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I Have Always Depended On The Arbitrariness of Strangers

By Seth Freilich | Comment Diversions | August 1, 2012 | Comments ()


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Ok, so let's get the comment diversion out of the way up front, in case you get bored with where I go from here and just want to get right to your own business: tell us about your experience with the kindness of strangers. Something awesome a stranger did for you or gave to you, or vice versa.

The reason this came up to me is because I recently took part in Arbitrary Day, a reddit thing where folks basically secret santa each other at a random time of year, just because. According to the stats, this year there were over 10,000 participants, who spent almost half a million dollars on gifts. Last year, Jimmy Fallon gave this fantastic gift:

Anyway, I signed up for it this year, not knowing what to expect. When I got info on the person I was supposed to send a gift to, I did a little online digging, put a gift and some packaging together, and sent it off. I decided to do it anonymously, and so he has no idea who he got his gift from. I was hoping he'd dig it, and it seems he did -- he put up a nice post indicating that he was way psyched about the gift and my packaging, so I was very pleased with myself.

But that's not what this post is about. This post is about my Secret Santa. So two Fridays ago, I get an e-mail from the woman in my building's leasing office, telling me I have a package. She normally doesn't send such an e-mail but did in this instance because, "your package looks very amusing, and made me smile." (Sidenote: this isn't the first time, and likely won't be the last time, that a woman tells me my package looks amusing. Such is my life.)

And she was correct:

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So when I got home, I was absolutely giddy as I took my mystery box upstairs. Further, there was a fancy envelope in my mailbox from the same address:

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My Secret Santa managed to perfectly time delivery of a box and a letter. Right on. Better yet, I opened to box to see this:

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A homemade Tardis card? Doesn't matter what else is in this box, I'm already happy. But, what's in the box?

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But first, there was the card itself, wherein my secret santa wrote:

So, unfortunately for your badass self, you got a 19 yr old girl as your Santa. But I put together a medley of items I hope you will enjoy.

While it's very sweet that this 19 year old girl thinks I'm a "badass self," she clearly didn't do her homework. But I love the idea of "a medley of items," so let's take a look at what's in the box.



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Calm down, Detective Mills, I said we're looking in the box:

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As she explained about these gifts in her card:

The sharks were handmade by me, & and the Seattle shot glass is from where I am. The rest are vintage! I got them from a sweet antique shop!

And for good measure, this being reddit and all, one more handmade magnet (oh yeah, the sharks are magnets):

arbitrary-day-2012-reddit-magnet.jpg

Yeah, unfortunately it broke. But I'll glue it back together and it'll be as good as new.

But anyway, those sharks and shot glasses are rad and they immediately got added to the little corner of alcoholic art I have created in my apartment:

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All of which is a long-winded way of saying that this random and anonymous 19-year-old Seattle girl got me these awesome gifts that have now become an active part of my living space which I see every day. As the holiday says, it's totally arbitrary. But it's also totally awesome.

And so, back to you. Tell us your story of the kindness or creativity of strangers.

(Oh, and for the curious, inside the envelope was an acceptance letter to Hogwarts, with a shopping list. Smell ya later lawyering, I'm gonna go learn me some wizarding!)


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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Stina

    My story was from a trip to Japan that my boyfriend (now husband) and I took several years ago. We were wandering around Kyoto, looking for a garden of some sort. I don't remember the details, but I do know we had a map to the place which was kinda in the middle of a residential area. We were hopelessly lost, even with the map! I was cold, tired, my feet were sore and I had a rash from some sunscreen, so it was just the icing on the crap cake when it started to drizzle. When I get frustrated or angry, I tend to cry, so that didn't make me feel any better either.

    Luckily, a man walking by noticed us and asked, in broken english, where we were going. We showed him the map and he said he knew where that was which wasn't far. So he gave (not lent) us an umbrella and walked us right to the gardens. It was such a relief to find the place. Even though they weren't that memorable, the story has stuck with me. The coolest part? The guy was a monk and even showed us his little house (monastery?) and garden! So a crappy day turned in to quite a wonderful story.

  • Loving this thread.
    One story that came to mind was the summer I was 17 and working at the county fair for a week. It was a shitty food service job where I made corndogs and fries and wore an overly large yellow t-shirt. I had the closing shift, so I was usually there until 11pm or midnight. Well, one night, I was driving home on the freeway in my dad's Subaru station wagon, and I felt/heard the tire pop. I had enough sense to pull to the side of the road and park. I got out to find the tire deflated and the hubcap gone. I wasn't familiar with this car so I had no idea how to change the tire or even where the tire and tools were (answer: under the floor). I just kind of sat in the car trying to figure out how to turn on the emergency lights and trying to come up with a game plan to get home.
    With no phone and no one stopping to help me, I decided to walk home since it was only a couple miles away and what the hell else was I going to do? I had only been walking maybe 5 minutes when a car pulled up to me. It was a woman and her daughter and they kindly let me into their car, call my dad, and then dropped me off at my house. I'm sure I would have gotten home eventually, but it was late and kind of scary, and I'm so grateful they stopped to help a teenage girl out.

