about 10 hours away by bus from the capital city. It was a long day's drive on many forms of rickety transport, but there wasn't much in the way of hotels or places to stay in the middle so I would just leave at like 6am and do the whole thing in one big stretch.

The thing was, the infrastructure was -- eh, let us say, not great. The one highway was full of potholes and apt to get rained out in the rainy season. Most of the vehicles were held together with spit and duct tape (sometimes literally). It was dangerous, but you just had to suck it up and make the trip sometimes, because otherwise you'd never get out of your house or do anything.

So, you guessed it, one afternoon our bus broke down in the middle of nowhere. It was about 30 minutes' drive from the nearest village but there wasn't much in that village. I don't even know if it was on the map, but it basically consisted of just huts and small plots of land. I knew nobody there, there was certainly nothing in the way of hotels or campsites or any kind of place to sleep, and I had no way of getting in touch with anyone (this was before cell phones were ubiquitous). I had no idea what to do. Some people were bedding down on the side of the road and I figured I'd just have to do that. But I was pretty freaked out at the idea. For one thing, there were unexploded landmines along the road and we were constantly warned never to go off it. It was probably okay, but... landmines! Worse, most everyone else was traveling with their families or other companions, and here I was, a very young woman, alone, with pale white skin that just screamed out "I'm a rich foreigner and do not belong." I spoke Portuguese reasonably well but not any of the local dialects, which is what most people spoke, which made everything even more difficult.

While I was standing there, dismayed, trying to figure out what to do, one of the women I'd been chatting off and on with started gesturing to me impatiently. "Come with me" she said with a kind of take-charge, no-nonsense air that I admired. I don't remember what I said or did, but the long and the short of it is that she overrode any feeble objections I had and in short order I was hustled into the next chapa (a local taxi truck thingy) and taken to the nearby village, where she lived. She and her large family hosted me that night. We had chips and matapa, a delicious Mozambican dish that I loved but had never perfected making myself. Her kids laughed and circled around and were fascinated to have a visit from a real mulungu (white person). I held her baby, an adorably alert little girl with huge black eyes. For some reason I still remember the baby's name: Carlotta. I couldn't follow a lot of the conversation, because only the woman spoke Portuguese, but I felt so welcomed despite my foreignness. I remember nodding off to sleep in my corner after that meal, thinking how safe and full I felt, knowing it was only this woman's sheer kindness that lay between that and a night spent shivering in fear and hunger by the side of the road.

I don't remember that lady's name or even the name of the town, but I do often think back to that night and the surprising and wonderful feeling of so much thoughtful kindness offered out of nowhere. I wonder how the baby Carlotta is doing. She must be a young woman herself now.

We're all connected. I try to remember that, and to pay it forward, when I can.
posted by forza at 2:23 AM on November 14 [51 favorites]


A stranger from Metafilter sent me money to have my dog's blood work done at a time when I had no money and my dog was very ill. I had posted looking for advice, and this member, who did not know me, put money in my PayPal account so that I could take care of my dog. I will never forget this, ever. I'm tearing up about it even now.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 3:22 AM on November 14 [60 favorites]


And once a MeFite put money in my PayPal so I could buy shoes for job hunting. You people.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 3:23 AM on November 14 [38 favorites]


Every one of those stories I found myself waiting for it to be revealed that oh yeah, by the way, the stranger was Joe diMaggio. I still think that it was, but it just so happens in those cases he just didn't reveal himself.

(yeah, I'm still tickled by this human kindness tale).
posted by Mchelly at 4:13 AM on November 14 [9 favorites]


Forza, I was in Mozambique around the same time, and your description of things is exactly as I remember it! The landmines... yikes. I don't think your story is that unusual in my experience of Southern Africa, and it always upsets me to think what Europe has done to disadvantage whole continents of people. Thanks for volunteering.

Mchelly, is Joe diMaggio a renowned philanthropist? Not being American i'm only aware of the name and the sport and not the man.
posted by trif at 4:32 AM on November 14 [2 favorites]


So a little over a year ago I went on a vacation to Yosemite National Park. I was staying outside the park, first at one town near the north end, and then at a town near the south. My plan was to fly into San Francisco, pick up a car at the airport and drive myself everywhere. My flight there was fine, I picked up the car just fine, I was driving myself just fine - and about halfway there, I got a little puzzled over the directions Googlemaps was showing me, so I pulled into a McDonald's in Stockton, CA to get a burger and look at a proper map. I stupidly had all my luggage in the back seat instead of putting it in the trunk - so when I got back out, after no more than 15 minutes inside, I discovered someone had smashed in the window and taken everything. Thank goodness I still had my wallet, credit cards, and my iPad - but everything else, including my phone, passport, clothes, my laptop, my camera, and all my travel journals - was gone.

