He Treated Him Like Family
“I was in Legazpi, Philippines. Avengers had just come out (summer 2012), and I went to go watch it at the local theater in town. The ship just left the city, and I was relieved of duty; it was vacation time for me after months at sea sailing from Perth to Legazpi via the treacherous Makassar Straits.
After the movie it was dark out, so I wandered around town and got lost. I was trying to find a way back to the hotel, but Legazpi was a bit difficult to navigate by foot. This guy in his motorcycle sidecar taxi zoomed up to me and asked if I was lost. I say I’m ok, and that I don’t need a taxi. But he insisted I enter his vehicle, saying that he’d take me to the town festival that was going on for free.
I obliged, and he sped off with me inside. He said, ‘My friend, you were about to get mugged by those dozen squatters.’ He may have been fishing for a fare, or maybe he wasn’t. To me though, his face and demeanor genuinely came off as a hardworking, super nice guy. If he didn’t, then I applaud him for being an amazing actor, and he’s in the wrong line of work.
We chilled at the festival and got to know each other over a couple of brews (on me). Afterwards, he took me down this super dark path, and I got a bit apprehensive. He kept saying, ‘Don’t worry, I’m taking you to my house for dinner!’
And yes, he took me to his tiny freakin’ shack of a house near the ocean for dinner. His wife was cooking, and he had two tiny kids running around happy their daddy was back home. We ate a great meal, and he dropped me off back at the hotel. No charge. ‘What the heck? Take my $20!’ ‘Nope.’ ‘Ok fine, how about $40, and you show me the Mayon Volcano and all the cool stuff around here tomorrow?’ He accepted.
Next morning rolled around, and he showed up at my hotel. We took off and he showed me these Dutch church ruins that got decimated by a volcanic eruption in the 1600s, hiked all around some awesome caves, and strolled around the black sand beaches. We had a heck of a time. I give him $60 USD (hid $20 behind another $20, as the bills were crisp enough that you could make it seem like one bill). He realized as I was walking away and I laughed at him and waved back; he had no choice but to keep it. I wished him and his family well. He was a good person.
We kept in touch via email, except he didn’t have his own computer, nor did he have his own email address (he wasn’t tech savvy). He’d use his friends’ email addresses to email me about his kids and stuff over the next few weeks. In 2013, Typhoon Yolanda DEVASTATED the Philippines. I emailed all his friends in vain. I’ve never heard from him again.”
The Jubilant Jam Band
“I was on an eastbound train from Colorado, two days before Christmas. There was some kind of incident in another car that night–a dude got wasted and started threatening other passengers, and we had to make a stop so that the local police could come and collect him.
After the delay, the conductor came over the speakers and announced that if anyone was feeling upset or shaken by the incident, one of the passengers had offered to play his guitar in the snack car, and anyone who was awake was welcome to come down and join in for a singalong. I’m always down for weird train activities, so I decided to grab my harmonica from my bag and head down.
There were about fifteen of us in the car, ranging in age from 16 to mid-70s, and from all over the country. We sang every song we could think of that even kind of referenced a train. We were somewhere in rural Nebraska at that point and nobody had cell service to look up lyrics, so at times I was pretty sure that we were making up more of the words than we actually remembered. The conductor came through after a while and offered to play a few songs, so the guy with the guitar handed it off and pulled out a mandolin, and my harmonica got passed around the group while one guy drummed along on his backpack.
After a while, the conductor got up and left, then came back with a copy of The Polar Express. He read it out loud to our absolutely captivated group of mostly adult travelers while the snow flew all around us in the night, and I swear that for a few minutes our trip felt every bit as magical as the visit to Santa Claus in the story.
Sometime well after the snack car was supposed to have been vacated for the night, we capped things off with the most ridiculously earnest rendition of Don’t Stop Believing that has ever been performed and went our separate ways. I never saw anyone from our little makeshift band again, but I’ll always remember that weird, wonderful, late-night celebration of Journey and the magic of winter travel that came about because some guy was rude on a train.”
She Knew His Pain
“I was on a long late night bus ride. It was express so it made very few stops. The bus had maybe 10 people on it in total. Halfway through the trip it made a stop at a small town station so people could grab a snack or use a public restroom and maybe stretch their legs.
I went up to the counter to buy what at that point was my dinner even though it was after 10 pm. When the cashier rang it up I passed a $50 bill to her and she told me that she couldn’t make change. Defeated I went back to my seat on the bus.