  • brite

    This is wonderful,and the shark magnets are verra cool.
    I have had many many incidents of anonymous kindness in my life (maybe I'm just lucky) but there is one that stands out for me.
    Back in 1978 when I was still just a teenager really, I had decided I would backpack across Europe before tackling university. After months of saving and planning I was on the plane and arriving at London Heathrow, mildly jet lagged and pretty disoriented and scared. Somehow I managed to make it from the airport to the youth hostel without getting lost, but when I found out the hostel didn't open for another 3 hours I slumped to the pavement and was on the verge of tears...I was tired, I was alone and overwhelmed at being in such a big big world with nothing but a backpack , a few dollars and a passport to keep me company. A beautiful woman in her late 30's or so (which seemed very old and wise to me at the time) came up and asked if I was planning on staying at the hostel. In her slightly accented voice she said that the wait wouldn't be that long and took me across the street to a tea shop and bought me the best mug of tea I'd ever had. For the next couple of hours, she talked to me, told me her life story (she'd been born in Berlin in the middle of WW2 and grew up in post war Germany) and basically distracted me from my own fears and worries.
    I don't know if I ever knew her name, but I think of how she gently and patiently cared for a stranger who was not in any real danger, but more than a little lost.

  • Psychicdog

    A few months ago, I was on my way to work. Took a different route that day because I had to stop at a non-regular client's place. So, the route that day involved a bus and a subway line I don't normally ride.
    The bus arrives at the train station, I hop off and walk across the street. I reach into my pocket -- my wallet is not there. ID, debit card, and (most importantly) train pass are in my wallet, which is on the bus which is pulling away.
    I run back across the street, waving my arms and yelling, but the boss doesn't stop for me. I even tried to run to catch up -- this street had a plethora of 4-way stop intersections and I thought I had a chance.
    I didn't.
    As a last result, I started attempting to flag down cars. After a while, a young man in a silver SUV pulled over. I explained, and asked him if he could catch up with the bus, which was now several blocks ahead. He agreed, and I got in.
    He pulled a couple of dangerous maneuvers, passing people when it wasn't legal, and blew a red light to catch up with that bus. And fortunately, the wallet was still on it -- someone had passed it up to the driver earlier.

  • Anne Lucchesi

    Aight, here we go.

    Last summer, we had just moved to CA. My husband had never lived near the beach before and we didn't have jobs yet, so we drove to Santa Cruz to sit on the beach a lot. It was nice to be out of the house and it was less than 1/4 tank of gas for a lovely outing.

    A nice outing on Highway 17. The road to Santa Cruz is a horrible little windy road that people die on on a regular basis. One drizzly afternoon we are driving back and I take a turn too fast and hit a puddle. We go up the divider, flip over and skid to the right lane. I crawl out my side window. My husband is still trapped, upside down, in the passenger seat. All I can think of is that I have killed him.

    An Irish lady named Helen pulls her minivan over behind us. As does the tow truck driver behind her. He puts on his orange vest and begins to direct traffic around us. She calls 911 and brings me a blanket and sits with me in the pouring rain next to the car where I am trying to get my husband to talk to me.

    Helen stayed with me until the EMTs came and took us to the hospital. She did all the right things when I couldn't do anything other than say "Are you alive? Are you alive?" over and over again lying on the ground next to the car trying to see his face. I will always appreciate everything she did for me and I wish there was some way I could thank her.

    Thanks Helen.

  • Kelly

    When I was 5 years old, the biggest toy in the universe was the Cabbage Patch Kid. And oh how I wanted one. The only problem was that my mum was a single mum with barely enough money to feed us; there was no extra to spend on an expensive doll. They were also incredibly difficult to even purchase. I don't know the specifics of how it happened but someone heard that my mum couldn't afford one, she apparently had bought an extra one and she decided to give it to me. I can still remember the lady knocking on the door, talking with my mum and then handing over a large brown bag. My mum passed it to me, I opened it and was shocked into silence at the sight of that doll brand new in the box. I never go to say thank you because the lady left while I was still staring shocked at my new doll. I have never seen my mum cry so hard.
    32 years later I still have that Cabbage Patch Kid.

  • Shonda aka fpkillkill

    I saw your gifts on reddit today! I too signed up and my match was in
    the UK and he acknowledged that he received his gift but didn't post pics or
    even act like he liked them.

    Then, the person who was matched with me never picked up my information so no gift, and then I was rematched and...still no gift.

