Wicked Wednesday: Thankful for Strangers

Hi Wickeds. This month we’ve said thank you to teachers, family members, and mentors in life. But have you ever had an experience where a stranger stepped up with the right piece of advice, or a helping hand at exactly the moment you needed it? Tell us about that here.

Julie: The kindness of strangers. Where would we be without it? I’ve absolutely benefited from being in a conversation and getting great advice from a stranger. When I was in college, I also had a stranger step in when I was being harassed on the street, and I’ll always remember that. (I try to do the same for folks now.)

Edith: In 1975 I had my BA but had dropped out of a graduate seminar my prof wanted me to take because it felt too challenging – I didn’t think I had the chops to do graduate work. I was on a cross-country bus trip from Seattle to NYC and sat by a short woman, also in thrift store clothes, a couple of years older than me. She said she was in a doctoral program studying the effect of women’s counseling centers on lesbians’ mental health. I listened to her and thought, if she can do it, I can. I enrolled in a PhD program in linguistics two years later. She changed my life and I don’t even know her name!

Sherry: That is a wonderful story, Edith! I’ve talked about this before, but Julie was a stranger when she told me to join Sisters in Crime and go to Crime Bake when I moved to Massachusetts in 2005. That chance meeting at Malice Domestic changed my life and I will always be thankful for Julie’s generosity to everyone she meets.

Barb: I’ve told this story before, too. When I worked as a freelance title examiner my old law firm hired me to serve a supoena. Which was ridiculous. I don’t know why they asked me and I don’t know why I said yes. Anyway, the person I was supposed to serve lived in a brand new condominium complex back in the days when the idea of condominiums in the suburbs was very new. So there I was, this anxious young girl wandering around this complex where none of the streets were marked and none of the townhouses had numbers in the middle of the day and there wasn’t a soul in sight. Then, a older mailman appeared out of nowhere and asked me if I was lost. “You lookin’ for one of them pandemoniums?” he asked. “I’ll show ya.” As we walked along he asked me why if I was doing this, I wasn’t studying to be a lawyer. I told him I didn’t want to be a lawyer, I wanted to be a writer, but it was very hard to do and very hard to make a living. “Don’t worry about that,” he said. “The cream will always rise.” Then he deposited me at the front door of the place I needed to be and walked out of my life. “The cream will always rise,” has helped me at many points in my life when I was experiencing a fear of failure.

Readers: How about you? Have you ever benefited from the kindness of a stranger? Tell us your story or just say “hi” to win a copy of my latest Clambake novel, Steamed Open. Giveaway is open to all geographies.

58 Thoughts

  1. ‘Tis the season for kindness to over flow to those who just need a little help. After my husband was hurt at his job and unable to work, our family was blessed with a little help from our church family. Thanksgiving saw a box of food for our dinner on Thanksgiving, Christmas found a gift of money to help get our children something for under the tree. Since then we as a family have tried to pass it forward. Thanks for the chance to enter your giveaway.

  2. Snow Storm December 1987 I was walking with my 3 kids all under the age of 5 a guy pulls over and asks if I need a ride not only did he give me a ride but also the last 40 dollars in his wallet. Have never forgotten that act of kindness.

  3. I am going to just say hi. Reading your thoughts and experiences counts as good advice from strangers. Thankful for another day to try and do good.

  4. Good morning ladies,
    My son had a double lung transplant March 6th of this year. The wonderful stranger (Donor) who gave the gift of life for my son. Forever grateful and Thankful. I have met many strangers through this Journey, that now are forever friends. One person can make such a difference in someone’s life. Big or little. Sometimes what seems like a little thing to do, can mean the world to the person receiving.
    Have a wonderful day!

    1. Oh my goodness Sherry! My response below feels so trivial by comparison. But you’re right, big or small, it’s the act of reaching out that makes the difference. Good health and a wonderful life to your son and everyone else touched by your generous donor.

  5. One winter that was terribly icy, I was in line at a stop light that was on a hill. As the light changed, I slowly gave my Blazer some gas and did not move an inch! The more I tried to move, the more I went nowhere! With a line of cars behind me and my 3 year old daughter in the backseat, I started to feel panic set in.
    Cars keep pulling around me, as the light changed again and again. As I was close to tears, I glanced at my rearview mirror. Walking up the road was a man in a cowboy hat, boots and a duster. I realized he was coming to my rescue!
    I rolled down my window as he approached. “Hey there. What seems to be the problem, darlin’?” I explained to him what was going on. He removed his hat, stuck his head in the window, then reached across me. ” Just pop this into 4-wheel drive and let’s see what we can do. ” Sure enough, it worked! He patted the window, tipped his hat at me and walked off!
    In all of my panic, I had forgotten I had 4-wheel drive!
    I think about that wonderful cowboy every winter!

