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JackAdams's avatar

What is the kindest, nicest, or most wonderful thing a total stranger has ever done to/for/with you?

Asked by JackAdams (6574points) September 15th, 2008

My own life has been one of amazing coincidences and adventure, but of all the places I’ve been, and of all the experiences I’ve had, and of all the souls I’ve encountered, I must admit that some of the things done for me by folks who didn’t know me at all, left the greatest impression on me.

I once saw an elderly lady put a nickel into my expired parking meter, when she saw a police officer about a block away, issuing parking tickets. Another time, I was $1 short on my grocery bill, and the cashier smiled and said, “Catch me next time you’re here,” then reached into her pocket, pulled out that extra $1, and placed it in the cash register. (Those kind of simple gestures have happened to me so many times, I get a lump in my throat, trying to recount all of them.)

But the stranger who “wins the prize,” was the gentleman who came up from behind me when I was choking on some meat in a restaurant, and performed the Heimlich Maneuver on me, dislodging that morsel from my throat, and saving my life.

There were just no words I could utter to him, to thank him for that unselfish act, and my public embarrassment and feelings of humiliation (that I had been so stupid to get that meat stuck in my throat, in the first place) caused me to quickly exit that place, after I insisted that my rescuer write down his name and address, so I could more properly and completely thank him, later on.

I ran off with that slip of paper clutched in my hand, hearing him say, “I really don’t want anything of value from you; I’m just glad you are OK.”

When I mailed him a thank-you card with a gift certificate enclosed (for use at a major department store chain), the letter was returned to me by the post office, with the notation, “this address doesn’t exist.”

Have you been the recipient of the kindness of strangers? What happened to you, and how did it affect your life?

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29 Answers

Mr_M's avatar

When I was going to Graduate School at NYU, after class at around 11 at night I had to use a outside public phone to fight with my fiance at the time. I remember it was winter and it was cold.

As I’m talking, I’m smoking cigarettes. Suddenly I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn around and it was a real dirty looking man with a long dirty beard. At first I didn’t know what he wanted but then realized he wanted a cigarette.

To get rid of him and move him on his way (Hey! My phone fight was important to me!) I gave him the rest of my pack AND the disposable lighter (we smokers ALWAYS have backup).

About 15 minutes go by and, again, I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn around and it was the same homeless person. He had apparently pan handled a coffee from one of the local restaurants and from his gestures I could tell he wanted to know if I wanted some of his coffee!

I will NEVER forget him.

qualitycontrol's avatar

I was learning how to drive stick in my mom’s 1992 honda accord. My car died in the middle of traffic on a busy road and it was the middle of summer. I could not get the thing to start no matter what I did. A guy walking by came over and gave me a push to the side of the road. He really bailed me out. I was so embarrassed. There have been a lot of other times strangers have helped me so whenever I see a stranger in need I always help them. My favorite is changing flat tires. lol.

EmpressPixie's avatar

I went to a bakery in my college town once to grab some goods for breakfast. I was staying at a friend’s before driving to my sister’s wedding and wanted to leave her a goody or two as a way of saying “thanks”. When I got to the bakery (I walked) and tried to pay, I realized I’d gone without my wallet. I explained the situation to the bakers and they gave me the goods telling me to “come back later” and pay. So I stopped off on my way out of town and paid! I really appreciated it, though, because walking there and back again would have seriously put a dent in the time I needed to make it to the wedding on time.

autumn43's avatar

This is a great question, Jack. I am enjoying reading people’s answers. I had a woman save me from choking in a restaurant (with my children nearby) and it was SOOO embarassing. My husband bought her a drink and I often think that I should have asked her name (can’t think when you’re in that situation). My son didn’t miss a beat though – he asked me if he could finish my steak tips! LOL!

AstroChuck's avatar

Gave us her newborn daughter to raise as ours. That was 8 1/2 years ago. We’ve had her since she was 2 days old.

JackAdams's avatar

@autumn43: You have a most interesting a resourceful son.

You must be very proud of him, and his sense of humor!

Glad that stranger came to your rescue!

Poser's avatar

I always get a little choked up reading about stories of incredible kindness by random strangers. I like reading them every now and then to remind myself what kind of person I hope to be, but don’t always succeed at.