But when I tell this story, that's when I say that "this is where the story gets good." Because here's all the things that happened after that moment.

* When I ran back into the McDonalds to blurt out that I'd been robbed, they called the police for me. But there was a lot more calls I needed to make - so one of the staff, who was just about to clock out, came to sit in a booth with me so I could use her phone and so she could keep me company. She sat there while I called the car rental company, my AirBnB people who were waiting for me, and my parents and some of my friends to kvetch. She was there for an hour and even when her mom called wondering where she was she just said "eh, ignore the call, I'll explain to my mom later."

* The call I made to the rental place was to request a new car - because the drivers' side window was totally destroyed. However, it was an awkward time of day in an awkward place, so all the rental place could do would be to deliver a new vehicle the following day. They sent me an Uber to drive me the rest of the way to where I was staying - a trip of an hour - and told me I should call when I got there. Uh....I didn't have a phone though. But fortunately the AirBnB was one of three guest houses out the back of the main property, and the other two were occupied by full-time residents; one of which gladly lent me his phone, when I explained the situation, and even offered me a shot of whiskey.

* When my first phone guy didn't come through the following morning when I had to make another phone call, the second guy came through - and HE also offered me breakfast. Then when we discovered, during the course of our small talk, that I was a workmate of his best friend in college, he gave me a full rundown shopping list of "here's where you can get your phone replaced, and here's where to get clothes, and here's some places to get food, and here let me draw you maps..." I even met his mother who dropped by; they were supposed to go tour an art exhibit, but I was still waiting for my replacement car to be delivered and they postponed their trip until they knew I was settled and underway.

* When I was getting my replacement phone, the sales clerk was taking care of my account and spotted a discount I had on it. "Oh, an employee discount becuase you work at [Megacorp]." I sheepishly confessed that I acutally didn't work at Megacorp any more. She blinked at me a couple times, then quietly said "I think you've had a hard enough week, let's pretend you still work there," and trasnferred the discount back onto my account.

* The rest of the trip was uneventful, and Yosemite beautiful enough that I had a good time. And then when I got home, I discovered a voicemal message, left about two hours after I had been robbed - it was from a pizza delivery guy who'd seen one of my bags dumped on the side of the road, and brought it and all its contents to the police. He left me the squad number so I could call them to have it mailed back home. The laptop, camera, old cell phone, and some of my clothes were gone (there's a couple sweaters I still wish I had) - but my house keys, my passport, and all my journals were all in there.

....The irony is that I was hoping, before the trip, to avoid people. It's a damn good thing I didn't.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:44 AM on November 14 [43 favorites]


Joe DiMaggio shows up to save the day in this story about "The Week My Husband Left And My House Was Burgled I Secured A Grant To Begin The Project That Became BRCA1" from a semi-recent FPP, trif.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:48 AM on November 14 [12 favorites]


That Joe DiMaggio story is great. Completely out of left field, but great.
posted by trif at 5:27 AM on November 14 [2 favorites]


I used to have to park on the street a lot when I was living in this one apartment. It was a pain, but it was a fairly safe street, I thought, and the most annoying thing was having to dig it out when the plow when by in the winter.
Until the window was smashed one day and everything stolen out of it. Now, I was more mad about the broken window than what was stolen, because I am a geek and all they got was a backpack with a role playing book in it, some spare change, and a metal box full of my LARP makeup. Fake blood, bruise makeup, liquid latex, colloidon, that sort of stuff, and my brushes & sponges. Nothing worth anything in resale. That kind of makeup is expensive to replace, but I figured I could take some time to rebuild the kit. They hadn't taken anything irreplaceable or important.
Well, word got out, and the next game I went to, I was presented with a makeup bag FULL of makeup, both theatrical and everyday, and new brushes, sponges, the whole thing. And a card, signed by almost everyone I knew. They'd heard about my loss, got a collection together, and replaced everything.
It was such a sweet gesture and I almost cried in front of everyone. It wasn't just having my stuff replaced - it was the feeling of being valued enough for people to want to help.
posted by sandraregina at 5:56 AM on November 14 [17 favorites]


I had an apartment fall out of the sky.