  6. When I was doing research for my Ph.D. dissertation, I was traveling in France by myself, with a rental car. One day I got a flat tire, in the middle of nowhere. (Like we all know the vocabulary for changing a tire in French!) I pulled over to the side of the road, and a man pulled up behind me. I don’t remember if he said a word, but he located the spare tire, changed it quickly, and drove off. I never did learn his name, but I do know the French for “thank you!”

  7. A whole group of strangers. Cold November night about 5:30. New York streets full of people rushing to get home. On the way to meet a friend for dinner. I tripped on broken pavement on 40th Street, right next to the NY Public Library, and fell. Hard. People surrounded me, called 911, covered me with a coat, found my glasses, which had been stepped on! Someone took it and bent it back into shape.Got me my phone from my purse so I could call husband and friend. A ConEd repairman whose truck was nearby got a pillow for my head and gave me his phone number in case i needed him as a witness. I was in intense pain, had broken a hip, had surgery late that night. New Yorkers are cold and uncaring? Nope.

  8. I just experienced stranger kindness over the weekend! I was standing in line at a store waiting to check out, when a woman behind me asked if I’d like some of her coupons. She was a frequent shopper at this store and the coupons were expiring that day, so she was unable to use all of them. I was surprised and asked if she was sure. She said she would be happy if somebody else could use them. I, of course, thanked her a million times for such a nice gesture. (I live in the Midwest. It’s what we do!) It was a nice way to kick off the holiday season!

  9. Most of my “kindness from strangers” things (aside from the strangers when I was a new writer who have become friends) were little things. People who helped me when my leg was in a cast a few years go. People who lent a helping hand with a door or carrying a bag when The Hubby was overseas and I was a young mother alone with a 2-year-old and a baby. Tiny gestures, but man, did they feel big at the time!

  10. When I was a teenager, I was shopping in a big downtown department store. I was running late to be met by my dad who was driving me home. As I was leaving, the clerk said, “Remember, haste makes waste”. I ran out of the store – the wrong way – and it took much longer to get to where I needed to go. That was more than 50 years ago. Whenever I find myself rushing, I stop, take a breath, and say “haste makes waste”.

  11. Hubby and I have benefited from the kindness of many strangers. The one that sticks out so vividly in my mind is having someone reach out to us with some form of kindness or tender words when our daughter died. Although friends and loved ones try to comfort you in a time like that, it was the embrace, soft spoken words, or just their presence of people we didn’t know that had the most impact because they had went through the same or something similar and knew the emotions and heartbreak that we felt. We automatically became members of a club of sorts, a club no one ever wants to belong to. It’s a club of total strangers that all know the loss of a child and how you life so drastically changed forever. When a child dies, it’s harder for people to “know what to do” and that means they usually stay away from the uncomfortable. Funny, sort of, that it takes someone you have never met to know to take cue from the one suffering the loss on what to say, not to say or to just be present. From this you learn that when you hear of such a loss in your community to reach out. Doesn’t matter if you know them or not, let them know you understand and that you are will to do anything they need you to do. Passing it on the to newest member of the “club”.

    On a happier note, I’ve also been blessed many times with happy benefits of kindness. When Mom was living with us with Alzheimer while she was still able to go out, strangers were very understanding and kind to Mom for which I was very grateful. Many times people would help hold the door (which is a big deal when you dealing with a wheelchair and a people who thinks things in reach are to be touch) or took the time to speak to Mom with tenderness in their voice.

    When I’ve been staying at the hospital with someone that had suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm miles from home with no way to leave the hospital, I had someone buy and bring me a KFC meal which was like manna from heaven after having lived off vending machine food for a while.

    I do try to pass on kindness whenever I can. After all, to quote Dickens with a minor change – Mankind IS my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence are all, my business.

    Thank you for the chance to win a copy of ” Steamed Open”.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  12. Nice post and nice stories. I have had my share of kind strangers, but I also remember those who weren’t so kind when I was a young mom struggling with 3 children (late 60’s, early 70’s, hubby worked lots of hours). I was told more than once that I was too young “to have all those kids” and if they were acting up being told to make them behave. I try now to give an encouraging word or smile or help in a little way if I see anyone in the same situations I was in.