JackAdams's avatar

@Poser: Thanks for sharing those links!

I can hardly wait to read those tales!

augustlan's avatar

@Poser: Wonderful stuff. Can’t wait to read more of your blog!

Poser's avatar

Thanks, but don’t expect too much.

tinyfaery's avatar

On a trip up to S.F. our car broke down while we were just getting to the Bay Bridge. We were able to coast off of the freeway, but we were in a really bad part of Oakland. We called for a tow, and the driver drove us to his repair shop. We needed a place to stay, so we called a cab. The cab took a long time, and it was getting dark, and the repair shop had already been closed for an hour. The tow driver/repair shop guy stayed and waited with us until the cab showed up. The next day he fixed our car and didn’t charge us any labor.

Nimis's avatar

I think I’ve had more than my fair share of kindness from strangers.

But the first example that comes to mind was from back when I first started college. It was late at night (early morning, actually) and I was standing under a shady highway overpass. I had just taken the Greyhound for 12 hours and was waiting for a connecting bus to take me back to the dorms. This white van pulls up, this creepy guy comes out, opens the van and is trying to get me into his car. I’m backing away from him, about to scream for help—when this old homeless lady comes to my rescue. First she just starts yelling at him. When this doesn’t stop him, she takes her only belongings and starts chucking them at him. Books. Tons of books. She’s chucking the hardcovers ferociously at his head while yelling at the top of her lungs. I don’t know if the guy was actually scared or just caught by surprise, but he runs back into the van and drives off.

I was scared and extremely grateful that someone had been there. And as I was helping her pick up her books with their broken spines and torn pages, I was really touched that she had used her only worldly belongings to do so. I really wanted to (at the very least) replace those books for her, but she waived it off. Those are just things she said.

I went back to look for her several times, but I never did see her again.
But her kindness, her selflessness, and her bravery will always be with me.

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

In Israel, when I was 7 years old, my parents and my brother were walking about a block ahead of me and I started running full speed to catch up with them. It was downhill, and I was running as fast as I could and ran smack into one of those horizontal traffic poles that you see at tolls. I went flying backwards, blood gushing from my nose and was knocked out for a few seconds. When I woke up, I was lying on the street with an 18-year old (or so) boy holding a frozen water bottle against my nose and using his own shirt to wipe the blood off my face.
My parents later told me that he had been sitting in a restaurant across the street and when he saw me run into the pole and go flying backwards that he had immediately run over to see if I was okay, then proceeded to give someone some money to buy the frozen bottle for him so he could use it on my nose.

Nimis's avatar

And another!

One time, a bunch of my friends and I went clubbing. During the night, we all got split up. When we reconvened at the end of the night, our friend who was driving was missing. (We later found out that she had fallen down the stairs and had been taken to the emergency room. Everything turned out okay…but that’s another story.) Our driver was also designated purse girl for the night…meaning she had all our house keys, wallets, cell phones and money. We were scared (Where did our friend go? Was she okay?), confused (Why was her car still here?), and cold (We’d left our outerwear in the car.)

We were huddled together, trying to sleep on the curb until morning hours (when we planned to beg for fare to get back home and break a window to get back in). But for now, we didn’t want to leave the car in case she came back. We were huddled like this for several hours until this guy rode by on his bike. He stops to ask if we’re okay. Then he invites us into his apartment and makes us bagels and ramen (the only things he had). (If you’re thinking he had ulterior motives as a guy, our group was actually mixed with both guys and girls.)

But while it’s quite cozy in his apartment, we tell him we have to get back to the car just in case our friend comes back. (Meanwhile, we’re still chattering and huddled by his heater.) This guy then proceeds to dig through his closet and starts giving us his clothes. Not just a few of us. The entire group. We start to protest at first, but our chattering teeth lost the argument. Mostly we were just grateful and deeply humbled by his gesture. (He even packed us bags of food to take with us.)

It was quite the motley crew, ambling back dressed in these crazy get-ups. Someone had his anorak. Another was wearing his rain boots (warmer than sandals). I was wearing a sweater, a XXL tee shirt (down to my knees) and another tee shirt used as a scarf.