    Arbitrary Day kind of sucked for me. I know it's not about the
    receiving, and I would've been cool with that but my guy didn't seem to
    give a shit about his gift and I went to a lot of trouble and expense.

    ANYWAY, I'll stop whining about Arbitrary Day now and tell you my "kindness of strangers" story.

    Four years ago I had the worst couple of weeks of my life. I had three kittens die
    in my arms, each one a day apart, and then my father died back in Houston, and those deaths caused me to have the first panic attack I'd ever had, closely followed by two more that sent me to the hospital because I thought I was dying.

    I had to get to Houston but was in Philadelphia with no damn money. I had to get a cousin who worked for Continental, and who I didn't really know, to buy me one of those
    stand-by family passes for a plane trip to Houston to make the funeral.
    And because the BF had a business trip scheduled way before any of the grief went down I had to be back to Philly the evening of the funeral. It was basically fly in the day before the funeral, and fly back right after on the last flight out of Houston to Philly.

    Well, the funeral was about as good as a funeral can be, what with my super-fundie preacher cousin doing the eulogy and said eulogy having NOTHING to do with father and being all about my cousin and how HE wants to be remembered when he dies and then something about his daughter and how he wants her first kiss to be on her wedding night (!) and blah blah her VIRGINITY (!) (WTF?!), and being all funeral-y, but then I had to
    high-tail it back to the airport because I had to be in Philly that
    night because the BF had left the truck at the airport for me and we
    still had a couple of kittens hanging on along and we had our two older cats
    that needed to be fed and our dog that needed to be fed and walked. So see, I HAD to be there that night.

    Anyway, I get to the airport and there are no seats left for the last
    flight out of Houston to Philadelphia. None. Totally booked. Nothing until the next morning. I am doing my best to keep it all together and not cry in public and I ask if maybe they could make an announcement and ask if someone would agree to go tomorrow, but they will not ask anyone to
    give up their seat for me because I had a family pass not a full-fare
    ticket. I was put on standby, but there were already eight people ahead of me on standby so things are looking fucking bleak. As a "help" they said they could get me to Baltimore or NYC but I had no way of
    getting from either place to Philly because the money situation was dire.

    I am over in a corner, crying my eyes out (dead dad, dead kittens, no
    money, panic attacks, stuck at the airport, etc), feeling absolutely hopeless when a young lady
    crooks her finger at me and motions me to the counter. She tells me that she is giving up her seat to me. She had been behind me when I was pleading with the guy at the counter and overheard everything. She has transferred her ticket to me and has no place to stay in Houston except at the airport. She was actually going to sleep on the floor at the airport and take the first flight in the morning so that I could get home.

    I was nonplussed. I couldn't speak. I could do nothing more than sob and hug her. She was calm and caring and petted on me a bit and just said, "It's OK. It'll work out."

    The plane started boarding a few minutes later and I was on my way back to pick up the car at the Philly airport and get back to my animals thanks to that incredibly kind, unselfish woman.

    Here's the kicker: Turns out that there was a massive storm in Albuquerque and their flight into Houston was delayed. There were 10 people on the Albuquerque flight scheduled on the Philly flight. All the people on the Houston standby, including me and the mystery lady, made it to Philly.

  • Tinkerville

    A few years ago I had just graduated college and was faced with the crippling student loan debt, nightmare economy, and complete lack of available jobs that everyone my age is dealing with. I was living in NYC at the time and desperately applying to jobs every morning at the crack of dawn. I should also note that I was in a black hole of depression at the time and was on medication that was hurting instead of helping, too. Not the best of times. I finally secured an interview at an amazing company in my field and was over the moon. Before the interview I did thorough research, practiced my answers and everything. I don't know if it was nerves, seeing the other unbelievably chic, trendy girls that were being considered, or the depression, but I completely and utterly bombed the interview. Like.. completely. It was a disaster and I felt so ashamed of myself. On the cab ride back, my parents called to ask how it went. Not wanting to disappoint them I lied and said that it went pretty well but there were a lot of candidates. I was so ashamed of myself that I started crying, and the cab driver asked what was wrong. I told him, even though I felt stupid for being publicly upset over my own silly problems. He nodded, and at the end of the ride he said I didn't need to pay a cent and that I "shouldn't worry because everything would work out, kiddo." He helped me so much more than he knows. I moved to Los Angeles a while later, found a great job, and am doing great now, but I doubt I'll ever forget him.

  • googergieger
  • When I was in college a buddy of mine called at midnight (home phone, pre-cells) and asked if I wanted to drive down to New York City RIGHT NOW because there was an audition for a comedy troupe at 7AM. Being young and delusional about my acting ability I agreed immediately. I threw a change of clothes into a duffle bag and jumped in my 85 Duster and took off towards campus to pick him up.

