Inspiring stories of kindness from the comments section
"Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible." Dalai Lama
Normally, I stay away from the online comments sections of articles. They tend to be loaded with negative people who barely read the article spouting their own bitter, angry takes on the world around us. Today I saw an entirely different side of it. Studies on kindness and how it helps both the giver and the receiver have been in the news recently, and I came upon this New York Times article on kindness that claims studies have shown even small gestures make much more difference than we think. Lovely article, intuitively it makes sense.
But then I clicked on the comments section and found a flood of over 900 beautiful comments about kindness and how those acts of kindness had already made a huge impact on lives. The stories are touching, and nothing like what you would normally read in a comments section. The one thing that really struck me was how kindnesses of the past had become so memorable for the people who experienced them. So many things today happen so fast, and they barely make a mark on us anymore. Many of those marks are negative, because as humans we're always on the lookout for danger. But these episodes are etched in people's memories and will never be forgotten, and the lessons learned will forever help them believe that goodness is possible. (maybe not common, but definitely possible)
Sometimes we're tempted to be cynical and think that nothing matters, but when you read stories like these, it feels like everything has the potential to matter if we approach it with decency and kindness.
Here, then, are some of the comments to save you the trouble of wading through the internet to find them.
The CaveSept. 2, 2022
As a child i lived in absolute poverty with an abusive parent. I had a music teacher who one day stopped while walking down the hall and simply said "Are you okay?", i broke down. He took me to his office, fed me his lunch and allowed me the space to pull myself together. He told me "You are in a bad spot, but it doesn't have to be your life." That small gesture gave me the hope to believe in myself and allowed me to start considering a future where the cycle of abuse and poverty don't exist. 30 years later, he was right and the cycles were broken. That small moment changed my life, my partner's life, and my children's life. Thanks Mr. Z, you'll never know how much it meant...
VermontSept. 2, 2022
When I was about 10 and my brother 8, we were out playing on a snowy day and stopped at a local diner. We were able to scrape together enough change to sit at the counter and order a cup of hot chocolate to share. Guess we looked adorably cute because a man in the diner went up to the counterman and paid for another cup so we could each have one. 55 years later, I’ve never forgotten that small act of kindness and I try to remember to pass it on whenever I can.
West Orange, NJSept. 2, 2022
Not long ago, I was searching for a way to drive into Branch Brook Park in Newark. I just couldn't reach the correct entrance. So I pulled over to a van where two women were chatting and asked for directions. When they tried to explain the route, I must have looked like a deer in headlights because the woman in the driver's seat said: I know Newark like the back of my hand - all I'm doing this morning is laundry, so follow me and I'll take you there. So she pulled out of her parking spot and I followed her in my car - about a 2 mile drive. When we finally got to the park, she waved me to continue on. I pulled up to her window and thanked her profusely for her amazing kindness. I asked her name and she told me it was Shakira. So, Shakira, wherever you are, you have motivated me to be a kinder and more patient person. I am better for meeting you and think of you all the time. I hope that when called upon, I can be another Shakira. We should all be Shakiras
Planet RayonSept. 2, 2022
I have a letter of "many thanks" on my bookshelf. I received it on the doorstep, in 2013. It was from a young man that I helped, who appeared on my doorstep with a sports injury that needed at least an Urgent Care center, if not an ER. I cleaned things up and fixed things so that there wouldn't be more serious complications. The note was left a couple of weeks later, saying things went well for him. But it went on, thanking me for making him reconsider the idea of suicide, based on the "kindness of strangers." It was an extremely sincere note, that I value to this day. It was signed with only his first name. I'm not the most popular person in the world but sometimes, when things aren't going so well, I look at the note again and take some comfort in the fact that it's possible to make a difference, even when you have no idea you're making that much of a difference. Sometimes, people don't show how frayed they are.
malden, maSept. 2, 2022
Generosity, it seems, we think of as a losing proposition. Imagine if Elon Musk was kind enough to end homelessness instead of buying Twitter. For the same price, each person who is homeless in America (children included) would receive $88,000. We could make America great, actually. We really could. The question is if we actually want to.