Thirteen years ago, after I broke up with my abusive boyfriend, he treated me to the news that he had lied to me for four years about having put my name on the rental contract. Which meant I couldn't keep the place when he left – and of course he was leaving due to the breakup. I didn't yet have French citizenship, plus I was a freelancer – this effectively meant that no one would rent to me. A local guarantor, citizenship, and a job contract are the three key things in rental applications in large cities in France. At the time a guarantor could be required by landlords, so 99% of them did. Even with a guarantor and citizenship, if you didn't have a job contract, the vast majority of landlords wouldn't even consider your application.

I lived in hotels for nearly a year. The last place I was in, the owner started getting nasty. I was at the end of my rope; I wrote about it on my blog at the time. A few days passed. Despair had become a familiar companion. I could see no other choice than return to the US, but the only people I still knew over there in those days before Facebook were my abusive family.

One night I dreamt that I was crying about things, and all of a sudden a wise woman appeared and said in the most reassuringly calm voice: "please don't worry dear, just look," and an apartment fell out of the sky. A kind man opened the door and asked me to visit – it was my new home. All of my books were in it, as was my cat – in real life, my ex had "gifted" our cat to a friend of his without informing me. I hadn't seen him in months.

I woke up and the tears just wouldn't stop. Early afternoon, an email arrived. "Hi, we're long-time readers of your blog and really enjoy it. We noticed you've been having trouble finding a place to rent – one of our apartments is going to be free in a month. Would you like to visit? You could even come today if you want."

I ended up taking it. An adorable little place built in the late 1800s with Art Nouveau frescos on the ochre façade. The very same month, my ex wrote to say that his friend no longer wanted the cat, and could I take it back? I did. Kitty and I were together again. A few months later, I'd been hired permanently by one of my freelance clients. Two years later, I was able to afford to buy an apartment. A year after that, with a permanent address and job contract, I was able to request French citizenship. And a year after that, thanks to French citizenship, I was able to enroll in a French university Masters program, finally get that degree, and improve my job prospects (over here degrees are more of a thing for jobs than in the US, especially Masters).

All thanks to the little apartment that fell from the sky – especially its kind landlords who were willing to trust me.
posted by fraula at 7:01 AM on November 14 [65 favorites]


Both a tale of kindness and a sad commentary on our healthcare system, but:

A few years back, I was standing with my then-boyfriend in the pharmacy line at a Walgreens. The person in front of me, consulting with the pharmacist, was a very young man, a teenager, complete with wispy aspirational mustache. Despite the sign admonishing you to stay however many feet back for patient privacy, I could hear the entire conversation. The young man asked if they had Plan B, and how much it cost; they did, and it was $60.

When he heard the price, the young man immediately deflated. He turned away from the pharmacy window and walked away. In my mind, all I could think was "OH NO" but he had disappeared, I was being summoned to the window, and I didn't think clearly enough to buy the Plan B and run after him.

As we're leaving the pharmacy, my then-boyfriend and I are sitting in the car deciding what errand to do next when I spot the young man sitting with a young woman, also a teenager, on the curb on the adjacent street. They both looked dejected, grave, and in despair - they were clearly having a sobering conversation.

My then-boyfriend, sitting in the driver's seat - whose calculations of the household expenses were meticulous as to his expenses, and rather glossed over mine, who rarely chipped in for groceries because "he didn't eat any of them" [he did] - unhesitatingly drew $60 in cash from his wallet. While the car idled, I ran out to the young people and thrust the money at them. I stuttered something about having been there before (enough it had become Plan A, sometimes), told them Planned Parenthood gives it out for free, and wished them good luck.
posted by Aubergine at 7:27 AM on November 14 [13 favorites]


Oh I left some people out of my Yosemite rescuers list!

A couple I love were two of the people I called to kvetch. I was really calling them just because I was panicky and needed friendly thoughts. But as I was sitting there for an hour in that McDonald's, they managed to do a few other things for me.

1. They both were heartbroken on my behalf when I said my camera was gone. But then she gently said something: "you know, if you think about it, people were enjoying Yosemite for hundreds of years before there even were cameras." it was a small point, but it helped me begin to re-frame the incident in my head.