We actually got his name and number and did return most of the clothing. Though he gave me one of the shirts that I wore that night and I still have it to remind me of the kindness of strangers.

Post Note: We actually became friends and hung out together several times after that crazy incident.
I have since lost touch with that group of friends. But every time I wear that shirt, I think of him.

EmpressPixie's avatar

Nimis, that reminded me of one of the true times I’ve been at the kindness of someone: I was on my way to visit a friend in Boston and my flight was delayed mid-trip. I was kind of flipping out because the last train to his town would be gone, I was in college and couldn’t afford a hotel, and didn’t know what I was going to do.

There was a girl at the airport on my flight coming home for Thanksgiving. It turned out that she lived in my friend’s college town and offered to give me a ride. I was… really worried but thankful. Her parents brought us both snacks for the trip and shortly in it became quite obvious that she was using me to distract from her poor grades, dreadlocks, etc. But I didn’t really care. I was super, super thankful for that ride.

I almost can’t actually say how thankful I was. Both that I didn’t end up dead on the side of the road and that I was able to make it to my friend who really, really needed a friend at the time.

Nimis's avatar

Emp: Glad to hear you didn’t end up dead on the side of the road either.
Ha. That sounds funny, but you know what I mean.
‘Tis nice to not be a statistic.

Nimis's avatar

I can just keep on going. Really.

One time we were all staying at my uncle’s house. My mom got in a heated argument with my uncle (yes, that is another story), took all of the kids and stormed out of the house. She didn’t really think that through, as we ended up spending the next few nights sleeping on the streets of LA (not the best neighborhood either).

The funny thing is, I was too young to really comprehend the situation. I actually remember my few days of living on the streets quite fondly. A lot of that probably had to do with the fact that my older siblings were rather protective of me and made sure I was distracted. I remember thinking it was kind of like a camping trip. You would never really think of the streets of LA as being particularly nature-like. But I do remember looking up at the night sky and my older sister pointing out the constellations to me. It was strangely peaceful.

Eventually though, this kind lady took us in. I don’t remember much. Only that she mended our quilt (that we were dragging around with us) and gave us comic books to read. They were Christian comic books. I didn’t realize that at the time. As a kid, I just wondered why the bear was talking about God.

JackAdams's avatar

These incidents I am reading from all of you, are just… incredible…

Nimis's avatar

People are incredible.
So, naturally, the stories are too. ;)
That sounds really cheesy. But, damn it. It’s true!

JackAdams's avatar

As I have been reading (and re-reading) the stories all of you have shared with me, I remembered that, when I was in my 30s (over 20 years ago [sigh]), I was working as an assistant manager at a movie theater, and it would close at 2 AM, and I would walk home (about a mile or so) if I couldn’t get a cab right away.

This one particular night, I was aware that I was being followed by some guy who appeared to be homeless, and I assumed that he was probably going to attempt to attack me from behind, and steal my wallet from me.

I steeled myself for his attack, but just as it looked like I might have to defend myself, a car approached and the driver said, on the PA system of that car:


The homeless dude immediately turned around and walked in the opposite direction from me, and the stranger in the “unmarked police car” (which wasn’t) drove off before I could thank him.

I suspect that he was using the PA feature of his CB radio, to give that illusion…

Nimis's avatar

JackA: Hahaha…that was brilliant. Personally though, unless I’m in the Tenderloin (where a lot of them are strung out), I feel safer walking alone at night when there are homeless around. Though, to be fair, I know most of them around here.

MissAnthrope's avatar

There was one night that still brings tears to my eyes whenever I think about it. I had three angels in one night.

I was driving a moving truck towing my car, by myself, from VA to MN. In WI, I hit blizzard-like conditions. Visibility was nil, we were driving on packed snow, everything was white. To make matters worse, my wiper fluid had frozen and my windshield was getting progressively more dirty, plus every time a big 16-wheeler would go by, it would kick up a ton of snow and I’d be totally blinded for 5–10 seconds.