New YorkSept. 2, 2022
Reading through the comments - there is one thread which connects them all -- "Thirty years ago --" "When I was 10 years old -" "In 1974, I had just lost my mother --" "Ten years ago, After a bad day at work --" "Many years ago, while standing on line at the deli -" All the above - and more - prove the powerful, positive - and lasting effect - those acts and expressions of kindness can have - in some cases changing people's lives forever - Here's one of mine - In 1959 - when I was eight years old and living in the Bronx with my single mother and younger sister - my mother was preparing to marry a man she'd met - who would become my step-father - I walked into our local little drugstore and found a bottle of cheap "toilet water" - and asked the owner - named "Hy" - how much it cost - Hy looked at me somewhat perplexed and asked - "Howie - what do you want with a bottle of women's toilet water ?" -- "Because my mother is getting married and I want to buy her a wedding present" - I answered - Hy told me the bottle cost 98¢ -- I pulled out my pocket full of change and said - "All I have is 87¢" -- Hy said - "Give me the 87¢ and you can have the bottle - and let me wrap it up for you" -- When I gave the bottle to my mother for her wedding present - she began to cry - and she kept the bottle in her drawer for a very long time - I remember HY - and now - when I'm at the cashier - and the person next to me is a few cents short - I make up the difference ...
New MexicoSept. 2, 2022
As a young college student in a city where I knew no one, I struggled with being poor: little money and even less friends. One day, my old VW bug broke down on the interstate on my way home from classes. I had three dollars to my name. I walked to the nearest pay phone ( this was the early 90s) and called the first mechanic I could find in the worn out yellow pages. It was after 5:30 on a Friday afternoon. The mechanic came and towed me and my big back to his shop, fixed my car on the spot and told me "no charge." I went home and sobbed for an hour, then baked a few dozen cookies and a loaf of bread which delivered to the mechanic the next day. I've never forgotten his tremendous act of kindness and generosity.
Sheltered in Place
Dripping Springs TexasSept. 2, 2022
Recent signboard at El Arroyo restaurant in Austin: "Somewhere Some Stranger Remembers You Because You Were Kind" Kindness is the proverbial pebble tossed in a pond, and just as easy.
santa monica, caSept. 2, 2022
At an unfamiliar supermarket this morning, I gave up in frustration at the unusual self-checkout kiosks. At 79, I can do this stuff, but it's always a challenge. I had 2 items, but of course, there was no express line. I got in line behind someone with a full cart, who immediately said "please go ahead of me....there's no need for you to wait". Small thing, but it made my morning. When I reached the cashier, a lovely, smiling young woman, I gave into my impulse to tell her how very pretty she was. I was afraid I would unwittingly offend her, but she responded with a big smile and a "thank you". Life is so often difficult and scary. What a difference small things can make.
New EnglandSept. 2, 2022
I live and work near spots that attract tourists. Often I see one family member taking a photo of the others. I often offer to take the photo so that everyone can be in the picture. Folks really appreciate it. It takes me about 30 seconds and costs nothing. For me, family photos mean a lot, and it feels great making that possible for others. (My spouse thinks it’s weird and embarrassing that I talk to strangers even briefly)
HarlemSept. 2, 2022
Thirty years ago, before I moved to New York, I was in China Town, trying to board a bus. I didn't have the right change, and was confused as to why the driver wouldn't take my dollar. I was about to get off the bus, when a stranger walked in, put a token in the fare box for me. I thanked him, and I've been thanking him ever since. Anyone, myself included, could have gotten frustrated by a befuddled tourist holding up the line on a cold day. He, on the other hand, paid my fare and, without saying a word, completely changed my perspective of New Yorkers. We really are a nice group of people.