  13. While driving home for the summer from my junior year of college (my first one away) I had car trouble. I managed to limp into a rest stop, but the pay phone ate what little change I had and stopped working. Fortunately, the worker at the rest stop walked by as I was complaining about the phone, and he let me use his cell phone to finish the call with my parents so they knew exactly where I was so they could come and rescue me. (Towed my car to 2 hours home and into the family mechanic the next morning.)

  14. It’s something I am more leery about now days but I remember my family having car trouble and watching car after car go by and not stop to help until this one guy in a beat up truck stopped to ask if we needed help. I remember when people use to stop and help and now days people are to afraid to stop or your to leery of who it is that did stop. which is sad.

  15. Late at night I got a flat tire on the way home. I was able to pull into a gas station & called my mom to help. The nuts were too tight & neither my mom or I could unscrew them so that we could put on my spare tire. This nice truck driver saw us struggling & changed the tire for us.

  16. What a great topic, ladies!

    I’ve often felt like Blanche DuBois, always depending on the kindness of strangers.

    When I was in my early 20’s, I took my first long trip on my own and drove cross country from California to New York City in June and July of 1976. I’ve always been a theater junkie, and to be right there in the throbbing heart of Broadway was so thrilling. I was just a hair too late to make it to a show that warm summer evening, but I joined the thongs of people in Times Square looking at all the theater marquees and reveling in the experience of just being there.

    And just being there, I dropped a contact lens. I panicked. I didn’t have a spare pair with me, and my backup glasses offered a very poor substitute. There I was on the pavement on my hands and knees with hundreds of people pounding past me, each one potentially crushing my lens, and with it my two weeks of Broadway shows.

    New Yorkers have this reputation of being cold, rude and unfriendly, but that stereotype was crushed forever for me as about a dozen strangers jumped in to help me. Some joined hands to make a big circle to keep others from inadvertently walking where I was searching and others got down on their hands and knees to help me look. When the lens was found, everyone let out a huge cheer. I can’t exactly say I was GLAD I dropped my contact, but the whole experience was a tremendous and heartwarming start to my New York experience.

    Since then, I’ve experienced the kindness of strangers many, many times, and I’ve done my best to be a kind stranger myself, in return.

  17. When I had a car accident several years ago I had several strangers stop and make sure I was ok. They also asked if I needed anything. I really appreciated that people that don’t know me cared enough to stop and make sure I was ok.

  18. I had a flat tire with three kids still in car seats and a guy came over and changed my tire for me then followed me to a gas station to make sure the spare had enough air. I have always believed he was angel sent to help me!

  19. A few times people helped when my dad couldn’t pay for his groceries. He has dementia and is 92 so he’s not good at managing money anymore. So once or twice when he had lots of stuff someone behind us paid. Once it was just over $100! He could’ve put some stuff back because he does get things he doesn’t need like cookies and other junk food or magazines. I think people are also willing to pay for others to speed up the line. At Kroger someone paid for his groceries because he couldn’t write a check there due to a previous bounced check. I always said thank you once or twice to those kind people. I didn’t have the money to pay because I’m not working – I take care of my dad.

    Now my mother manages the money so we don’t have those problems. Before my dad was paying the bills and checks would bounce. The bank wasn’t happy about that. Of course, now we have other problems like the electric bill that was about $544 last month and we have a small house. They can’t get in to read the meter because it’s in the neighbor’s locked yard.

  20. I don’t remember when a stranger help us. When I got an Idaho ID card. We went early and a line already waiting for the courthouse to open. Someone lend me a blanket for warmth I was very greatful.
    We have a lot of experience helping strangers one time driving g along a wildest road we pull in a rest stop. We found a couple who had to e out to gather a load of wood. Told no one where were going. They had car problems and had been two days. They were lucky as we had the tool they needed. They took off immediately for town.

  21. I’m sure that strangers helped me in the past but I can’t think of examples right now. I would love to have your book.

  22. There have been so many small acts of kindness that have happened to me, but the biggest kindnesses I’m thinking of right now were 12 years ago this December when my twin niece and nephew were born. He was born with a major heart problem that required three surgeries to help repair it. He was jetted to Arkansas Childrens hospital from Oklahoma by Angel flight and the people there at the hospital were so kind to the entire concerned family, not just the parents. They helped them get insurance from my sister in laws workplace going on the twins and there was never a bill for the rest, which in itself was a blessing because that kind of a bill would never have been able to have been afforded as he was there for three and a half months that first time. It is all the donors to the hospital that afford that type of acts of kindness to be given every day for which our entire family is grateful. Renee

  23. I’ve had help and I have helped others who have been stranded with vehicle problems. I’m a firm believer in if you’re in need of kindness and someone lends you a hand, either repay them, or pay it forward, or both. Thanks so much all

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