As everyone piled on and the bus drove away, a lovely middle-aged lady walked up from her seat near the back and politely asked if I minded if she sat with me. I told her she was more than welcome. She sits and proceeds to unpack a small lunch bag.
She then split the entirety of her meal with me. She said she had been waiting for the washroom to clear out and had overheard what happened. She said: ‘I’ve gone hungry in my life and it sucks. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, so you can share with me.’
When we were done I jokingly asked if she could break a $50 and we had a good laugh. She stuck with me for the remainder of the trip and was a very interesting lady besides being incredibly generous.
I hope she is well.”
He Had A Heart Of Gold
“I was about 10 years old and had a pair of Heelys, and they were the coolest thing on the earth. I would roll all over on those things and thought I was hot stuff. My family was in China, spending a few weeks in Beijing.
I was rolling around in Tiananmen Square, hit a crack, and lost one of the wheels. I looked around for about an hour but to no avail. I was probably visibly bummed, as my Heelys, the things that made me hot stuff, were now ineffective and basically ruined.
The next morning, I was walking through the square on the way to meet my friends, and an older gentleman ran up to me and stopped me–he had found my wheel. He said that he had seen me rolling around and saw me looking for the wheel after I fell. He saw that I gave up, and stuck around for another hour to keep looking after I left.
He came there the next morning with no expectation that I’d pass through but wanted to be there just in case. I’m not sure who was happier, me that I got my wheel back, or him because he didn’t think he’d see me in literally the world’s busiest square. I said thank you and…that was about it. We both had places to be and that was that.”
She Was Like A Mother
“Last year on my 21st I went to Moe’s for my free birthday burrito. As I was walking out, I slipped on one of the mats (they had just mopped and put the mats back down before the floor dried) and busted my rear. I was so embarrassed and in so much pain, but a few people helped me up. One middle-aged woman helped me into the booth she was sitting in and took charge of the situation.
She had them remake my food and bring it to the table as well as get a first aid kit and a manager. She bandaged up my hand, knee, and elbow all while getting the managers information in case I needed them to pay for doctors bills, and got me like $100 in Moe’s coupons.
When my food finally came out she made me sit with her and eat. We ended up talking for like an hour, and she told me about her and her family and she said if it was her daughter in my situation she’d want someone to step in and take care of her. When we were finished she helped me hobble to my car, gave me a huge hug, and told me happy birthday. I was beyond thankful for her and her small act of kindness towards me. I’ll never forget it.”
Never Judge A Book By Its Cover
“I was bartending at a place with outside tables, taking a half-break having a smoke with some regulars when they pointed out this ‘wastoid.’ He was stumbling, hacking, dry heaving, and spitting down the block. He leaned on a couple of poles for several different moments. He got to his truck which was parked right in front of us and was struggling to get into it.
I went over to talk him out of driving, and he explained that he wasn’t wasted, in the same fashion that all sloshed people do. As a responsible bartender, I urged him again not to drive and he said, ‘Something’s not right man, I really don’t feel well.’ So I said, ‘I believe you, but maybe you should go to the hospital.’ He told me he was going to but couldn’t afford the ambulance.
I convince him he couldn’t afford a car accident either, and that it would only take a moment for me to hail him a cab. He conceded and in under a minute, I grabbed him a cab and told the cabbie to take him to the hospital. At that point, he was doing much worse. So I handed the cabbie $20 and told him to rush.
The next day the guy came back for his car and to thank me. He was having some sort of respiratory attack and surely would have died without medical treatment. He tried to pay me the twenty back, and at that point his tears really had me choking up and I refused his money, telling him, ‘to pay it to the hospital $5 at a time, which will keep the hospital off your back for at least four months.’ After a million ‘thank you’s and ‘I owe you my life’s, he drove away, never to be seen again.”
The Girl With The Lucky Puppy
“My son was in a pretty serious accident. I was a wreck in the ICU waiting room. A little girl maybe about 9 or 10 years old was with her family, saying goodbye to her great-grandmother. She waltzed right up to me and said, ‘Sir, why are you crying?’ I explained my son was very sick. She handed me a miniature puppy doll and told me it was lucky and my son would get better. She was right. He did get better and I still keep that little puppy on my dresser and think of that sweet child.”
He Changed Her Life
“I was day tripping to Vancouver from Seattle and stopped in for lunch at a little cafe. From my window I saw a young teenage girl out in the cold, squatted down in a closed up businesses doorway, holding a small bundle in her arms. She was panhandling, but people were mostly walking by ignoring her. She looked broken.