    Living a few miles off campus and anticipating a 5 hour drive, not to mention the fact that it was after midnight, I was not at my most cautious behind the wheel. This was unwise, as I had recently been the recipient of 3 traffic tickets in and around the greater Amherst, MA area. As I drove towards campus I got to a left turn off a main road and noticed headlights approaching from the opposite direction. It was one of those moments when you know you shouldn't turn, but that you could if you absolutely don't hesitate and don't mind being a bit of a dick to the other driver, which I didn't. Without even slowing down I stupidly made the turn, only noticing the lights on top of the approaching car after committing.

    Before he even had a chance to turn the sirens on I pulled over. I knew I was cooked and I didn't even want to risk this guy thinking I was trying to drive off on him, especially when I got a closer look at his car and noticed he wasn't a town cop but rather a statie. By the time he got to my window it was already rolled down and I had my license and registration ready for him. I don't even think I let him say anything before apologizing profusely and explaining that I knew what I did was stupid but that I had a very long drive ahead of me and I was just anxious to pick up my friend and get on the road and promising to drive safely the rest of the night. The guy just kind of looked at me, told me to sit tight and went back to his car. After checking me out he came back with my paperwork and handed it over. He asked if I had been drinking and then what dorm I was driving to on campus. I answered both questions and he shook his head saying "It's a long drive to New York, be careful" and walked back to his car and drove away.

    That guy had me absolutely 100% dead to rights for reckless driving and instead just saw me as a dumb kid all hyped up to drive to the city and treated me as such. Best cop experience I ever had and a completely unexpected kindness when I was expecting the worst.

  • valerie

    Sorry, but after all those car flipping stories above I can't upvote the kindness a copy gave to a reckless kid. Just not ok.

  • Interesting takeaway. I'm not sure that me cutting someone off (admittedly a dick move) is the flap of a butterfly's wings that put a mattress on the highway in front of Lipton, but I guess if I squint I can see your point. However, I'd argue that it was because i was so clearly in the wrong but also willing to own that fact that the kindness meant so much in the first place.

  • Kati

    OK, it's a tiny thing, but it meant so much to me at the time - I had given birth to my son, and two days before my maternity leave ended, decided to stay home with him. My husband was very happy, I was happy with the decision, but I was completely unprepared for what came next. I had no friends with kids, I knew no one at all to talk to during the day, my son had daytime colic (lots of inconsolable crying), I actually managed to gain weight while nursing, and I had as-of-then unfiagnosed PPD. In short, I was more miserable than I could articulate.

    During my son's third month, I was in a grocery store with my boy, wandering around with an almost empty cart so I could tell myself I had actually done something that day. I was staring at the produce, thinking that having the desire to kill myself would be a step up for how I was feeling at the moment. Someone to my right said, "Hi.". I absently muttered something back. Th male voice said, "No, really, hello."

    I turned to look at the speaker. Good lord, there stood a beautiful young man, barely in his twenties, who had all the features that would normally make me stand up and holler. He peered at me in that way people do when they want to be sure you really *see* them, smiled, and said, "I just wanted to tell to that I hope you have a great day.". He smiled again, then left to finish his shopping.

    Kid, wherever you are, thank you. You made it possible for me to smile that day, then go see someone for help to dig out of my blackness. I sincerely hope you decided to get married and have kids, because you'd be an awesome partner and father.

  • DominaNefret

    My junior year of high school I used my college savings to go to a boarding school out in Arizona. The day I got there, my Grandmother was run over by a car on my parents street, and died. Three days after getting to my new school, I had to go home for a funeral.
    Someone from the school did drive me to the airport, but he also tried to force me to not take my pillow on my plane (which was like my security blanket) because it would "make the school look bad", and nobody from the school bothered to check and see if I had any money, or access to money. I didn't
    There wasn't any food service on my flight, and when we got in, we discovered e next leg had been delayed by five hours. I was STARVING and very upset.
    I called my mom collect, and she told me to see if any place would take her credit card number. The first place I went in to was a news stand style place. I told that woman my story, and she said she couldn't take my mom's cc number, but she gave me $5.00 of her own money. I ended up feeling awkward about taking her money, so I went to get something at the next place. I decided that before paying I'd ask this person if they could take my mom's cc, thinking maybe I could give the first woman her money back. A woman behind me piped in saying "don't listen to her, it is a scam, she is trying to make you feel sorry for her and give her money. She did it next door."
    I couldn't even speak, I was so upset, I just started hyperventilating and ran out of that store, collapsing against the wall outside and sobbing hysterically.
    After a few minutes a woman came over, put her hand on my shoulder, and asked me what was wrong. I said my grandmother had died, I was on the way home for the funeral, I didn't have any money, my plane had been delayed, I was starving, what I had tried to do, what the woman had said.
    She was utterly appalled by how cruel the other woman had been. She stood me up, walked me back to the first place to give the woman her $5 back, then took me to the food court and bought me a full hot meal. She sat there talking to me, distracting me with stories about her own kids. When her flight was called before mine, she gave me $20 and told me to get some magazines or a book and some snacks for the plane. She gave me exactly what I needed at a time where it felt like the world was trying to swallow me whole. 12 years later, and it is still the most important thing a stranger has ever done for me.

  • Slash

    Aw, I love nice stories about nice people doing awesome, nice things.

    I'm sure there are many stories I could tell, but the one I remember best happened yesterday.

    In my building (work), you can get into the parking garage alright, but to get out, you have to have a voucher from whichever tenant you visited, or you have to pay $5 into a machine which apparently is really really shitty at accepting money. So when visitors have to get out of the garage, sometimes the regular traffic backs up, waiting for the hapless guy/chick at the exit to fruitlessly feed dollar bills into the machine. Most people either persist (for at least several minutes) until the machine decides to take the money or they give up and just sit there.* Yesterday, a guy leaving the garage tried for several minutes to get the machine to take his money, then he saw that two cars were waiting to leave, so he backed up far enough to let us out so we wouldn't have to wait. Not a big deal, really, but so few people do it.

    *You're probably thinking, "Hey, you have an access card, why don't you do the guy a solid and let him out?" Yeah, a decent person WOULD do that. But the building management fixed that a couple years ago by programming the machine to accept the same card only once (ie, if it's scanned twice in a row, the second time, it won't work), because they don't want to lose any parking income. Yeah, the building management are assholes.

  • Javier

    Once upon a decade ago (2001-2002, I was 12) there used to be a Wendy's near my house (a 2-3 minute walk tops). It became a routine for me to go every friday night and order the same combo (Spicy Chicken ftw!) to go, so much so that the cashier lady already knew my order before I walked in.

    At the time, that order used to cost like $95 (around US$5 or something) so I went with exactly that, but I didn't notice that they had raised the prices. When the cashier told me the new price ($105, less that 50 cents) I was crushed that I wasn't going to be able to eat. The lady behind me kindly gave me the money.
    But the cashier had made a mistake. The new price was actually higher ($115, a full dollar more). Dismayed that even with help I still wan't going to eat, I slumped around to give back the money that I wan't going to use anyway. The kind lady took none of it and gave me the rest of the money to pay for my order.

    I ate that sandwich with such a smile that my mom had to tell me to eat with my mouth closed. Needless to say, thank you kind lady for helping a child eat.

  • Puddin

    Oh yea, love this! I was a huge reader when I was a kid, and Judy Blume was my literary alpha and omega. My dad got very sick when I was about ten and I had read in her autobiography that Judy Blume's father died when she was young. I sent her a letter asking her about death and how I should deal with it and she wrote me back! It was a small, handwritten paragraph on her monthly newsletter, but it said that I shouldnt worry, that death is part of life, and that it was a disservice to my dad and myself to be so fixated on the when and not enjoy the now. I'm actually tearing up just thinking about it, that a woman of her stature would take the time to comfort a kid like me. Anyway, I still have her letter somewhere, and her advice I carry in my heart to this day. And my Dad, thank you God, is still with us to this day.

  • competitivenonfiction

    I was in Laos and running out of cash. There were no ATMS or money wiring services where I was (or, at the time, in the whole country). Two days before I was scheduled to cross the border into Thailand, where I'd be able to take money out again, I was down to about $50 - just enough for food, my hotel and the trip into Thailand. It was kind of nerve wracking. Then I did the stupidest possible thing and left my wallet with $50 in it in a restaurant in one of the poorest countries in the world. When I figured it out, I ran (literally) back to the restaurant in a panic. They recognized me as soon as I came in (I was kind of a regular by that point) and handed me back the wallet - with nothing missing. I was able to get home safe and sound. To this day, I still think back on that particular moment and remember why I loved that country so much.

    Another time, I was caught out in the rain waiting for a bus to take me to a class, when a woman pulled up (it was clear she was a student too) and offered me a ride. I wasn't in any danger, and I'd have been just fine, but she saw an opportunity to make someone else's day better and took it.

  • Karen

    Back in 2001 we were visiting Stone Mountain Park in GA. I left my brand new expensive camera at the train station and when i realized it, ran back (in 100-degree + heat) praying that it would still be there. I threw open the door, ran into the station and there it was hanging on a...chair? One of the people in the station smiled at me and said "we reckoned you'd be back for it, figured you'd be frantic so we put it where you could see it first thing." Southern Hospitality at its finest.

    I totally forgot all about that until i read your wallet story - thanks!!

  • BWeaves

    She made you a TARDIS card, sharks, an acceptance letter to Hogwarts, and alcohol glasses. Can I adopt her?

  • Karen

    I went to college in Boston in the late 80’s (go Simmons!) and
    back then I was a very petite white girl (I’m still whiter than white – luck of the
    Irish, but my petite days are FAR behind me). I had a fight with my boyfriend,
    it was late (after 11pm) I ran out of smokes so I went out to get some. I am
    crying and wandering around looking for an open store. I passed a group of
    black men/boys sitting on a bench shooting the shit. One of them gets up and
    walks toward me, the rest of them follow. “what are you doing out here this
    late at night” he asked me. I give him the “F that dooooshbag, I hate my
    boyfriend, I have no smokes” story and he says “girl, don’t you know it’s not
    safe to be wandering around here?” He and his friends then walk me back to Simmons
    and into security (it’s a gated community after dark). Someone hands me a pack
    of cigarettes and the original guy says to me “Next time sweetness you bang on
    your girlfriends door, don’t wander alone at night” and they disappeared into
    the night.

    I thank all the Gods and Goddesses out there that this man
    found me first.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    The kindest thing a stranger has done for me....

    In the era before cell phones, I was driving from NJ home to college in upstate NY on a Sunday night in January. (so dark & very cold). I swerved to avoid a chunk of concrete in the road, but my swerving only serves to insure that I damage not one tire, but two.

    I gimp my car about a mile away to a gas station. I see that I have 2 flat tires - one in front, one in back. One has a gouge through - no fixing that one. My parents are 3 hours away. My school is 2 hours away. There are no repair shops open at 10 on a Sunday night in upstate NY.

    A man with a beard and glasses sees me fluttering around my car. He replaces the gouged tire with my spare. He takes the other tire off, finds a chunk of rock, and bangs the rim back into place, and then adds air. Then he goes to the bathroom to wash up. It probably took about 20, 30 minutes.

    I don't even know how to thank him, but I go to his car, where I see a wife (who I now realize must have been an equally wonderful, patient, woman) and a small kid in the back. I thank her, and say I'm just a college student, I don't have anything really to give, but would they like my bag of Christmas cookies? She nicely answered that I was sweet, but her husband was a diabetic.

    I thank them again, we all drove off - I took it slow, but got to school fine. That man saved me hours of waiting alone at a gas station, plus what would've had to been trips back to get my car at a later date, plus the money of towing and repairs. And he is what I always think of when I think of good Samaritans.

  • Lipton

    I actually have two kindness stories, both of which are awesome, one in a small way, one in a big way.

    A few years back I was doing study abroad in Toronto and had spent the afternoon doing some kind of tourist-y thing that I don't exactly remember. At one point I reached into my pocket for some money when I discovered that my wallet was gone. I proceeded to freak the fuck out and ran around, trying to retrace my steps, hoping that I would find it on the ground somewhere. It was all to no avail and I eventually made my way back to the dorm where I was staying, faced with the always maddening task of canceling all of my credit cards hopefully before someone could spend all of my money.

    To my surprise, a few minutes after getting back I got a phone call from my father. He told me that a woman had called him and said that she had found my wallet on her way home from work and did I want to get in touch with her? I called her up and a quick bus ride later I had my wallet safely back in my possession. I'll always be impressed that a complete stranger went to all that trouble to find and return the owner of a wallet abandoned on the sidewalk. I guess Canadians really are just that nice.

    Now the big one, last December I was driving home on the freeway after dark. Unbeknownst to me, a couple driving a few miles up hadn't tied down a mattress in their trailer and it went airborne, landing in the middle of the road. I proceeded to hit that mattress going nearly 80 mph and my car did one of those things that you only ever see in the movies, it flipped front over back and landed, rightside up, smack dab in the grassy median.

    A family driving behind me, also on their way on, saw everything and immediately pulled over and called 911. The father then got out of the truck and trudged through the nasty mud, along the dark rural freeway, to come see if I was okay. He helped me out of my car and into his family's vehicle to wait for the police to arrive, even retrieving the shoe that had been pulled off of my feet by the mud. His wife let me borrow her phone to call my housemates while he went back out on the highway to investigate what had happened (the mattress's owners had decently stuck around and took full responsibility for the accident).

    I'll never forget that family, whose names I never did learn in my shocked state. They took care of me until the police came even though it was late and their kids were tired, even though they had their own home to return to. I don't know what I would have done without them.

    Sometimes it's nice to be reminded that there really is good in the world, Mr. Frodo. There really is.

  • Wow! Glad you were ok, and that they were there to comfort you when you needed them.

  • The Other Agent Johnson

    When I was 12 years old I was riding my bike past a bunch of older kids that were just hanging out. A couple of them ran over and started messing with me and insisting that I let them ride my bike. They eventually yanked me off it. Another kid, who I didn't know, ran over and yelled at them to stop. When they wouldn't she (yeah, she)... well, she basically just whupped their asses wholesale. It was something to see. She then helped me up, dusted the grass off my shirt, picked up my bike and sent me on my way.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Aw, you were saved by Sally Kimball.