2. However, HE is a photographer and wanted to try to get me a camera. While I was calling the rental agency and the police in Stockton, HE was doing a little internet research - and discovered that the Ansel Adems Gallery in the park had a few cameras for rent. He sent me the link (I still had my iPad, so I was checking webmail) so I could make a reservation.

3. And then 20 minutes after that, they emailed me again to say that they'd scraped together $200 and were sending it to me in Paypal. They sheepishly said that it would have to be a loan, rather than a gift (they're even broker than me, usually) but I could take my time paying it back.

4. Finally, when it came to paying that loan back, we ultimately did it in pieces - first when I borrowed their car and got a flat, I paid for the tire fix and they considered that part of the payback. Then last year, after the election and when I was still working for the International Rescue Committee, they said that instead of giving them the rest of the money, they asked me to donate the rest of it to the IRC in their name and we'd be even.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:50 AM on November 14 [12 favorites]


I'm visually impaired, so I don't drive. Years ago, while on my way home from work, I made one of my usual street crossings at a busy four-way intersection. Halfway across the crosswalk, I froze. Something was wrong with the pavement in front of me. It was the wrong color--sandy brown instead of dark grey. I stared as hard as I could, trying to make sense of the unexpected shapes and colors in front of me. The sandy-looking area had irregular edges. There were angular, narrow structures about waist height in front of me. And no cars. No dark vehicular shapes waiting their turn right behind where the white lines of the crosswalk should have been.

At some point during my workday, someone had begun tearing up the road.

I could hear traffic around me, and see some large, fast-moving shapes that I knew were vehicles, but I couldn't tell whether or not there were vehicles about to move through the section of crosswalk behind me. In a rising panic, I searched the shapes and colors in front of me for any indication that I could make it through there safely. There might be holes, wires, pipes, broken and pointy things. The only way around the mess seemed like it would involve going into the intersection. The intersection full of cars.

Suddenly, I heard a voice, and zeroed in on movement in front of me. Someone was coming toward me--a man. He took me by the arm and guided me around the edges of the construction, keeping himself between me and the intersection.

When we got to the corner, he asked if I was okay. I said yes, and thanked him profusely. He got into the passenger side of a pickup truck that was waiting behind the crosswalk, and the vehicle moved off. The truck had been blocking oncoming traffic in the lane closest to me, but I hadn't been able to see it from where I'd been standing.

The guy must have seen me--and my white cane--from across the intersection. I'm so glad he was there, that he took the time to look around, and that he wasn't afraid to jump in and help.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 8:09 AM on November 14 [30 favorites]


I love the idea of a day where we all reflect on and appreciate kindness.

One important thing to remember is that there's a significant difference between "nice" and "kind". This essay by blogger Chump Lady--who has built something of an online empire helping people cope with the brutal reality of infidelity--lays it out cleanly. "Nice is impression management...Any idiot can do nice. Sustaining it when things get hard is kindness."
posted by Sublimity at 8:16 AM on November 14 [4 favorites]


When I was traveling in France many years ago, with a roommate who spoke even less French than I did, we missed our train from Lyon to Paris because the connecting train we were on was late. We didn't actually realize this, though, and there was a train going to Paris when we got to the station, so we hustled onto the train with our bags and dropped into our assigned seats.

Except after the train started moving, we realized we were in the first class cabin. The car and seat numbers were correct, but we were on a different train, and the French are very strict about people who try to sneak into first class (or they were at the time). So there we were, these two worried American girls, talking quietly and anxiously, as the conductor approached.

What were we to do? Well, the gentleman sitting across the aisle from us asked in good English what the problem was, and we explained, and he said, "Don't worry, I'll take care of it." And he spoke to the conductor, and we were allowed to stay -- because our kind friend was a retired member of the French railway board.
posted by suelac at 9:03 AM on November 14 [18 favorites]


These stories are very uplifting. Everyone loves to hear of people being unexpectedly kind to each other, and helping out their fellow man. But when society tries to do it - universal health care, food stamps, subsidized child care, etc, - it's evil socialism? Must our kindness only be random and unexpected?
posted by jetsetsc at 9:42 AM on November 14 [18 favorites]


In 1998, I, lifelong Texan, moved to Boston for a job. As in, I flew to Boston with my two cats on a Saturday, arriving after dark; moved into an enormous, empty old house in Hyde Park, owned by the daughter of a friend of a friend (she and her husband were out of the country, so it worked out for everyone); and started my new job on Monday.

