Social Question

jordym84's avatar

What's the nicest thing a complete stranger has ever done for you?

Asked by jordym84 (4742points) October 26th, 2012

This summer I moved to NYC for a few months and anyone who’s ever been there knows how intimidating the place can be to a newcomer, especially considering that New Yorkers have a bad rep for being rude and self-absorbed. So it came as a total surprise when I was heaving my very large and heavy suitcase up a huge set of steps in a Times Square subway station, trying to figure out which train to take, when suddenly a complete stranger going in a totally different direction from mine saw me, stopped in his tracks, went out of his way, and helped me carry it the rest of the way up. For a moment I thought he might be one of those guys who go around giving directions and asking for “donations” but he didn’t even give me a chance to thank him properly because he was on his way again as soon as I made it to the top of the stairs. Ever since that day, whenever I see someone struggling with something heavy, I go and help them.

Has a stranger ever done something nice for you, something that left an impression? And how do you pay it forward?

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21 Answers

Trillian's avatar

In the same nightmare trip from Naples, Italy to Wisconsin, I had a random woman come up and hug me when I was about to break down at O’Hare, a random man took me out of line and gave me a voucher for the hotel room, carried some of my luggage and escorted me to the shuttle, and a random airport man brought me one of those wheeled conveyances to carry luggage and told me to keep my money.

Shippy's avatar

I have so many, I love this question because it reminds me, that life is not all bad! The most recent was the shop owner where I buy my massage oils, gave me a birthday card, since everyone had forgotten it!! I love the card too, its very beautiful and inspiring to me.

Aethelwine's avatar

Our chauffeur on our wedding day stopped at her house on the way from the reception to our hotel for the night so I could use her toilet. I was pregnant and couldn’t hold my pee. That lady saved my wedding dress.

ragingloli's avatar

Someone once called an ambulance after stabbing me.

bookish1's avatar

@jordym84 : I had a very similar experience in Paris this summer! It was like 6 am on a Sunday and I was just on my way to the airport :’-( and trying to lug a super heavy backpack, my laptop bag, as well as two rolling suitcases through the metro turnstiles. A young man took both of the rolling suitcases from me and handed them to me after I had passed through the turnstiles.

Later that morning, I was SUPER stressed because I only made it to the proper airline at CDG with about 40 minutes to spare, and that’s no margin of error for an international flight. I was trying to pay the fee to check both bags, and found out that if you are paying in Euros, it must be in exact change, because they would only give you change for dollars. (What in blazes??) I was short exactly one Euro, and a young woman in line next to me m’a dépanné (she helped me out of a fix!)

I thanked both of these lovely young Parisians copiously. And I’ll definitely try to help people who are traveling, especially alone, because that’s the worst.

I got a first shot at paying it forward when I landed on the other side of the pond (oh man, I think it was Philly, I was so sad and sleep deprived and out of it.) A young Parisian woman who spoke no English, and who had two little kids, did not understand the brusque TSA official when she told her she couldn’t bring her water bottles through TSA, and the TSA bitch just kept barking louder and louder like that would make herself understood. I went up and explained how we do things over here, and took the water bottles to the trash for her so she didn’t have to worry about doing that, while carrying her luggage and minding her children.

FutureMemory's avatar

I once left my keys dangling from the bike lock I had put on my $2500 MB. A total stranger noticed what I had done, and stood next to my bike for a good 15 minutes til I came out of the store. When I came out and realized what happened I was speechless.

jordym84's avatar

@Shippy that’s why I asked this question, to hopefully help remind everyone that it’s not all that bad, that there are good people out there. We just don’t hear about them because, unsurprisingly, bad news always make the most headlines.

@bookish1 I absolutely detest it when I see ignorant “customer service” people yelling at foreigners as if speaking more loudly will suddenly make the person they’re verbally assaulting understand what they’re saying when, in fact, it has the opposite effect! I’ve been there, on the receiving end, so I know how it feels. At my last internship, whenever there was a foreign guest (and we had more foreigners visiting than domestic guests), my co-workers would always call me because 1) there was a good chance I spoke their language and 2) even if I didn’t speak their language, I knew how to talk to them in such a way that they could understand what I was saying, without being condescending and berating them for not speaking English – because, you know, if you come on a vacation to the US, you have to learn to speak English (rolls eyes). I find it funny that, in most other countries, customer service employees are expected to know English so as to accommodate their guests, whereas here it’s the other way around…

Everyone else – I’ve enjoyed reading your wonderful stories!! Good to know that good people do exist :)

Jeruba's avatar

Probably the nicest favor was done by the Englishman who gave me a lift from the train station at Salisbury out to Stonehenge, which I had naively thought I could reach on foot. (He also brought me back.)

In another league, but by no means negligible, was the young man who spontaneously paid the difference for me when I came up two dollars short in a cafeteria line.

Over the years I have had the benefit of countless small favors and assists from strangers in all kinds of public places, from airports to libraries and restaurants to buses. Some of them spoke my language and some of them didn’t. I have also done many similar things myself, including buying lunch for a stranger on my mother’s birthday and bandaging the bloody knee of a kid who crashed his bike in front of my house. I think people do little kindnesses for one another all the time and think nothing of it. To me it’s a simple but not meaningless recognition of our common humanity and an awareness that a gesture that may cost us little can be worth a great deal to someone else in a moment of need.

Fred931's avatar

@ragingloli Why did that make me laugh?