  • I love stories like these. And it's so nice, after reading so many stories of hatred and people tearing each other down on the internet, to know that there are communities like Reddit where total strangers do such nice things for each other.

    When my husband and I moved to Florida, I followed him in his old car while he drove our U-Haul. We drove all the way from Pennsylvania, and just as we hit the very last toll booth at the exit to the city in which our new home would be, his car died on me. Just stopped and refused to start again. Immediately, everyone in line behind me began honking and cursing at me. Hubs was already through the exit and pulled over on the side of the road as I called him, sobbing (I do NOT handle stress well), but he couldn't help me without having to drive back onto the highway, getting off at the next exit and then turning around.

    As I sat there, wondering what the hell to do, a woman knocked on my window. She asked what was wrong and when I said I had no idea, asked me to pop the hood. She took one look at the engine, went back to her car, grabbed a bottle of something (I never asked what it was - water? Coolant?), went back under the hood for all of 10 seconds, then told me to start the engine. And it started! I thanked her and she returned to her car, which was right in front of me. And as I pulled up to the toll booth, the attendant inside told me that the woman had paid for my toll and told me to have a nice day.

    I never got her name. I don't even know what was wrong with the car (my guess is it overheated). But I'll always remember her calm manner and her unexpected kindness.

  • Lubeg

    It was probably a bottle of soda poured on your battery to clean the contacts :)

  • There is so much I don't know about cars! :)

  • KatSings

    When I was a kid, I wanted this board game, Tales of the Crystals. It topped my wish list for Santa that year. However, my parents, no matter how they tried, could not get their hands on a copy. No one knew about their search, but my mom was growing despondent that she might not get her hands on it. Then, about 3 days before Christmas, my mom came home and it was sitting on our doorstep. Not wrapped, no card, nothing. In all the years since, no one has ever mentioned it. We decided, for our family at least, Santa was a real thing, at least that year.

  • Anna von Beav

    I love this comment diversion. And your new shark magnets and shot glasses.

    When I was 12 or 13 (aka Once Upon A Time), my parents bought a new house in the next town over that was actually large enough to house all 6 of us. The following year, my dad was laid off from his job, and had some difficulty finding a new one. He got 3 or 4 part time jobs to sustain us in the meantime, but it was still barely enough to cover the mortgage, utilities, and basic food. My parents were trying to figure out how to tell my younger siblings why Santa wasn't going to visit us that year. Somehow, all of the neighbors on our entire block found out and got together and sent over a giant box full of presents for all four of us kids. Some of it was hand-me-downs, and some of it was inexpensive bargain-bin stuff from wherever they shopped for their own families, but we didn't care even a little bit. Somewhere in my junk jewelry collection I still have the purple frosted acrylic bead necklace I got that year. It's not worth anything, but the memory of how a bunch of people who barely knew my family gave us Christmas is priceless.

  • Rocabarra

    Along similar lines of the story I already posted - the year my parents got divorced and money was tight, my brother and I came downstairs on Christmas morning to find the tree, couch and coffee table overflowing with gifts. My uncle wanted us to have a good Christmas despite it all. It's funny when I think about it now, how easy it would be to thank the stranger for his extra ice cream scoops, but I haven't found the words to thank my own uncle for that day.

    I'm glad you had your special version of Santa too :)

  • blacksred

    Stuff like this is why i love the internet!

  • Digging AD.

    I've had a lot of stranger kindness in my life, the most recent was simply a kind woman who witnessed a tow truck smashing into my car and offering me supportive words, a witness statement and a hug.

    My best story is about a trip I took to Venice many years ago--I had rented a car and drove alone from Munich--I stayed in a nearby town at a little restaurant with some rental rooms upstairs. There was a bus station right outside, so my first morning, I went out to catch the bus. A guy drove by, then stopped and started chatting me up and then he offered to spend the day showing me around the city. Of course being the suspicious American, I discussed what his expectations might be and after he laughed, assured me there were none. We had a grand day together and he was a perfect gentleman. My trip was four days; on the last, instead of taking the bus, I drove the rental to the giant parking lot outside Venice. After I parked, I went to put my suitcase in the trunk so it wouldn't invite a break-in and as I was closing the trunk and ready to lock it (old school, with the key), I noticed that half the key was missing. Insert panic here. I looked all around the area, then went back to the front of the car and there on the driver's side floor was the other half of the key. To this day, I don't know how or why the key broke like that, but luckily I had both halves. I walked over to an information booth and received instructions on taking a bus to another town to find a locksmith. I felt a little overwhelmed, didn't speak more than a few, fairly useless words of Italian and there were about fifty kazillion busses in the parking lot. I was standing in front of a bunch of them looking for a number, when an older gentleman began speaking to me--first in Italian and then English. I explained the situation and he told me "Oh, I'm headed to that town too, I'll take you right over to the key shop!" And so he did--we rode the bus together--and he walked me to the shop, conversed with the owner and offered to take me for a cappuccino while we waited for the key. We had a lovely chat, went back and got my new key and I was on my way.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    You were lucky. You found the only English-speaking Italian.