I finished up my meal and went outside, went through my wallet, and thought I’d give her $5 for some food. I went up to her and she was sobbing; she looked like she was 14-15. That bundle in her arms was a baby wrapped up. I felt like I just got punched in the chest. She looked up, putting on a game face and asked for any change, I asked her if she’d like some lunch. Right next door was a small Quik Trip type grocery store, so I got a can of formula for the baby (very young, maybe 2-3 months old), and took her back to the cafe even though I’d just eaten. She was very thankful, got a burger, and just inhaled it. Then I got her some pie and ice cream, she opened up, and we talked. She was 15, got pregnant, her parents were angry, and she was fighting with them. She ran away and had been gone almost 1 full year.
I asked her if she’d like to go home and she got silent. I coaxed her, and she said her parents wouldn’t want her back. I coaxed further, and she admitted she stole $5k in cash from her dad. It turned out $5k doesn’t last long at all and the streets are tough on a 15-year-old. Very tough. She did want to go back, but she was afraid no one wanted her back after what she did.
We talked more, and I wanted her to use my phone to call home but she wouldn’t. I told her I’d call and see if her folks wanted to talk to her; she hesitated and gave bad excuses, but eventually agreed. She dialed the number and I took the phone. Her mom picked up and I said hello, awkwardly introduced myself, and told her that her daughter would like to speak to her. Silence, and I heard crying. Then I gave the phone to the girl and she was just quiet, listening to her mom cry, and then said hello. Then she cried. They talked, she gave the phone back to me, and I talked to her mom some more.
I drove her down to the bus station and bought her a bus ticket home. Gave her $100 cash for incidentals, as well as some formula, diapers, wipes, and snacks for the road. We got to the bus, and she just cried saying thank you over and over. I gave her a kiss on the forehead and a hug, kissed her baby, and she got on the bus.
I get a Christmas card every year from her. She’s 21 now and in college. Her name is Makayla and her baby was Joe. It just feels good knowing I did something good in this world. Maybe it’ll make up for the things I’ve messed up.”
She Needed The Help
“I met a young woman who was crying her eyes out in the back of a train station’s CVS while I was there picking up stamps before heading onto the train to catch my flight home (had to get some bills in the mail before I left or I’d forget about them). She had a very young (under 2) child with her and the kid was getting progressively more panicky that his mom was losing it in public. She was underdressed for the snowstorm outside, though the kid was bundled up properly in oversized clothes that looked like they might have been hers.
They both only spoke Spanish, but I was able to go up and ask what was going on. The young mom wailed, but the little boy was very interested in my big rolling suitcase. I offered, in Spanish, to watch him for a few minutes while she got things sorted out and cleaned herself up in the bathroom, then took him on a walk through the food aisles and let him pick out some snacks, which I bought for him.
About fifteen minutes later she came out of the bathroom looking like a different person. She cried again when I offered her the bag of groceries and a twenty, which was all the cash I had on me, and tried not to accept it until I insisted. She thanked me profusely, the little kid hugged me, and they left into the Boston winter.
I can’t imagine how bad things must have been to trust a stranger with her kid, but it was one of those moments where I realized I had the opportunity to make an actual difference in the way this kid lived for at least the next week or so. He was well mannered and–as someone who’s volunteered in at-risk grade school classrooms–didn’t give off the impression that trusted adults had ever harmed him. He was just hungry and scared about whatever was going on with his mom. I have no idea where they are and I hope they’re both okay.
I want to end with a quote from ‘The Year In Ugliness’ by Arabelle Sacardi, which sums up a lot of my thoughts about stories similar to mine:
‘It is easy to walk quickly past something that makes you uncomfortable. It is easy to freeze and stay frozen until your chance is gone. It is easy to save yourself first. It is easy to turn and keep walking. It’s instinctual. That does not mean it is forgivable. Fixing everything in the world is impossible. But it is also impossible to know how much a little thing can count for. Not knowing and not daring to find out–that is ugliness, too.'”
“Years ago, I was at the bus stop super early one morning. It was really cold as well.
Anyway, there was a guy that I used to see every time I would get the 7 am bus – looked like a builder, he always got off near one of the large building sites by the university. We were on ‘nodding terms.’
One morning, there was a fireball/disintegrating meteor. We both saw it, he turned to me and said with a super serious face ‘you know our souls are forever linked now.’ We went back to nodding terms, and I never saw him after I quit early morning classes
I guess because I remember it, he was kinda right and that guy is still trolling me.”
