Sometimes the person you need most in a trying moment isn’t a person you know at all.
A few months ago, we asked readers to share experiences in which a complete stranger went out of their way to help. The ongoing project, called The Good Kind, seeks to highlight the unexpected kindness that people have received from someone they didn’t know. These stories range from simple acts that brightened a person’s day to grand gestures that changed a person’s life.
Below is just a selection of the hundreds of submissions we’ve received so far. Read on about the good kind of strangers in this world.
“I shared with her that I was a cancer survivor and the two of us ― complete strangers ― shared a hug and some tears.”
A few years ago, I was circling the block to find a parking space so I could get a cup of coffee. A woman walking by flagged me down and said she would go in and get me the coffee if I gave her my order. While she was inside, a spot opened up and I was waiting by my car when she exited. I thanked her when she came out and went to hand her money. She said the coffee was on her. She went on to explain that she had metastatic cancer and with the time she had left, she wanted to do as many good deeds as possible. I shared with her that I was a cancer survivor and the two of us ― complete strangers ― shared a hug and some tears. She asked me to pay it forward as often as possible, and ever since that day I make sure to do random acts of kindness for others as often as I can. ―Sara Marsi, Providence, Rhode Island
“When they headed to pay their bill, they were told that a guest had already paid and wanted to be anonymous.”
It was in a restaurant in downtown Chicago in the mid-sixties. I was sitting across from a table of ten or twelve soldiers. When they headed to pay their bill, they were told that a guest had already paid and wanted to be anonymous. The soldiers look around the restaurant searching for the benefactor and said, “Whoever you are, thank you.” They were the ones who deserved the thanks. I’ve never forgotten that moment of grace. Made me aware of the impact of acts of kindness with no need for recognition. ―Mike Grunsten, Chicago
“He drove out of the way for me, dropped me off, made sure I got into my car at the station safely and refused gas money.”
About 20 years ago, a man named John drove me home from the train station in the middle of the night. I had fallen asleep and missed my stop and landed up two towns down the line. This was before Uber and there were no taxis available. My husband was asleep so he didn’t pick up. I was all alone, shivering in the cold, and John asked me if I needed a ride. Naturally, I was hesitant but I surmised quickly that if he were a serial killer, stumbling onto me, his next victim, was an unusual stroke of luck. He drove out of the way for me, dropped me off, made sure I got into my car at the station safely and refused gas money. I will always be grateful to him and think of him every now and again. ―Peggy Buck, Wheaton, Illinois
“I had so much fun ice skating for the first time and have never forgotten that kind man.”
We were very poor growing up and couldn’t afford very many special outings. We were out somewhere when I was about 7 or so and there was a makeshift ice skating rink there. Growing up in New Zealand, we don’t get ice and snow so this was the first time I’d ever seen anything like that. I thought it was amazing. I knew there was no point in asking my parents if I could go skating as we just wouldn’t be able to afford it, so I just watched longingly from the side at people having fun. The man running the rink must of felt sorry for me or something and asked if I wanted a go. I said I couldn’t as I didn’t have any money, but he said it was OK. I had so much fun ice skating for the first time and have never forgotten that kind man or the chance to experience something new and exciting. ―Shelene Crane, Auckland, New Zealand
“I looked up to see a fellow commuter not only shoveling my car out, but offering me his snow brush to clear off my windows.”
I had recently moved to Boston from Florida. I take the commuter rail into the city, and one stormy winter’s day the train was delayed for hours. People were cold, wet, tired and grumpy. When I finally made it to my car, well after dark, I found it covered with snow and blocked by a two-and-a-half-foot wall of snow from a plow. Without a shovel and feeling frustrated and teary-eyed, I searched my car for a makeshift tool. I had to resort to using my hands to clear the snow. We New Englanders have a reputation of being “cold” and I dreaded asking someone to lend me something, further delaying their journey home. After making a couple of passes with my arms and hands to clear the snow off my car, I looked up to see a fellow commuter not only shoveling my car out, but offering me his snow brush to clear off my windows. I couldn’t thank that man enough! We made fairly quick work of digging my car out and we both went our separate ways. On my way home, I cried like a baby from happiness and the unexpected kindness bestowed upon me. ―L. Lou Dan, Boston
“I received an anonymous check for $200 to help with groceries. I don’t know her name but that woman saved us.”
I was pregnant at my job, a high-volume, low-cost vet clinic. I worked in surgery, eventually couldn’t do the physical labor, and my job’s HR department refused to help find me placement or help accommodate me. They effectively let me go, and not having protection or means (my husband stayed home to care for our special needs daughter), I applied for unemployment. They actually FOUGHT me on it and I was so fortunate to have a compassionate case worker to help with my claim. The second time around, my assessor listened to me bawling, pregnant and scared trying to figure stuff out. A week after I spoke to that woman, I received an anonymous check for $200 to help with groceries. I don’t know her name but that woman saved us. If you’re reading this, know you fed my family, helped take some bills off our plate and made a lasting impression for life. ―Teresa Banks, Chicago
“She took us to her own home and we were welcomed as precious guests by her large family. They insisted that we stay the night with them.”
After hiking to an obscure waterfall for a few hours of our weeklong backpacking vacation, we returned to our car to find that it had been broken into, belongings gone. We had our plane tickets, ID, and the keys to the car. No cash, no clothes, no wallets. We drove to the nearest town and asked if there was a police station where we could report the theft. The officer on duty was a native Hawaiian woman who was very sympathetic, took our information and then invited us to have dinner with her. At the end of her shift, she took us to her own home and we were welcomed as precious guests by her large family. They insisted that we stay the night with them. The next morning, our angel police officer took us to the office of a local lawyer who managed an emergency fund for locals fallen on hard times. He suggested we borrow some money from this fund to get us home and pay it back when we could. After filling out some paperwork, we had enough cash to survive and an invitation to have lunch with the lawyer. This experience, which could have been a disaster for us, ended up being the highlight of the trip, and I will never forget the kindness and generosity of this small community. ―Carolyn Reynolds, Maui, Hawaii
“I was the recipient of a kidney from an altruistic donor, an event that significantly changed my life.”
I was the recipient of a kidney from an altruistic donor, an event that significantly changed my life. Because of my age at 74, I had not considered that a transplant would be an option for me. Candy, my altruistic donor, and I met in pre-op on the morning of the surgery, and only then did we discover that we are both educators. She was a third grade teacher and former teacher of the year, and I was a teacher in North Carolina. My daughter, Jennifer, had not hesitated to offer one of her kidneys, but we were not a match. Jennifer was determined to “pay it forward,” and just four-and-a-half weeks after my transplant, she had her surgery. The recipient of her kidney was a 35-year-old man in Columbus, Ohio, who had been waiting for a kidney for five years. ―Sharon Dole, Augusta, Georgia
Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Want to contribute an encounter of your own? Fill out the form here to share your personal story. You can also hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your experience, with details on what happened, where it occurred and how it made you feel or the particular mark it left on your life. We want to hear your experiences with kind strangers ― no matter how big or small they may be.