Never Underestimate the Kindness of Strangers

It doesn't matter where you fall in the helping equation. It feels good either way. (Photo: Natnan Srisuwan/Shutterstock)

Some days, it can feel like the world is falling apart. Other days, decent humans step up and make it better.

When I was a little girl traveling with my grandma, we once got stuck in a Florida airport due to a storm. Hotels were already booked, and my grandma was preparing me to sleep near our gate. An elderly couple came over and offered us a place to stay, took us back to their house, gave us dinner, and when I told them how I loved rocks and nature, the husband brought out his rock collection. He gave me one with a tiny garnet, which is my birthstone, embedded in it. I still have that rock and I will always remember that couple.

It's a small example of human kindness, but it's one I've thought of many times, and it heartens me every recollection. The impact has lasted a lifetime.

I was reminded of this story when writer Nicole Cliffe tweeted a simple question:

"What's the kindest thing a stranger has done or said to you?"

She received more than 7,000 responses. Of course, Cliffe isn't the only one curious about this — there are several Reddit threads where people tell their stories, too — but it's a great example of humans being their best selves. Here are a couple of examples.

Of course there's drama:

And group efforts:

Young man calling after a crisis situation on city street
Sometimes we're the ones in need of a helping hand. Then the pendulum swings and it's our turn to help someone else. (Photo: Jaromir Chalabala/Shutterstock)

Side-of-the-road rescues were a definite theme.

"I had a tire pop in the middle of winter on my morning commute. While waiting for AAA to come, a woman drove over and gave me hot cocoa, snacks, and a paper with her address and phone number in case I needed anything or wanted to wait somewhere warmer," wrote jellogoodbye.

Many people agreed that the stories that included a language barrier were often the best, because when you don't speak the same language, what's left is pure humanity.

But sometimes the stranger who helps isn't even a human:

Some are quite simple:

"This was at my big state university long ago. I walked out of class into a summer shower. Someone walking by offered to share their umbrella. We parted at a corner and I thanked him. Then another person going my way offered their umbrella. This happened twice more. I made it mostly dry to another class thanks to the kindness of 4 strangers. Edit: I'm an ugly nerdy dude," wrote Pamplemousse.

"Just today, I was getting breakfast at Dunkin' Donuts on my way to work and managed to leave my phone at the counter (v smart). TEN MINUTES LATER a woman tapped me on the shoulder right as I was about to go into my office building and said, "Is this yours?" She'd chased me down that far, for that long, just to return my phone," wrote 1-800-CAN-YOU-NOT.

And some are all about living a nightmare — and making it all OK: