When I think of Tennessee Williams, I think of A Streetcar Named Desire (the movie) and, in my head, I hear Vivian Leigh saying, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”
In the film, the viewer knows Blanche’s trust’s delusional and that the kindnesses done to her are, in truth, cruel or uncaring. That said, I like the phrase. Random acts of kindness are one of society’s greatest lubricants, antidotes to the endless grind of negativity we live amidst.
I’m on our last week of a three week trip in Europe and, again and again, strangers and near strangers have been simply lovely. For example: We are currently in Bath and are, tomorrow, to go to Oxford. Unfortunately, this weekend brings a strike by railway workers and there are no trains. To take a bus would take almost all day and is quite expensive. I thought we’d be reduced to hiring an Uber which, I’m sure, would be more than a night in our Airbnb. But….
There is a woman who went to college with my siblings but whom I’ve not seen in over thirty years who lives outside Bath. I wrote her and asked if she had any ideas or suggestions. She promptly rearranged her work schedule to drive us–Dr. Feelgood and I have been joined by our son who lives in India. It’s around a two hour drive each way. I am awed by her generosity–and my happiness meter rose by several degrees.
It distresses me we don’t share enough happy stories so please, tell me some acts of kindness you’ve experienced.
Impenitent social media enthusiast. Relational trend spotter. Enjoys both carpe diem and the fish of the day.
I frequently experience the kindness of strangers. If you don’t, you’re just not paying attention.
When I turned my car on to go to church last Christmas Eve, one of its universal signs flashed and stayed on. Since this universal sign was an upturned horse shoe with an exclamation mark in the middle, I had no idea what it was trying to tell me, not being able to speak International Sign Language which was designed by malevolent computer programmers (all men) who are getting back at the pretty girls (and studly boys, too, I am sure) who wouldn’t accept their dates.
So, I pulled out my 600 page owner’s manual, and turned to the fifty-page index to find nothing on icons. Or symbols. Or signs. Finally, my car took pity on me (it was Christmas, after all) and when I started driving, it flashed, “Low Tire Pressure.”
When I arrived at the church, I looked up “low tire pressure” in the index. Nothing. Then, “Tire pressure.” Nothing. Then, “air pressure.” You can guess what it said.
I take tire pressure seriously. Even I, as a true know-nothing about anything practical, know that when it’s cold, your tire pressure lowers AND you can get a blow-out. I take this personally because one time (I know I’ve told you this story, but it bears repeating, in case you ever are foolish enough to leave paradise to come to New England in winter) I got four flat tires in the bitter winter. Fortunately, this happened when I was parked about two yards from a garage. God looks out for former English teachers. At least, sometimes.
Annnyway, after church, I drove to a gas station, fretting about having to pump air—how much, etc. Would I get home, without a blow out, causing injury or death? Could I actually get the tires filled before Christmas morning when I was joining my family? After waiting for the store attendant to get off the phone, I found out what I pretty much knew. No, they didn’t sell (remember when it was free?) air for tires.
I then drove three miles, in the dark, in the bitter cold, praying none of my tires would blow out, to another gas station.
This one did! But the air machine was in the dark, and my tiny flashlight was inadequate for me to see the black-on-black notation on the tires of how much pressure I needed or even where the damned thingmajij was that I needed to unscrew to fill the air. I had left my gloves at home, as I circled the car, uselessly.
So, I went to the gas station guy who just makes change. Naturally, this Mobil station was a “service station” in name only. He told me that he was not supposed to do anything with the air pump because it was owned by a different company.
I felt utterly defeated and stupid and helpless. Naturally, there were no garages open at midnight to help me. I truly didn’t know what to do.
I asked him if he knew whether tires still used that little thingmajig that you needed to unscrew and that I couldn’t find it.
His better angels whispered in his ear and he listened.
He then flipped on the lights by the machine, came out, showed me where the nozzle thing was and then he unscrewed it which didn’t give immediately. After he grunted a couple of times, it finally did. I knew that if I had had to unscrew it, as it was probably done by a machine or a man, I would have had no luck. I was very grateful. He then showed me on my car door where the ancient, secret information was recorded—37 pounds per inch or pound or ton, and then. . .
Get ready for a true Christmas Miracle.
He filled all the tires for me.
He, too had no gloves, but I bet he hadn’t left his at home.
I almost dissolved in tears, I was so grateful, in the dark, and in the cold (did I mention it was 19 which is cooooolllldd).
I gave him all the cash I had (abut $14) and he was so touched, he hugged me.
I said, “You will be the subject of Christmas dinner at my family’s tomorrow. Thank you.”
At that, I am not exaggerating when I tell you that he did tear up.
THAT is a lovely story…. and so well written!
Just tonight at dinner my son related the story of being in a shop in Tokyo. When he told the owner it was their first trip to Japan, the owner disappeared. They wondered if they had somehow insulted him, but after a few minutes he reappeared with a folder of information he had printed about things to see and do in Tokyo. I then told of when my sister and I were in the Tsukihi fish market in Tokyo, she was looking at some specialized knives and shears to use for her work (she is a paper conservator). My sister then stopped and teared up, saying she’d seen some knives in the shop that she thought my husband, an avid cook, would like, only to be brought up short as she remembered that he’d died the year before. I then teared up. The knife vendor asked why we were crying. We told her, then she teared up a bit and brought us tissues and chocolates from the back of her stall. It was a moment of human connection and kindness that I’ll never forget.
My unforgettable moment of stranger kindness is one where I can never thank the strangers personally. When I was 7 months pregnant with my fifth child, my almost 3 yr old climbed out of her stroller at the very large and crowed NC State Fair. It was in the one minute Will and I were getting the older kids set up for a water pistol game. We made the mistake of not having the stroller facing us, so she climbed out without us being able to see (the stroller hood obscured our view–dumb mistake). Anyway, she had completely disappeared into the crowd when we turned around
On the way in to the fairgrounds that day we did one thing right. We attached a tag with our names to her clothing that they were passing out at the gate. While I searched frantically and Will searched while not losing the rest of the kids, someone found her and took her to the closest Red Cross building on the grounds. They announced our names over the Fairgrounds loud speaker, but I was too frantic to register it. Will had to find me and point me to the building. While I cried so hard I couldn’t speak, my daughter calmly asked me if she could finish coloring the picture she had been given. Longest 30 minutes of my life.
About 10 years ago, I was a primary care nurse for a gentleman in my ICU. He was extremely ill and his care was complex. I got to know his wife and daughter well during the month he was with us. They were kind, funny and very appreciative for the care given. I liked them a lot.
Unfortunately he died in our unit.
A few months after his death, I was called into my managers office and handed a letter from the family. It was the sweetest letter I’ve ever received in my nursing career . The family donated money to our unit and made it clear that they wanted a portion of it to go to the nurses for a”food night”. There was enough money to support having 4 “food nights”. Things like this are never expected by nurses but you have no idea how appreciated it was. I still think of them and how thoughtful and kind they were.
A week ago ebay informed me my pretty new watch had been delivered… it hadn’t.
On Tuesday a man came to my door with a package, asking if it was mine. He had been in a town 13 miles away, where a woman talked about being sick of having mail misdelivered to her and was going to throw it away. He told her he lived in the town that it was meant to go to and hand delivered it to my door. I was APPRECIATIVE.
TLDR don’t trust Singapore Post’s local contractors but good samaritans can overcome their incompetence.
One day when I was about 6 months pregnant with Baby #2, I was wheeling Baby #1 in the baby carriage (yes, they’re close in age) and chatting to him. I remember that I was wearing a green dress and had a matching tie in my hair. A woman—a total stranger—stopped me and said, “I just wanted to say that you look so pretty.”
I’m now a grandmother, but I still remember how good that made me feel.