Adventures in Adulthood: The Kindness of Strangers

In Seinfeld’s infamous “Non-Fat Yogurt” episode, Elaine had an interesting proposal:

“You know what I would do if I was running for mayor? One of my campaign themes would be that everybody should wear name tags all the time to make the city friendlier… everybody would know everybody. It would be like a small town.”

Of course, it was that same proposal that ended up costing a mayoral candidate the election, but nonetheless, the underlying sentiment is kind of nice. And while most of the time, strangers remain, well, strangers, it’s often the people you know the least who can surprise you the most.

Random Act of Kindness #1: I recently started parking a little further away from my office, to free up some space in our parking lot. The building is in a neighborhood in Burbank so there’s ample parking, but I’m still a little wary about leaving my car on the street. A few days ago, as I walked away from my car, the horn didn’t sound when I locked it. I immediately thought, “Oh great, something else I’ll have to fix,” and hurried to walk the long block from my car to the office.

A few moments later, I heard a car driving up the street and realized that it was slowing down. The next thing I heard was a young man’s voice saying, “Excuse me, ma’am, but you left the trunk of your car open. I can go back and shut it for you, but I just didn’t know if you’d want me to touch it.” Aha! That’s why my ‘your car is locked’ noise didn’t happen. It wasn’t locked. As I walked back towards my car, I watched the young man drive back down the street towards where my car parked and pull into a driveway. It hit me that that man got out of his house and drove to come find me to tell me my trunk was open. I, on the other hand, can barely walk to the kitchen to get water when I’m thirsty. He unequivocally wins this round.

Random Act of Kindness #2: The second summer I lived in New York, I was excited to hear, upon arrival, that the fountain in Washington Square Park had been reopened. So that night I walked, book in hand, to the fountain and settled in. A little while later, a strange man approached me, as strange men in Washington Square Park are wont to do. He attempted to regale me with stories about the ’60s, and about war and then some more about the ’60s and then some more about war.

Long story short, I never know how to get out of such situations. But then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a girl about my age, waving at me and mouthing, “Are you okay?” I kind of shook my head no and before I knew it, she rushed up to the place where the man and I were sitting. She turned my way and exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! I haven’t seen you in such a long time!” And, realizing what she was doing, I played along. “Hi! Yes! It’s so good to see you!” She asked if we could go somewhere and catch up and we walked off together. Again, one point for the strangers!

The thing that gets me is that neither of these two individuals needed to do what they did. In fact, I’m willing to admit that I might not act the same way in those situations. But even though the actions of those two individuals were relatively small, I won’t soon forget either of them. And I hope that at some point, I can be that person for someone else. I’m guessing that I’ll have to first overcome my fear of talking to people I don’t know on the phone. But hey, I’m working on it.

Elaine Promotes Name Tags

  • Daneisha Lynette

    I love this! I got a little choked up reading.

  • Liz Haebe

    oh my goodness! i hate talking to people i don’t know on the phone! i hear you! i often wish i could be a ‘random act of kindness stranger’ too, but i’m always thinking they don’t want my help. maybe they do. this was a great read!

  • Andrea Clatworthy

    I recently had my faith in humanity restored when I was at Bed Bath & Beyond spending way too much money on furnishings for my new apartment. The cashier asked me if I had any coupons and I said unfortunately no; the woman in line behind me gave me 2(!) of her 20% off coupons and ended up saving me $50!

  • Heidi Lynn Dewitt

    The summer of 2007 I was studying in Mexico with a small group of Spanish students from my community college. My friend and I got a little lost trying to find our way back to the hotel after partying, and it was really dark outside. We saw a man on the street corner trying to flag down a taxi, and he asked if we needed help. He helped us figure out where we were going and said that he would share a taxi with us. When it was his stop, the man gave the driver directions to our hotel and while he was getting out said to my friend and me “Ok girls, I’ll see you tomorrow. Make sure you call me when you get back, you should be there in 10 minutes. Don’t forget to call me. See you soon.” We had never seen this man before and were a little confused, but didn’t say anything. I realized later that the man was making sure that the taxi driver knew that we were not alone and had someone looking out for us. It’s nice to know that kindness transcends cultural boundaries.

    • Jen Aguilar

      wow that is pretty impressive! There are still good people in the world

  • Veronica Olarte

    Last year i was in Paris to learn french and the second day there, i was supposed to find the place where i was staying, and i got totally lost, havent learn french yet, and walking around not in the safest part of Paris by myself, i happen to cross an ANGEL, i ask this girl for directions and she didnt know, so she invited me to her house to look up the direction in google maps, she printed it for me, and then she offer to take me to my house cause it was kind of hard to get there.

    • Veronica Olarte

      now when i run into somebody looking for directions i always try to help, pay it forward.

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