The Nice Things Strangers Have Done For Me

Over the years, strangers have done loads of nice things for me, whether it’s helping me out when I needed help, or randomly brightening my day just for the sake of being nice. Of course, people I know have done lots of nice things for me too (hi, mom!), but these random acts of kindness from perfect strangers are a special kind of awesome.

Here is a list of some of the nice things perfect strangers have done for me:

– In the fall of 6th grade, I was the new kid in school. I had had a bad day and I was running home as fast as I could. But there was a patch of black ice on the sidewalk. My feet shot out from under me like a cartoon, and I landed, hard, and burst into tears. A lady stopped her car, came over to see if I was okay, and then drove me home.

– Really early one morning in northern Bolivia, Yuval and I were escaping from a commune of unfriendly hippies that was supposed to be a wildlife rescue center, only there were no animals; the whole experience had been somewhat unsettling. A huge pick-up truck stopped for us, and another hitch hiker, an old man with skin like a walnut, directed me to the best seat in the bed of the truck and gave us each a handful of figs to eat.

– Crossing the border into Argentina from Bolivia, Roisin and I had just discovered that we’d been ripped off. The man at the ticket counter on the Argentinean side of the border told us that our bus tickets were fakes. He just chuckled and said, “Oh Bolivia”, and then gave us two real tickets.

– Hitch-hiking in Chile, a family picked Yuval and I up and brought us to have a picnic on the beach with them before dropping us off at the next town. From there, a truck that was full of passengers and packed to bursting with boxes and furniture, stopped and made room for us, and they offered us a place to stay for the night.

– Hiking in Argentina, Yuval and I were just about to crest the top of the mountain, and I was exhausted. We stopped for a bit, and I sat on a rock, out of breath, the muscles in my legs screaming, hating the stupid hike. Another hiker stopped to ask if I was okay, and he gave me a bag of trail mix and said I’d feel better if I ate something.

hiking

 

– Yuval and I had made breakfast in a field somewhere in the northern Argentinean countryside, and we were searching for somewhere to wash our dishes. We knocked on the back door of a restaurant to ask if there was a tap or a hose somewhere we could use, and the cook took our dishes and washed them for us.

– When I was returning home from South America, I had a stopover in Costa Rica. I was waiting in the passenger lounge when a Peruvian man struck up a conversation. We exchanged stories. He was going to Miami to visit family. I told him how much I was going to miss South America – I was already descending into the post-travel blues, and the goodbye with Yuval had been awfully sad. He brought me a can of juice when he went to get his own snack. He said it made him glad that I had such a great experience, and he wished me a very happy life.

– When I first got to Taiwan, I was really jet lagged and one night I couldn’t sleep, so I went for a midnight walk. A couple of policemen stopped me and through a series of hand gestures expressed that they were worried about me all alone, in the dark, and they made sure I went home. A week or so later, I had forgotten my helmet for the scooter, and a lady offered, very persistently, to drive me home.

– My coworker and roommate Madeline and I were trying to get to the Shitoushan mountain to go and visit a monastery just outside Taipei. We were looking for a certain bus, and so we went into a Subway to ask for directions. A man stopped eating his lunch, brought us to the bus terminal, and bought our tickets for us. We thanked him profusely; he smiled and said, “Welcome to Taiwan”.

– Once we found Shitoushan, we got lost again. We must’ve gone up the wrong pathway. We kept climbing, hoping that the monastery we were looking for would be just around the next corner. It got dark really fast, and we were still climbing. We walked through the courtyard of a nunnery as the nuns were shutting the gate for the night. One of them ushered us into the building, telling us that we had better stay with them, and that dinner was almost ready. We would up staying for the weekend, meditating and eating and working and talking with the nuns. On the Sunday, their doctor came for his monthly visit and they got him to look at an ailment I had, for free.

– In Darwin, I ran out of money a few days before I started a new job. I went to the Safeway to get some food and to withdraw my last $20. My head was a bit of a mess. I forgot to take the $20 from the dispenser and walked away. When I realized my mistake and returned, only a couple minutes later, it was gone. I panicked, and asked the girl at the customer service counter if, by any miracle, someone had turned in a 20 dollar bill. Of course, no one had, and in spite of my best efforts to hold back the tears welling behind my eyes, I started to cry. I went to walk away, but she stopped me and handed me $20. I hugged her and cried some more. When I had money again, I went back to the Safeway to return her $20, but I couldn’t find her.

 ***

In honor of all of the strangers who have done nice things for me, and all the people who do nice things for strangers everyday, I’m doing a nice thing for a bunch of people I don’t know: http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/jamiemphillips/karakolhike

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