This house was something else. It had, like, five bedrooms. It was built before indoor plumbing, so the only shower in the house was in a bathroom that had been crammed under the eaves on the second floor, and the shower head was at about shoulder height. Also, my younger cat was in heat and I hadn't had the chance to have her spayed. On my the first night there, every male cat in the neighborhood came running, and every time I looked out one of the cracked, drafty windows, there were cat eyes peering back at me. It was March, and the wind was howling through the windows. I was sleeping on a pull-out sofa -- the only piece of furniture in this gigantic house. It was... well, it was a memorable night.

The next day, Sunday, I needed to figure out how to get to work. I'd moved from Austin, so I had some experience with riding a bus to work, but my commute from Hyde Park to the North End was several levels of difficulty greater than anything I'd ever had to do before. I had to walk a mile to a bus stop, then ride the bus to the Forest Hills T station, then take the 45-minute trip to Haymarket, and finally walk to the office on Hanover Street.

My trip there was successful, although I was a little dismayed at how long it took. On the way home, I got off the bus at a grocery store since there was no food in the house. Then I had to wait almost an hour for the next bus (again, Sunday), to get me to the stop closest to my new home.

I was sitting there at the bus stop, in the freezing cold -- sleet starting to fall -- my first full day on the East Coast, realizing that I didn't know how to dress for winter weather. An old woman came and sat down next to me and, contrary to what I knew about East Coasters in general and Bostonians in particular, she was pleasant and chatty. She told me she'd lived on that street over there her whole life, and she also learned that I was from the South and it was my first day there. That's about all the chatting we were able to do, because right about then this big old Oldsmobile passing by the bus stop slammed on its brakes and then backed up towards us. Turns out it was the older woman's friend -- they were both on the way to play bingo. The driver spotted her friend at the bus stop and pulled over to offer her a ride.

I said goodbye to my new acquaintance and the two of them proceeded onwards towards bingo. Then, further down the block than it had the first time, the Oldsmobile again screeched to a halt, and again backed up (in an actual lane of traffic!) towards the bus stop. The passenger-side window rolled down, and the driver leaned across her friend and said "Get in, honey, we're taking you home."

I can't think of any other situation in which I would get into a stranger's car on demand, but in this case I didn't even question her. These two old Boston women went out of their way to take the country rube, and her several bags of groceries, home to an empty, scary house in a city where she knew no one. (Except for the former Austin acquaintance who told me about the job at the nonprofit where he worked, and who enticed me to move there for it. Which was all kinds of messed up, because it turned out he was having an affair with my married boss, which is why I got hired, and he decided to make me his confidante and my boss never found out that I knew, but anyway!)

I only made it in Boston for about 9 months, partly because the drama surrounding the aforementioned affair was too much for me, partly because the directors of the nonprofit were legitimately crazy, and partly because Boston and its people were really hard for me to adjust to. But on that first day, those two older women showed me kindness that I really needed, because I was less than 24 hours in and I was already overwhelmed and (rightly) questioning whether I'd made the right decision. When I climbed into the backseat of that boat of a car, I tried to hide the tears in my eyes from them. They talked nonstop at me as they drove me the 15 minutes home, and they were hilarious. They turned a bad day into a good one, and they gave me at least one good day to talk about from that failed experiment.

Sometimes, people are just good. Not often, but sometimes.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:43 AM on November 14 [20 favorites]


I worked for awhile in a hotel that was right between Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore, so I saw a lot of things - mostly the entire range of harried families on vacation. It's a joke, but I like to say it taught me right off the bat to recognize truly desperate parents. There aren't many hotels - hell, there aren't a lot of TOWNS - in that particular stretch of American highwayness, even way less then (it seems like there's a Holiday Inn Express in every corner now) and one unit of parent I always had sympathy for were the parents who had clearly been driving for hours and hours, unable to find a room. This was pre-Internet reservation, so you had to find a phonebook or information to even get the numbers to hotels and call around to find a room. During peak times, front desk staff always spent some time on the phone calling other hotels in town, or other hotels in our chain (which, at the time, were always 2 hours away) trying to find rooms or making reservations somewhere "down the road".

