1/12. When I was laid off years ago, with my wife and two kids to feed, someone would send me either $100 cash or a grocery gift card in the mail. It came every 1-2 weeks with no return address. To this day I have no idea who was sending it.
2/12. It was 4 days after my husband left me. My brother had come into town to be with me and he decided that we should go get some food since I hadn’t eaten. So we go into this restaurant and the host was this huge black guy and I don’t remember what he said but I just broke down crying. He came from around the podium and just held me. He came and sat down with me and my brother at a table and talked to me for awhile. I don’t even remember what all he said but I just remember feeling so comforted. I still don’t think I managed to eat anything but I will never forget that guys kindness.
3/12. When I was about five in the mid 70’s, I was sitting on one of the mechanical horses that rock back and forth outside of a Woolworth’s (i think) and playing while I was waiting for my mom who was in the store. Some lady walked by and put a quarter in to make it go. I was over the moon. It is a moment of pure joy that I’ve remembered vividly. I still even remember what that glorious kind stranger looked like.
4/12. When I was 12, I was on my way back home from school. I was riding my bicycle, and at this crossing, a car in a traffic jam made space to let me through. While crossing the road, I got hit by this driver, trying to overtake the whole lane, so he wouldn’t have to wait out the traffic jam. The car hit me, scooped me up, launched me into the air, which resulted in a broken kneecap, a broken nose and a broken rib for me.
The driver fled the scene, the driver who let me pass took care of me till the Amber Lamps arrived, and made sure I stayed awake.
Now that’s not where it ends. The guy who took care of me was so mad about the driver fleeing the scene, that he actually put some advertisements in a few national newspapers, describing the car, and where the car might have possibly been damaged. After 3 days, the guy turned himself in, claiming that the advertisement lead people to figure out what he did and threaten him.
So a random stranger spent quite some money on getting an advertisement out so the guy who ran me over could be found. I never heard of that stranger after, but I’m pretty sure the driver wouldn’t have turned himself in if it weren’t for the ads.
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5/12. I got the heartwrenching call that my 26 year old brother had passed suddenly the night before. Two days before that I had broken my right ankle badly – thus preventing me from driving the 6 hours back to my hometown. I got to the airport and when the handicap-deliveryman dropped me off at my terminal I sort of collapsed into my chair and tried my best to hold it together in public. Without a word, the elderly woman next to me just reached over and held my hand. She didn’t say anything… just held my hand. It was the nicest gesture from a stranger who knew I was about to fall apart.
6/12. Grew up in a small town in Texas with parents who are incredibly xenophobic and small minded. My senior year of college I landed an internship in NYC. I had never really been out of Texas before that. After months of dire warnings from my parents of things like, “When you get there, DON’T look any strangers in the eye!”, I finally arrived at JFK. The cab drops me off at the apartment building and I unload my 4 suitcases (was going to be there 3 months). This guy walking in to the building grabs one of my suitcases and I thought, “This is it: my parents were right. I’ve been in NYC 30 minutes and this guy is robbing me!” Nope, he was just a nice guy who lived in my building, barely spoke any English but grabbed my heaviest suitcase and walked it up the 4 flights of stairs to my apartment.
7/12. I was in Tokyo about two months back, traveling on my own.
I was sitting in a park under a tree having a cheap lunch from a convenience store when an older Japanese woman came over to me and offered me some newspaper to sit on. I gratefully accepted and she then proceeded to sit down next to me. She knew a few dozen words of English and I spoke a similar amount of Japanese but we managed to have a basic conversation. I even managed to convey that I was taking the bullet-train (shinkansen) to Kyoto that evening.
She then reached into her purse, took out a 1000 yen note and pressed it into my hand saying, “Shinkansen… bento!”. If you’re not aware a bento is a sort of boxed takeaway meal you can buy in Japan.
So I was alone in a foreign country, pretty clearly a young person trying to see the world on a shoestring budget, and a complete stranger made an effort to keep me company for a bit and then gave me money to buy dinner on the train.
I kept the note that she gave me. I intend to frame it to remind myself of just how good people can be.
8/12. I was working as a producer on a talk radio show. The show I was working on wasn’t terribly popular so we really wouldn’t get many callers. So on my birthday day I’m working like any other day when some guy calls in and gets his entire family to sing me happy birthday.
He had never even called before and hasn’t since. I’ve never met him.
My day was instantly awesome.
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9/12. I had severe anorexia in hs. I used to run every day. At 5’7, I went from 158 lbs to 90 lbs over a summer. I ran myself thin, literally, and starved myself. My meals every day were the same things: a bowl of oatmeal, Special K cereal, some grapes. Every day I ran the same route. There was an elderly man who always sat on his porch. We never spoke but would half smile or wave to each other as I ran by. He was there from the beginning and basically watched my “progress”. One day I was running in a down pour but I didn’t care. I needed to keep burning off calories. It wasn’t until about half way that I just got fed up. I couldn’t believe I was doing this to my body. To myself. I slowed down to a walk and started crying. It was raining anyway and didn’t think anyone would notice. As I walked past that mans house, he yelled out to me “It gets better every day”. I nodded. I went home and admitted myself to the hospital. It was the nicest thing he could have done because I never had any encouragement. People were always judgmental and he wasn’t being that. I wouldn’t have admitted myself that day or even that week if he had just ignored me or looked away.
10/12. When I was about 12 years old I went to a book store with my cousins. We bought a few books and then went outside and started reading them. We were all getting stared down by this old man but after about 10 minutes of him staring us down he got up of the bench and went inside the book store. He later came out about five minutes later with three giftcards, he walked up to us with a smile and said, “I love seeing kids read” and handed each of us a $20 giftcard. I have never been so shocked and touched.
11/12. I was 18 and had just moved to NYC by myself and was trying to adjust to the lifestyle there (having come from a small town in the south).
It was my first time using the train and I had no idea how to buy a metro card. So I’m standing there at the only working machine with a line of people behind me trying to buy a card and was a little frantic because I knew people were waiting. People in the line start yelling at me to “hurry the fuck up!” “what’re you stupid!” I start to get teary eyed which made me even more frantic.
This guy steps out of the line and tells everyone to chill the fuck out. He comes up, shows me step by step what to do and pays for a 12 ride card for me. He patted me on the back and told me, “not all New Yorkers are assholes, but next time someone tells at you, yell back and they’ll leave you alone.” In that moment I didn’t feel so alone.
Without his kindness and guidance I probably wouldn’t have stayed up there and had all the great experiences I did.
12/12. I got into a car accident back in 2008, completely totaled my car in a busy intersection. I had trouble getting out of the car, plus all the smoke and the exploded air bag was making it hard for me to breathe, so I jumped out the window that was already down, walked over to the curb with only one shoe on, and just sat down because I was incredibly shaken up. A stranger just walks up to me, says he’s a doctor at one of the local hospitals, does a quick check up on me at the side of the road, and reassures me that I’m fine and will continue to be fine. I dunno why, but when he said that I just felt better. I never got his name, and he just disappeared after that. Nobody else saw him except for me.