Coloma's avatar

When I was traveling in asia a couple of years ago a stranger who spoke only a few words of english led myself and a couple of friends to a great little dumpling house when we were wandering around in the insanity of Taipei city.
He could tell we were completely bewildered and we somehow made him understand we wanted to eat. He gestured and said ” come, come…” sat us down at a sidewalk table and went and ordered us steaming bowls of noodles and vegetables and refused to take our money. Xiexie! :-)

Harold's avatar

Paid for a tank of petrol when our credit card didn’t work and we had no access to cash. Total stranger saw what was happening, came up and paid, and just said “Merry Christmas”. We were 550km from home, so it could have been interesting if she wasn’t there…........

Bellatrix's avatar

We were in Canberra and ordered a home-delivered pizza. We didn’t know there was a delivery charge and were a couple of dollars short. The driver put the money in for us. It was very thoughtful and kind.

woodcutter's avatar

This guy, I don’t recall his name ,took me to the ER after smashing into me while being reckless on his dirt bike, breaking my arm and hand. I was really pissed off at him for sure, but I would have never got myself to the hospital alone.

nice guy

JLeslie's avatar

That was a pay it forward moment, the suitcase incident. I love that. And, I love that it was in NYC.

I have had quite a few strangers help me. One, I was in Coral Gables Miami at a doctors appointment that was very upsetting. I had never been in that part of Miami before. I come down to my car and it won’t start. A couple cars over was a van, pretty broken down looking, and the owner saw me. There were lots of tools in his van, the owner was a handy man sort of guy. Anyway, we try to jump the car—nothing. He removed the battery from my car, drove me less than a mile to Sears, the battery was tested and found to be dead, I bought a new one, and he drove me back to my car and put it in for me. Car started right up. He wouldn’t take money from me. This guy had ony been in the country 4 years, his English was broken, and from how he and his car looked, I am pretty sure he did not make much money. I really wish I had been more forceful in insisting he take at least a $20.

Another time I was in the emergency room in a tremendous amount of pain, and terrified of the procedure I assumed they were going to have to do to me. While waiting in the waiting room, I guess the women next to me could tell I was quite distraught, she talked to me a little bit, and when I began to cry, she was very comforting. I’ll never forget that.

I have had on a few occasions people in NYC give me a quarter when they did not have change for a dollar and I needed to use a pay phone. This was back before cell hones were common.

A guy at a gas station in FL gave me a couple bucks at a gas station, when I realized I did not have my wallet with me. Gas was about $1.20 at the time. I paid him back.

Unbroken's avatar

I don’t know if this is the nicest thing ever done for me but it was the first thing that came to mind.
I missed my flight out of Phoenix, travelocity said they couldn’t help. I was told I would have to stay at a hotel and pay 900 for a flight the next day with a lot of connections and wait it would have been 18 hours of travel time. Rebakah an agent spent two hours getting me a medical waiver a flight with minimum delays and connections the next morning. (I went to the er after a procedure) and offered to let me stay at her house. I ended up getting a voucher for a hotel. But the offer was genuine and beautiful. I made sure to send an email to the airlines relaying the story and my gratitude to her.

wundayatta's avatar

Never let it be said that New Yorkers are not generous. I had two complete strangers take me in and put me up; one for three nights; one for a week. The latter couple fed me, too.

The only connection I had with the first person was that we went to the same college. I had spent the night at the YMCA, and it was disastrous. I didn’t get any sleep. I don’t know if my desperation played a part in it, but they were so kind to give me a floor to sleep on.

From there, I called a phone number I’d been given by my mother of a couple who had been friends with my grandmother. There were complete strangers to me. They lived in Brooklyn Heights. I called them, and they invited me to stay with them. They gave me a room and fresh sheets and let me stay for several days. Maybe a week.

I’ve had that happen with other relatives or not even relatives, but relatives of relatives. New York. Georgia. Texas. People all over have put me up for a night or more and they never even met me before. People have been far more decent to me than I had any right to expect. It’s amazing what complete strangers will do for you, based purely on an idea that you are the friend of a friend, or a relative of a relative, or even just went to the same college. Bonds from nothing.

Brian1946's avatar


Someone once called an ambulance after stabbing me.

Doesn’t stabbing you kind of negate calling the ambulance, or is the ~ to be assumed after the above?

augustlan's avatar

A woman behind me in line paid for my groceries when my card wouldn’t go through. She wouldn’t let me get her address to pay her back, either, just asked me to pay it forward. I’ve never been able to be quite as generous as she was to me, but I’ve paid for a McDonald’s order for the car behind me in the drive through as a random act of kindness, and always offer up whatever I have when someone in front of me in a line comes up a little short on their purchases.

ucme's avatar

When I was a kid on a weekend trip to London, this random woman knocked on our hotel door in the middle of the night, she was in a panic about the time, scared she’d missed her flight or something.
Nothing unusual about that you’d think, except she was stark bollock naked!!
That was really nice, cheers strange lady, i’ll never forget you ;¬}

harple's avatar

A kindly jelly organised for Santa to send me a fluther mug last year :-D (thanks M!)

Strauss's avatar

I was living in Dallas at the time, and was going to take Amtrak to visit my family near Chicago for Christmas. However, due to the Blizzard of 1983 Amtrak had cancelled the train on the 23rd, and all trains for several more days. Another guy I met at the train station was going to drive to Ohio, and I convinced him to take the detour toward Chicago. The trip itself is an adventure that reads like a short story. The next day, Christmas Eve, after two flat tires and a frozen battery, we had finally made it to a major truckstop in southern Illinois, somewhere between St. Louis and Springfield. We were in the lobby, looking at the map, planning the next leg of the journey. It was still snowing, visibility poor, and road conditions worse. As we looked at the map, another guy, came up to us and said: “If you can get me home, you can join me for Christmas dinner.” We asked where home was, and it turns out it was right on our way. We wouldn’t have completed our trip by Christmas anyway, and we were able to contact our respective families and let them know we were safe and warm.

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