Cry It Out
“The day I found out my grandmother had a stroke and would never walk or talk again, I was away at college. I finally broke down in a bathroom. A girl came in and asked if I needed a hug. I was crying so hard that I really didn’t get a look at her face. I cried on her shoulder for about 10 minutes and then had to pull myself together and leave for class. I never explained myself and she never asked. I never recognized or spoke to her again. I wonder if she sometimes saw me on campus and wondered what was up and if I was okay.”
The Big Inflatable Rubber Duck
“A few years ago the Big Inflatable Rubber Duck came to our city (Pittsburgh), so a local radio station got a permit and we had a street party (for those who think it’s weird, it was an excuse to say, ‘Hey, that is a big duck!’ and then eat bad food and drink for a few hours).
So the station was playing as many duck-related songs that they could (mostly any rock song that said ‘duck’ in any context) and my wife and I were standing around waiting for the duck. I, a mid-30s fat nerd, started chatting with a random old guy.
‘Man, they should play the DuckTales theme song,’ I said, knowing full well he may not have any idea what DuckTales was. He was definitely old enough that his child would not have watched it, but maybe a grandchild? ‘Yes, they should,’ he said.
Well, like an hour went by, and we get separated in the crowd. Then the radio station started blaring the DuckTales theme song. In the crowd, I see an old guy raise his head, scan the crowd, give me a nod and smile, and then turn back. It was such a heartwarming moment.”
A Genuinely Inspiring Encounter
“I walked into a laundromat and a stranger said, ‘Hi.’ I smiled and said, ‘Hello,’ put my laundry in the washers, and sat to read. The stranger, named Victor, turned to me and said, ‘So, how is 2014 going to be different for you?’ Unsure about spilling my guts to this stranger, I laughed and said, ‘I have no idea. What about you?’
He replied, ‘I’m going to…y’know…not procrastinate. When I say I’m going to do something–I’m going to do it. I’m going to do more. Y’know, I really want to help people this year. I love that. I don’t do it enough. People are so caught up in their own lives. They never even say, ‘Hi, how are you?’ to strangers anymore, just to be nice. And when you do, people just give you this look. Why can’t we just be friendly? I just saw this guy moving into one of those trailers and his nine-year-old daughter was struggling to help him move a washer into the house. I was on my way to the store but I stopped and said, ‘Hey! Can I help you? How about you go inside and I’ll stay out here and help you get it in the door?’ See, I didn’t want him to think I was trying to rob him or anything…he just looked like he was struggling and all these people just kept walking by! They just walked right past him. Why? We come into this world with nothing and that is how we leave. What difference do we make? We’re just dust in the wind, aren’t we? What I’m saying is we have to LIVE our lives. Life is short! And it’s all about love. Love, love, love, love, love. Just love people. Be slow to speak and quick to listen. People will tell you what is in their heart–even if it’s not what they’re saying. You just have to listen.’
Victor and I sat and talked for nearly two hours–my laundry took 40 minutes. It’s funny how the most unexpected people can say exactly what you need to hear, and listen when you just need to speak. Everyone should try to be more like Victor. Do more, help others, say ‘hi,’ live your life, love, love, love, love, love, and listen.”
They Had Two Incredible Chance Encounters
“When I was 11, I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a very rare form that’s hard to treat. I went through the treatments and bone marrow transplant really well though, and got better.
When I was 14 I was picked to go to a ranch in Colorado for kids that had health issues like myself. On one of the connecting flights, I sat next to an older women and she noticed a car magazine that I had. We started talking, and I told her I liked Mustangs and it truned out she had 2 82 Grand Turismos that she had won awards with. It was really cool to talk to her and when we landed we went our separate ways.
Fast forward a few years and my dad and I were driving to Arkansas to pick up a mint 82 GT. We got there and started talking to her, and she started talking about the other cars she had and it finally clicked in my head, she was the lady from the plane! When I mentioned it to her she remembered me, and it was just pretty amazing that we found each other again!”
She Showed Him How To Live In The Moment
“On a night out, I was feeling pretty rough so I sat down on some steps to eat a box of hot chips. This group of girls walked past, and one of them who was in a yellow dress and a flower halo broke off and sat next to me. She had a thick Irish accent.
‘What’s yer name?’
‘Anette. Ask me where I live.’
‘…alright, where do you live?’
She grabbed one of my chips, put it in her mouth, and said, ‘In the freaking moment,’ kissed my forehead, and ran off to join her group again. I still think about her.”
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