Thank you, Kind Strangers.
There is a little known fact about me that I will share with you all: I have really bad luck when it comes to cars. Don’t believe me? Ask my roommate how many times I have gone to my parking spot only to find someone else parked in my spot. Ask my mom about the four parking tickets I received for parking in an illegal parking spot (hey, don’t judge me. Parallel parking doesn’t exist in Gates County. I could park in my neighbor’s driveway for a week and nobody would say anything). My car is actually sitting at the mechanic’s right now because the alternator went out while I was getting the oil changed. As much as I don’t have good luck with cars, I have really terrible luck with car keys. In the past couple of months, I have locked my keys in my car twice. Each time ended with me waiting at least an hour and a half for AAA while random people looked at me, no doubt thinking, “I’m glad that isn’t me!”
The kindness of strangers has gotten me through a lot. When I first locked my keys in my car, I had decided to surprise my sister on her prom day by driving back home early in the morning to go with her to her hair and makeup appointments. However, as things normally go with me, that did not go as planned. When I stopped for gas about halfway to my destination, I unintentionally left my keys and my wallet locked in my car. I tried to open every door, I banged on every window, and I almost had a tantrum of epic proportions at Pump #3 in the Zebulon, NC WaWa parking lot. Every time I tried to call AAA in order to get roadside assistance, the lady refused to help me because I was using my mother’s membership card instead of my own. I was not feeling the kindness of that stranger. However, after an hour of sitting by my car not knowing what to do, a stranger approached me. He asked me if my keys were locked in my car and then he offered to try to unlock it for me. Turns out, he owned his own car garage and he always carries an ‘in case of an emergency’ car kit. It took him all of two minutes to pop open my driver’s side door. I tried to pay him, but he said it was no trouble at all. I was able to make it home (I didn’t surprise my sister though, my mother had given away my secret the day I told her what I was planning to do). My sister looked beautiful.
As I sat down to write this, I was watching World News with David Muir. One of the stories that was on was a tale about a man who was biking through the country in order to meet the person who had received his daughter’s heart after she tragically passed away. The brave man told the cameras about the strangers who would put him up for the night in every town that he biked through. They fed him, they clothed him, and they hugged them. With tears in his eyes he said, “My faith in humanity is restored.” I was incredibly touched but immediately understood what he meant about his faith being restored. I, too, have experienced the incredible acts of kindness bestowed to me by strangers, especially through working at the farmer’s market for the past seven years.
However, what I have learned is that the kindness of strangers goes beyond helping someone stranded at a gas station. Other times strangers have helped me may have seemed so small to them, but to me it meant the world. A sincere compliment on days I felt like I looked like a complete disaster, helping me pick up my books that spilled from my backpack when I forgot to zip it after my class, and even letting me go in front of them in a really long Starbucks line when I’m in a hurry—these are all small ways the kindness of strangers has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. The farmers market has allowed me to meet the nicest people. All of them started as strangers. People who brought my mom, sister, and I tents to set up and raincoats to wear when it started pouring down on us while we were selling our vegetables. Strangers who bring food to us at the end of the market day. Partly to show us the creations they made out of the produce they bought that morning, partly to show us kindness at the end of a long workday. We have had people show up to help us set up our tables in the morning, people who bring us magazines and cookbooks to show us their favorite recipes, received birthday and graduation cards, hot cups of coffee on cold mornings, and friendly faces to look at while we battle hot summer days and long, early mornings.
I want to say thank you. From the people who volunteer selflessly working everyday through organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Teach for America, PAWS, and the Peace Corps to the person who takes time out of their busy day to help a stranger out—thank you. Whoever you are, thank you. Thank you for being so kind on that one day I needed it the most. You may not have known it but your kindness truly carries on. Thank you for helping out a stranger when you didn’t even know what type of person they could be. Thank you for deciding, in a world where random acts of hatred and crime run rampant, to be that bit of hope that holds us all together. Just as Blanche Dubois says in my favorite play of all time, A Streetcar Named Desire, “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” it is true—you are what make the world go round.
They say, “Be the type of person you would want to meet.” Well, If I was emulating the type of person I would want to meet, I would want to be a kind stranger. In the words of Nikita Gill, author of Be that Kind of Person , "Be the kind of person who isn't afraid to ask someone if they are okay twice if they say they are, but look like they aren't. Be the kind of person who smiles at people even if they don't smile back. Be the kind of person you wished for when no one was there for you. Be the kind of person who is brave enough to stand alone in a crowd for what is right. Be that person because people like that are rarer than the most precious of diamonds and gold." Maybe I was wrong when I stated that the kindness of strangers goes beyond helping someone stranded at a gas station, maybe tiny acts such as those create a wealth of good. Be that kind of person. Be a kind person, especially to a stranger. Thank you.
Below I have included a small, small list of different stories in which people have discussed the times where strangers have shown them kindness. I encourage you to add to this list by commenting your own stories! I’ll continue to add your stories to this list and constantly update.
True Testimonials on the Kindness of Strangers:
1. “So the other week when we were coming home we stopped for gas, and ____ wanted to buy a bottle of water but we had to wait in a really long line. When we finally got to the counter ____, who lives with a severe form of autism, paid in cash because he loves to see what kind change he gets (aka shiny coins). So after telling the cashier, the man next to us also bought something and he gave ____ ALL of his change. I thought it was really sweet and ___ was so excited.”
2. “When I was 19 I was driving to visit my boyfriend at college and my car broke down. This was before cellphones and I was in the middle of nowhere really early in the morning. I walked down the road and knocked on the door of the first house I saw. An older couple answered the door, obviously haven been awoken by their sleep, and I asked if they had a phone I could borrow. Not only did they let me borrow their phone, the older gentleman checked on my car for me, and they fed me breakfast and let me stay in their house until my father could come and get me.”
3. “One time, I was having a really bad day. My boyfriend had broken up with me a couple days before, I found out I had made a really bad grade on a test I had been studying for, and I felt like I was coming down with cold. However, one of my really good friends was having a party that night and I told her I would go. At the party, I felt terrible. To add to my stress, my newly ex-boyfriend showed up to the party uninvited, bringing another girl. I went into the bathroom and cried my eyes out, I felt so ugly. When I left the bathroom, getting ready to leave, a random girl came up to me and told me that she loved how I did my hair and asked how I did it. It was a very small compliment but I will never forget how, on a night I felt the worst, one stranger’s question made me feel a little bit better”
4. “I was in line at Starbucks the other day and the person in front of me paid for my coffee. It was the nicest surprise and I definitely will be doing that for someone in the future”
5. “My son wondered off in Farm Fresh the other day. A sweet lady found him and brought him to the front. She asked his name and they were able to page me in the store. I was so frightened but ultimately so happy for the woman who took time out of her day to help.”
6. I dropped my keys on the way to class. I was in a panic looking for them but I was really busy and had to walk to work. When I got back to my car, someone had left a note on my dashboard saying that my keys were in the flower pot outside of the porch. They had found them next to my car and put them in a safe place for me.