It was really scary, but I was younger and stupider, and even though I knew I should have pulled off, I kept driving. Well, next thing I knew, I was no longer on the freeway.. I’d driven off into a big ditch. The incline was steep and with all the snow, my moving truck and car were not getting out of there by themselves.

That left me stranded at about 11pm on the side of the road. I tried to flag people down, but they kept driving by. Finally, a car stopped; it contained a mom and her teenage kids, who took me to the next exit and seriously saved my ass by using their cell to call for help and by letting me sit in their warm car while I waited. I thanked them heartily and was so grateful!

The state trooper arrived to pick me up. In his car, he had a mother and daughter who had also driven into a ditch and needed a tow truck. I got to talking with them and we commiserated over how awful our situations were, but expressed gratitude that we’d managed to stay safe despite driving off the road. When I realized I would have to pay the tow truck driver, I panicked. I didn’t have the money and I didn’t know what I would do about getting the truck out of the ditch.

I still kind of don’t believe what happened next. Without any sort of hinting or anything on my part, the mother offered to lend me the money to pay the tow truck driver. When it was apparent that they were getting towed first, the woman gave me a blank check and said to pay her back when I could. I explained my situation and wanted her to know it wouldn’t be right away, but she was totally okay with it and said, “Pay me back when you have the money.” She gave me her address and she and her daughter disappeared into the night.

The third angel was the state trooper, but I won’t get into that.. however, I never forgot this woman and my promise to her. The situation was so extraordinary and so touching that I always carried it with me. Several months passed until I had saved the cost of the truck and I had wanted to send some extra to both cover the length of time it took me and to show my appreciation. I sent the check with a letter I had composed with tears streaming down my face.

Unbelievably, I received a letter back, along with the check I had sent to repay her. Her note was kind and sweet, she said that she thought I needed the money more than she did, but that my sending it reaffirmed that there are good people in need out there, and that good things can happen when you help them.

I will never forget her!

EmpressPixie's avatar

Wow, Alena, that’s AWESOME. As in, I’m in awe. Great story. Try not to live it again (if you know what I mean).

sccrowell's avatar

I’ll remember this for as long as I lIve, it was right before Christmas in 1998. The company I worked for as well as 15 other employees closed. No forewarning, no notice. I was really upset because I had used my last paycheck to pay rent, utilities & groceries for mself and 5 year old daughter. I knew there wouldn’t be presents under a Christmas tree that we didn’t have. I remember sending her to school and I would look for work, thinking everybody needed Christmas help. Not true… Chrismas eve I sat Dow with my daughter and tried to explain to her that there may not be any presents in the living roomchristmas morning, that I was so sorry. She hugged me and said that it was okay that we were together and that’s all that mattered. (God, how I love her!) Anyway, Christmas morning, I was getting dressed and in my pocket I found $5.00. I was so excited I told her and asked what she would like to have, she looked up and asked mommy may we have McDonalds and I told her sure… As we were driving up to place our order a homeless woman walked up to our car and asked if we could spare a few pennies that she already had 54 cents and just wanted something warm to drink or eat. My daughter Ashley looked at me and said mommy can we give her our money? We can have Top Ramen and pretend it’s turkey. I looked down at her with tears in my eyes (as I have now) remembering this. And as this woman had as she stood next to my car window. I looked down at Ashley, and said, I love you darling girl. She handed the woman the $5.00 and said Merry Christmas. The following day I was offered a job in which I was thrill to get. We moved from Bakersfield back to the San Fernando area! My daughter is now grown and whenever I think times are rough, I just think back to that day and how blessedi truly am. The good Lord has blessed me with a truly womderful daughter.

tinyfaery's avatar

Ok. That made me teary.

sccrowell's avatar

What softies we are, I admit I had to get a tissue as I read these answers..
Jack, great question! It makes my heart smile knowing there are so many people that don’t take things for granted. That there are so many people with good hearts!

JackAdams's avatar

You are so right, and deaddolly can certainly vouch for that, as she has probably removed several of them, from the chests of those good-hearted people…

Abbylewis_uk's avatar

They have helped me get on to the correct train back home when I was distressed, lost and had got on to the wrong train.

smoky's avatar

Bought me an orange juice during a ride on the Key West Express ferry to Key west, Florida.

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