  • This weekend, I went to visit a friend at a renaissance faire. When we went backstage, she had a sweet set up with classy patio furniture and... a sectional. Apparently, some rich lady had kitted out her daughter's college apartment, and when her little girl graduated, she didn't need all this "used" stuff, so she gave it to some random rennie. He, in turn, brought it to his place of employment. My friend asked, jokingly, if we wanted a couch. Considering it was the exact sectional over which I have been drooling (yet too poor to purchase) for the past three years, I said yes, thereby shocking everyone in attendance. So on Monday, I drove 3.5 hours, loaded that sucker into a pick up truck I borrowed, tied it in creative and doubly secure ways, and drove 3.5 hours home (unable to see out the back window, but wev), then cleaned and arranged my new living room furniture. And it is like new. Now, I have somewhere to sit in my house that does not cause me pain. All because some stranger gave her furniture to a hippie.

  • Rocabarra

    That gift is totally boss.

    As for my kindness story, it seems small but it's one I've never forgotten. When I was 5, my parents divorced, I moved with my mom and brother to a new town, and we had very little money. She took me to Dairy Queen for an ice cream treat one day just because, and I desperately wanted a cone with two scoops (back when DQ served scoops!) but she only had enough change for one. The man doing the scooping overheard, winked at me and gave me the largest cone I'd ever had. Twenty years later, and I still think of him often. I'm sure he's long since forgotten but I've always wished I could thank him. I still tear up just thinking about it, for offering me that momentary joy in what was a horribly bleak time in my young life.

    Even though I'm 99.99% certain that a man who must now be in or near his 40s who scooped ice cream twenty years ago will not be reading Pajiba, just in case! Thank you sir. I drink to your health and happiness often.

  • Puddin

    Is it terrible that my first thought was "that's really sweet" but my second thought was "what flavor of ice cream"?

  • eeeeeee

    Ha, I used to work at DQ (during a college summer three years ago, so I'm not your secret santa). I would sometimes give people supersized blizzards or ice cream treats just for the heck of it - their happy astonishment would get me through the day!

  • Rocabarra

    In the absence of my own DQ fairy godfather, I will drink a toast to your health and happiness instead for all the smiles you brought!

  • Wednesday

    I was a college freshman at an engineering school (that's code for "not many girls" -- it was back in 1981 anyway). I was walking to class from my most-distant dorm and it began to suddenly pour, just out of the blue, buckets of rain. A group of guys appeared at a busy intersection and started escorting girls without umbrellas to their classes, one of whom was me. As soon as they got us to our buildings, they dashed off to rescue some other poor drenched girls, as we yelled our thank yous. They didn't try to get dates (a real pity) or anything...it was like their super power was saving girls from the weather.

    So random-umbrella-guy, wherever you are, you gave a brief lesson in kindness to an impressionable 17-year-old girl who still thinks of you with a smile 31 years after the fact. Sometimes it really IS the little things.

  • BWeaves

    So their superpower was moisture related? Interesting.

  • Lunge

    First, let me compliment your taste in beer. You should preserve a Dogfishead bottle along with those magnets.

    Second, I love the shark magnets! They're absolutely rad.

    Third, my neighbor removed some wasps above my covered parking space a few weeks ago out of kindness. That was much appreciated because I hadn't noticed them and I'm VERY allergic :)

  • Miss Laaw-yuhr

    I love this so much I want to hug it. My own random kindness story: A few weeks ago when driving back from the beach my boyfriend and I came to a toll stop we had forgotten back and were scrambling for cash. When we got to the window the lady says "A guy just paid for you all - he said to have a nice summer". I've heard of this happening before to people, but never expected I would be a recipient. The past few years have been fraught with a lot of bad luck where it's seemed by and large anytime things could break the other way they would (this was not my imagination, friends can confirm the bad luck streak) so although having my toll paid was such a little thing, the nice message from the stranger and the idea that he just put something out there with no backsies - well it came at just that right time. It gave me hope for humanity, made my heart grow three sizes, and I'll be honest and say I cried just a little. So yeah, I'm signing up for this.

  • AudioSuede

    Um, I don't know about the kindness of strangers or any of that whatnot, but Arbitrary Day sounds like the best internet holiday ever.

  • BierceAmbrose

    On the Interwebs every day is Arbitrary Day,

  • InternetMagpie

    This is incredible.

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