A recent post on RealDelia has me thinking about the kindness of strangers.
Some recent news stories:
A family in Missouri had their house condemned due to a mud-slide. Strangers came to their aid, helping them pack and move their belongings. They also rented a storage facility for the family, who could not afford one.
And on the other side of the fence, a woman caught on camera sweetly stroked a cat she found on the road, and then calmly put it in a garbage can and closed the lid. The video is awful to watch in that can’t stop myself from watching sort of way. The thing I find most interesting, though, is the public outrage. This woman now needs police protection, because people are so upset by her action. To me, this seems to be the flip side of kindness to strangers — some kind of punishment on behalf of strangers (in this case, on behalf of the poor cat, who was, by the way, rescued).
The fact is, most strangers are kind, helpful, and trustworthy. Bruce Schneier, a leading security expert, wrote in the Wall Street Journal:
(Full disclosure: I met Bruce last year when he spoke at a conference I organized. I found him fascinating and somewhat eccentric.)
I think we all have stories of a stranger who came to our rescue at one time or another.
I was a college student traveling in Israel, using a bright red day-planner to organize my entire life. All the phone numbers of the people I was visiting, all my travel documents including plane tickets and passport (this was before the days of cell phones or e-tickets), and about 300 US Dollars in cash (which is a lot now but was an extraordinary sum for me at that time) were in that day-planner.
I pulled it out at a pay phone to make a phone call, and somehow managed to leave it there in the phone booth. When I realized my error, hours later, I was completely panicked. I asked my friend to drive me back to the phone booth, to no avail. The book was gone. I had no idea what to do, with no identification and no money. Even finding my other friends to ask for assistance was difficult because I didn’t have their phone numbers.
An hour later another friend of mine who lived nearby got a phone call from the person who found it. Through my friend, this incredibly kind woman got in touch with me. She asked me a bunch of questions that she felt only the owner of the day-planner could answer, and once she was satisfied that I was indeed the owner she delivered it to me. It had every single thing in perfect order, including all the cash.
I tried to give her something in return, but she wouldn’t take anything. To this day, I do not know what I would have done if she hadn’t found and returned it.
I’ve never found a wallet on the ground or any other valuable item, but I hope that I would behave as honorably and kindly as that woman.
What about you? What’s your best kindness of strangers story?