March 8, 2019

The kindness of strangers

I’m not on Twitter right now so I missed this earlier, but Nicole Cliffe recently asked a beautiful question:

What is the kindest thing a stranger has done or said to you?”

I spent the morning weeping while reading the comments. The world really is a beautiful place, sometimes.

There are so many answers I could add to this thread.

I could tell the story of how, when I landed in Washington DC for the first time to go to college, my taxi driver realized that I was on my own and my family couldn’t afford to come down to help me move in, so he turned off his meter, took me to an Ethiopian restaurant for lunch and to introduce me to his friends, and then helped me move in to my new dorm room.

I could the story of how, one particularly bad day in the throes of my depression in my early 20s when I was thinking of throwing myself in front of the subway, an elderly woman put her hand on my shoulder and said, you look like you might be having a rough day, and I want you to know that tomorrow will be a better day,” and then walked away. A stranger saved my life, that day.

I could tell the stories of the numerous times when I’ve had panic attacks in public and felt like I was going to die and kind strangers sat with me, on the curb in the middle of the rain or the sun or the snow, and held my hand and helped me breathe until the ambulance came or I could regain my breath. (Or the few that called EMS after my breathing had stopped and I had passed out.)

I can tell the story of how, just a few weeks ago, my car died suddenly in the middle of the highway and spun out into a ditch, and a young man who was on his way to work stopped, called a tow truck driver he knew, and waited with me until he knew I was safe and well-taken care of.

I could tell the story of how one of my students, just last month, gave me a Valentine’s Day card and told me as she was giving it to me, I know you probably don’t get a lot of feedback and most of us are just too stressed with schoolwork to tell you, but everyone really likes this class and the way you teach it and we are really thankful that we have it this semester.”

I could tell you the story of how Heath Ledger made me smile.

I could tell you the story of how Anil Dash sent me an email at the exact time I needed to read it, saving me from doing something drastic and destructive.

I could tell the story of how, when I landed in London and my baggage was lost, Abdul came to my rescue.

I could tell the story of the woman in seat 2A that reminded me of the marvel of flight.

I could tell the story of how Wes reminded me to take no kindness for granted.

I have been the recipient of so much kindness from strangers; I will never take that kindness for granted.