One night at the height of tourist season, also right at the beginning of the Sturgis motorcycle rally - which meant not a single room was available from Yellowstone to Rushmore - a mechanic dropped off a family, one of the most desperate set of parents I had ever seen. They were lugging 3 small screaming kids and all their clothing in garbage bags and laundry baskets. Their car had thrown a rod; we were a more upscale hotel for the region - I'm not sure why the mechanic chose it - and clearly were extremely nervous about how much a room was going to cost. It broke my heart to tell them that not only were there no rooms there, there were no rooms anywhere. And I knew, because we had been calling around for hours. Both mom and dad looked about to cry, and they tried explaining the situation, hoping it would change things, as we all do sometimes - they were on their way back from one of their father's funeral, and their car had broken down - but I just didn't have any rooms to give. I asked them to step aside for a minute, hoping to come up with a solution.

Behind them the whole time, waiting to check in, were two great big burly motorcycle dudes in their leathers - with a reservation. They looked (and smelled) like they had been on the road for days, which during Sturgis was not an uncommon sight. They had overheard the whole thing, looked mean, and had clearly been restless and agitated during the time I had spent with the couple; I girded myself for hearing them complain about having to wait as they walked up. "We have a reservation," one guy said, gave his last name. . . . then turned to the couple and said, "You take it," and both strode off without even waiting for a thanks. The mom actually did cry then.

It was still worrisome, though - I gave them the "friends and family discount" rate, which was the best I could do, but knew even that was too much as they had to split it on 3 different credit cards. So it was with joy when, about 10 minutes later, one of riders walked back in - and, it was so cute, actually peaked around the corner to check if the couple was gone - then came up to the desk and paid for the couple's room. He even included breakfast, but growled at me to "call them, tell them the hotel is giving them a free breakfast," and then left for good.

I have to admit I had to take a moment in the back room for a little sniffle. Our staff managed to get the town's "front desk network" going and found the family a place for the next few days while their car got fixed. A week later we received a 3 page letter gushing with thanks, with another letter for the riders. I always kept hoping those guys would stop back and receive it (the address on the reservation was no good); we kept it on the bulletin board with the last name through 3 rallies, but alas, never happened.

I saw this particular act of kindness a few times while working there, but that's the one that stuck in my mind the most.
posted by barchan at 9:48 AM on November 14 [51 favorites]


Four years after we got married, my partner and I went on a mini-tour of Paris and Amsterdam as our honeymoon. Fly to Paris, train to Amsterdam, many, many museums, train to Paris, many more museums. Somewhere along the way, I caught... something. Something that twisted my guts into knots. I had constant cramps, no appetite, and was not really interested in doing anything. IN PARIS. Which made me even more bitter.

Also, because we were young and trying to be responsible on a limited budget, we had booked a room over a bar, reasoning that it was cheap but we weren't going to spend a lot of time in the room. Fast forward to me lying in bed, intestines writhing like something out of "Alien" and bad French covers of 80s hair metal at brutal decibel levels.

The second or third day we decide to walk around the block, to see something of this fantastic city we had scrimped and saved for. Walking was not really helping my situation, so we stopped at a small neighborhood park. We sat on a bench and took in the scene. The neighborhood leaned Muslim, and this seemed like where families took their kids for a bit of fresh air and playing. Lots of moms and (one assumes) grandmoms in hijabs clucking after their fast-moving progeny.

I sat on the bench with a sour look on my face to match the sour feeling of my innards. My partner and I maybe said one or two things to each other, but I was just hoping that my insides would untwist a bit. I didn't notice the little girl, maybe five or six, as she ambled up to me. She looked me in the face, smiled, and brought a flower she had picked out from behind her back and gave it to me. I took the flower in what felt like slow motion and said thank you in very, very bad French. She nodded and headed back to play with her friends.

I looked over and saw her caretaker (looked like a grandma by age, but who knows). She nodded at me as well, and I tried to make a little gesture of thanks with my hands. She smiled. I had my camera with me and I sort of lifted it up and tilted my head towards the young girl, asking if taking a picture was permitted. Grandma kept her smile but shook her head and I put the camera down.

Turns out I didn't need the photo, I can still remember her kind, joyous face today.

I wasn't miraculously cured. I didn't spring up and wander the city better than before. We walked to a drug store, got a few different potions and one of them worked and I felt better then next day and we saw museums and gardens and all sorts of stuff. But my fondest memory of Paris is still that little girl and her generous spirit. My partner still brings that story up from time to time as well.
posted by aureliobuendia at 9:57 AM on November 14 [16 favorites]


A link for people for after the thread closes - there's a site I follow with people writing in for "crazy service job stories", with stories of wacky customers, roundabout customer service incidents, etc. They have a couple of offshoot sections for things happening in schools, between couples, and the like.

