Kindness of Strangers

Crumbles sharing their stories of the kindness of strangers

My parents’ neighborhood and specifically their street was hit very hard in the tornado that came through Dallas. So many people came to help move trees. There was one neighbor who wasn’t physically able to help with trees, but he rolled his grill out into the street, gathered all the neighbors’ food from their fridges and freezers that would go bad without power, and cooked up lunch and dinner for everyone. This great act of kindness showed that there’s always a special way to contribute and leave your mark!

A stolen passport and credit card changed a layover in Munich to an unexpected delay. Four airline staff heard my story and jumped to action, rebooking my flights at no charge, walking me to the police station to file a report and translating for me, providing me with food and water, hugging me as I cried, teaching me their train system to reach my embassy, and finding a safe place for me to stay. They turned a crisis into a warm memory of the good that exists in the world. I will always be grateful for their kindness. 

Driving late one night, exhausted after my husband had had surgery, I accidentally thought the green light at an intersection was my own, though it was for oncoming traffic. I put my foot on the gas, and the car behind me honked his horn so dramatically that I braked immediately. An oncoming SUV nevertheless rammed into front of my car, but had I not braked due to that horn, I can’t imagine what would have happened. Then the couple stayed with me until a family member arrived.

I was at an amusement park this summer with my twins, who have Autism. A woman saw me gesturing to my boys about the correct way to sit, and to make sure to follow the rules of the ride, and she came up to me as my boys were getting off the ride and said, “I’m from New York and I never do this, but would it be ok if I gave you a hug? You are doing a great job, mom!” She really made my week!

In 2016 my husband lost his job, and we lost everything we had. We had to move back home to Washington and start over again. A mom in my community heard about our hard times and gifted us her own dining room table so we could at least have meals together again. It meant the world to me!

As a child, I got hit by a car while I was walking in a crosswalk. I flew 12-15 feet, and the driver kept driving! A man in a white truck got out, picked me up off the asphalt, leaving his truck in the middle of the street, and carried me about half a mile to a convenience store, where he even waited with me for the ambulance to arrive. I wish I knew his name. I was 10. I still think of him sometimes.

I was grocery shopping a few months after my daughter Lily was stillborn, and I spotted some beautiful lilies in the store. At the checkout, the young cashier started a friendly conversation about who I was getting the flowers for.  After I said “Myself,” he asked why. I said they remind me of my daughter Lily. He continued, asking how old she was. I paused, not wanting to make him feel awkward, and then just answered, “She was stillborn earlier this year, and the lilies help make me smile.” I assumed this was a conversation-stopper, but no, without hesitation he said, “I would like to buy those for you.” That was 5 years ago, but I’ll always feel the kindness in that moment as if it were today. 

At Roche Brothers, a local grocery market, I was handed two bunches of flowers with a “Have a great day, one for you, and one to pass on to someone else!” I passed it on to a mum whose toddler was having a tantrum and said, “You’re doing a great job!”  The flowers were courtesy of “Petal it Forward,” a program that gifts flowers to strangers. What a nice way to brighten the days of two people!

They weren’t complete strangers, but last year when I was unexpectedly in the hospital with an illness, the parents of my daughter’s preschool class all pitched in and brought us meals for a couple of weeks. We had just moved cross country a couple of months before. I had never even met most of these parents, but they all contributed to help lift us up in a time when we really needed them!

For the last few years around the holidays, we sponsor a family. They don’t know they’ve been selected or even nominated, so it’s a big surprise to them. We leave gifts and food at their doorstep with a note that says, “From Santa.”

My car ran out of gas when I was the first in a very long line of traffic at the main intersection in town. After I sat in despair for a couple of minutes, a guy drove up and asked if I needed help. In a few minutes he returned with a new gas can full of gasoline. I’ve never let myself run out of gas again! 

In 1984 I was driving home on a Sunday night in back-up traffic when the clutch in my VW Beetle broke. My kids were sound asleep in their car seats, and I was stranded on the side of the road, in the dark, panicking. A van with two couples and two babies pulled up next to me and asked if I needed help. They drove me right to my apartment. Clearly out of their way. I offered to pay them, but they wouldn’t accept it.

I was a young mom suffering from postpartum, and an older lady in the grocery store asked if she could help load my groceries, then handed me $20 and said, “Go do something to make you feel beautiful!” Sixteen years later, I like to carry on that beautiful gesture when I see a new momma. 

While in a restaurant with my husband and 3-year-old daughter, she saw a woman Skyping with her son back home in Taiwan. Her son’s toys had caught my daughter’s eye. She leaned into the phone and started talking to the little boy and showing off her doll. I awkwardly tried to get her to leave them alone, but the kind mother said, “No, no please! She’s fine!” It was such a sweet gesture, to sacrifice her goodnight call so our little ones could just be kids and connect from 7000-plus miles away! 

I was terrified to buy my first home with my wife. I told my grandma we had bought a house, and the first thing she asked me was “But who is going to cut the lawn?” Her rude assumption that two women probably didn’t know the first thing about outside maintenance was embarrassingly true. Along came January, and the first snowfall was devastating, with several feet accumulated. We opened the front door to find our driveway perfectly plowed. Our neighbor, who we had never spoken to, had not only cleared our driveway, but laid down salt. 

As a regular at my local grocery store, I often see the same gentleman stocking the dairy department. I always say hello and ask how he’s doing. One day while I was checking out, he offered me a bouquet of flowers and said, “I want to thank you for being so nice when you come in,” and gave me a hug.  I’m happy to say both our hearts have been touched with kindness. Be kind. Someone may need it. 

Many years ago, I was merging onto the freeway with a really slow truck in front of me making it nearly impossible. A driver behind me pulled around into the next lane and then slowed down, creating a spot for me to merge into. That little kindness has impacted my life.

When my husband and I were expecting our first child, we were stationed far from home in Alaska (he was active duty military), both working full-time to save up. We decided to treat ourselves to dinner out. A man took notice of us and paid for our entire meal before slipping out the door unnoticed, leaving a note with the waitress, “Wishing you the very best. Keep dating each other above all.” I cried so hard. 

I have an 18-year-old who has Autism. He approaches strangers everywhere we go, introducing himself and asking when their birthday is. Birthdays are his ”˜thing’ and it’s sometimes awkward for people, but nine times out of ten he is treated with such kindness, and he leaves people with a smile on their faces. Through him, I see kindness in strangers every day.