But one of their sites is devoted to stories of kindness.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:55 AM on November 14 [7 favorites]


"Inside there was 3 or 4 of every kind of cookie that Tim Horton's sells and a note that said, "We hope you feel better. Eat some cookies. Love, The Staff.""

Uh, brb, moving to Canada.

One of the things I like about having children is that you move through a world full of small acts of kindness. People like to see kids smile, people like to help out harried moms. Not anything big, but people notice you struggling with three kids and six bags and they come over to open all the doors for you. Or they sneak your kid an extra cookie. Or they let you skip ahead of them in line. Or they take the time to answer 500 intrusive questions from a 6-year-old who is fascinated by their car. (These kind people more than make up for the sniffers and glarers who feel that daring to have children in public makes you a horrible person.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:25 PM on November 14 [12 favorites]


Coming late to this thread (as usual) because... work, and time differences.

I've been a member for a very long time of a loose affiliation of acoustic guitar afficionados. We started off as rec.music.makers.guitar.acoustic on Usenet, moved to Google Groups when Usenet got drowned in spam, and have ended up on Facebook as RMMGA. (People occasionally wonder what the Rocky Mountain Meat Goat Association has to do with guitars, but they just don't know the history)

Anyhow... back in the Usenet days we got a new member, and this guy was a pain in the neck. Professional musician, very opinionated and not worried about showing it. One day he disappeared, and it was quite a while before someone found out that he'd contracted Lyme's, which for a professional musician without much in the way of health insurance was a blow.

Long story short, we discovered that he was having to sell his instruments on eBay to pay for medication. Someone had the bright idea that some of us could afford to chip in $25 each to bid on eBay, which we did... Bob bid on the instruments, won them, and told him to keep the guitars and the cash.

There were a couple of other examples of kindness from the group that I'm aware of - the New Orleans Blues Guitar Revival and the Lithuanian Dobro - but those are stories for another time.

These occurrences showed me that Internet communities can be just as real as geographical ones.
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 2:57 PM on November 14 [6 favorites]


Exhibit B of Internet community kindness - the Russian Girls.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:08 PM on November 14 [7 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee reminded me of something that happened long ago on the Keihin Tohoku Line in Japan. My son was still little, I can't remember exactly but this was before he was in elementary school. He and I were coming home from his grandparents' house, which was about an hour and a half away by train. He loved trains so he usually didn't mind riding them for long stretches of time, but the poor guy must have had a stomach bug or something that day and had been complaining for a while.

I wanted to get home as quickly as possible to take him to our pediatrician, so I kept telling him to sit tight, we're almost there. But, you guessed it, he puked royally about two stations away from our stop.

Luckily the car wasn't crowded so it didn't get on anybody who happened to be nearby, but I was mortified. I had a handkerchief and some tissues with me but they weren't nearly enough to clean up the mess, and my son was tearing up from embarrassment added to the physical discomfort.

When I began doing what I could to contain the disaster, the people in the car began to toss packets of tissues my way without a word. A lady actually gave me a small towel. Nobody actually helped me clean it up (honestly, I don't think I would have, either) but the people who witnessed what happened just sort of silently contributed what they had on them to help me, and nobody chided me or complained or bothered to get up to get away.

My story probably pales in comparison to some of the awesome ones shared in this thread, but I still remember that day because it really struck home that people in general are, if not outright kind, at least pretty tolerant of others.
posted by misozaki at 3:58 PM on November 14 [6 favorites]


walking a little out of my neighborhood, and I saw an elderly woman, turning around uncertainly. As I got closer, I saw her white cane. "Ma'am, you look lost, can I get you headed in the right direction?" I asked, as my mother raised me right. She told me where she was trying to go (she had somehow gotten across two moderately busy streets without noticing), and I offered my arm and got her to the correct corner and headed where she wanted to go. I got back on my own path and it was only a few minutes later that I had actually helped an old lady across the street. Feeling like a cliche is sometimes the best reward.

I am a librarian, and I guess i have "Librarian Face," because I get asked for directions wherever I go, often when I am mildly lost myself. I generally sigh, get out my map, and say "I have no idea where we are, but let's learn together."
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:04 PM on November 14 [7 favorites]


I had such a hard day today. This thread really helped. Happy tears are infinitely better than sad tears. Thank you for posting.
posted by silverstatue at 5:21 PM on November 14 [7 favorites]


One of our local public radio stations had a segment on yesterday. Two of the stories in the audio segment really struck me: the story at 4:04, about a mother and her son fleeing a domestic violence situation, and at 17:15, where a guy went to fix a computer and wound up with so much more.
posted by mogget at 5:57 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


While living in the Bronx (a month short of 10 years), I started writing micro-essays (not sure what else to call them) about the times people were kind to me out of the blue. Everything from kind comments to kind gestures to acts of faith. It's almost as good to hear the kind things other people have experienced.

"So shines a good deed in a weary world."
posted by datawrangler at 7:22 PM on November 14 [2 favorites]


My memory is shit. Mostly the things I remember nowadays are people being super helpful when I'm solo-parenting in the world, like carrying the stroller down the three flights of subway stairs. I try to make up for it by carrying a second, refill-with-money subway card, that I give people swipes from when they don't have the fare.
posted by XtinaS at 7:34 PM on November 14 [3 favorites]


You bastards, my eyes leak from reading all these stories of yours.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:40 PM on November 14 [1 favorite]


I hate hate hate anything dental-related. When I was in college I broke a (root-canaled) tooth on Bazooka Joe. Fuck you Bazooka Joe I loved you and you betrayed me. Anyway, the tooth needed to be pulled and I had an appointment in the morning. The office told me that I needed a ride home and my two German roommates who shared a car told me that would be there to pick me up.

I called my parents in tears (dental hell!) and they offered to drive the two hours to take me home if I could postpone my appointment a few hours. I could have but told them that I’d be fine, one of my roommates would pick me up.

Have you ever had a tooth pulled while you were awake? Granted I wasn’t feeling the pain but holy shit it sounds exactly like you think it would.

After I was done I called home. Voicemail. None of my roommates were around. I didn’t know what to do. So with a numb jaw and mouth full of blood-soaked gauze I went across the street to the Post Office (this was years before Lyft and even taxis in my little town). I didn’t know what else to do so I sat down on the floor sobbing, huddled under the counter in the lobby.

Finally a woman ducked down and asked me if I needed help. I asked her for a ride home (maybe a mile and a half) and she was happy to give it. In this age of finding people on the internet I wish I had more clues than just the fact that she helped me out when I really needed help.
posted by bendy at 10:24 PM on November 14 [5 favorites]


These stories really encapsulate why I like living in a city, or at least existing in any place around other people. Seeing kind deeds on the subway in New York was far more common than any of the other tropes about all of the humanity on display that one sees there. Lots of it was mundane - lifting the bottom of a stroller to carry it down the stairs, noticing if someone might need a little extra space for some reason or another and giving them that, taking the time to swipe someone into the system as they leave - but the relentlessness of that is special too. Of course one saw the dregs of humanity there, too, but even so I definitely gained faith in people as a whole over the time I lived there (sob, I miss it so much).
posted by mosst at 8:13 AM on November 15 [1 favorite]


When I was doing the post-high-school-backpacking-around-Europe-on-a-rail-pass thing that was all the rage for my social group/class at the time, I was travelling by train for multiple nights in a row across Scandinavia. This had seemed like a good idea at the time: cover tediously long distances while asleep, and save on hostel costs. Alas, I hadn't appreciated how uncomfortable it can be to sleep in train chairs night after night, nor taken into account the lack of showering that would result.

I was therefore looking rather bleary after night #2 and rather dreading the upcoming nights 3 and 4. My seatmate, as we headed south through Norway to Oslo, was a university student who kindly offered to have me over to her place for a decent meal, shower, and good night's sleep before I continued by journey southward. I was touched, and frankly blown away: I was a complete stranger! I could have mugged or robbed her blind for all she knew!

Not only was the interlude very welcome - and she went even further above and beyond by showing me around Oslo - but her trust changed me. In addition to surprising/delighting occasional lost travelers in my city by taking time to show them around over the years, I have on several occasions taken complete strangers into my home who needed a place to stay. I don't do this lightly as I'm not a terribly generous or trusting person by nature, but I really felt in each situation it was the right thing to do.

Basically, the world is a slightly kinder, more helpful place for her simple act over twenty years ago. I wish I knew where she was now so I could let her know her impact.
posted by dendritejungle at 1:13 PM on November 15 [6 favorites]


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