North CarolinaSept. 3, 2022
In April of this year we drove from the southern US towards the far west as a pick-me-up trip after radiation and surgery. It had been a year of challenges. The interstate was closed so we detoured onto a smaller road in Colorado. Imagine our surprise when it began to snow! As we drove further the snow deepened and then, without warning, we slipped off the road into a snow bank. Stuck. 40 miles from the nearest town with no cell phone service to call for help. The first folks who stopped to help tried to push the car out but could not. They said they would go to next town and send help. It would take an hour for them to get there and then an hour for help to arrive. We assured them we would be fine...we had four day old donuts and water so we would not starve. Twenty minutes later one truck stopped, then three more. The rescuers did not all speak the same language but together they figured out how to fashion a rope big enough to pull us out from a roll of twine one of them had. One rescuer rolled beneath the car in the deep snow to tie the makeshift rope between our car and one of the trucks. Others cleared snow around our car. They would not let us help. The truck gently pulled while the other rescuers stood in the snow and pushed and ..we were freed. We were offered water and snacks and admonished to travel safe. Words are not enough. This act of kindness to strangers in the cold and snow still makes us weep.
Greater BostonSept. 2, 2022
Several years ago in the tiny and crowded Trader Joe's parking lot in Brookline MA, I accidentally dinged a parked car with my car while parking, leaving a visible mark. With trepidation and anxiety I waited for the driver of the other car to come out of the store. She was a woman with an accent (Eastern European?) who simply...forgave it. I can't express how much her kindness meant in the midst of what was for many reasons a difficult time for me and my family. Wishing her so many blessings...
Wakeman, OhioSept. 2, 2022
It was a blustery, snowy day. Wind howled down the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Toward the end of the day I drove up to a toll booth to pay my toll. The toll clerk seemed exhausted. She had spent all her shift opening the window to the elements, then closing it. The toll booth was probably overheated, so she had been either too hot or too cold all day. I handed over exact change, I thanked her for the work she did: "Without you, the Turnpike would have no money and would go out of business." Her whole face changed from despair to delight. "Oh, I love you!" she exclaimed. Such a simple thing: to thank someone for doing a difficult but necessary job.
AshevilleSept. 3, 2022
@Plato Do you know the story - now spread across the internet - of the 7th grade teacher who changed the lives of her students by one simple positive act? A seemingly small - no, almost insignificant - gesture? I had wondered for awhile if it was another internet myth but no, it was quite real. It took place over 50 years ago, but it still touches many hearts. One rainy afternoon, the students in class seemed distracted, so the teacher asked them to set aside their books, take out a piece of paper, and write one nice thing about each of the other 24 students. She collected the papers and over the weekend, put together each thing the students said. On Monday morning, she passed out a sheet to each student with the kind statements about them written by the other 24 students. They were all shocked; they ALL had felt that for the most part, they were rather insignificant in the eyes of the others. Quite some years later, the students met up again at a memorial for one of them who had died in Vietnam. At one point in the service, the deceased soldier's mother came over to the teacher and handed a tattered piece of paper that had been found in the dead soldier's wallet. It was that paper the teacher had put together years before. Slowly, other students came up to her, took out THEIR papers, which they had saved all those years, so much had this one simple gesture meant to them.
Bay AreaSept. 2, 2022
Bea, as a young woman, working in my first real post college job, a stranger approached me as I was walking back from lunch. He spoke no English. But it was clear he needed to get somewhere important. He showed me a piece of paper with an address on it, which I knew was too convoluted to explain or draw a map to. With a smile, I gestured “follow me.” 10 minutes later, I pointed to the address on a small garment manufacturing plant. “Yes?” I asked gently? “YES” he exclaimed. As I waved good bye, he pointed to his pockets to indicate he had no money to pay me for my help. Another big smile, while shaking my head, he understood no need. He smiled back, and bowed, as a proper gentleman might do after completing a waltz. It’s hard to say who made whom happier that bright autumn day in Oakland California, 1980.
Many years ago, I was driving in Rochester New York Early in the morning. the angle of the sun was such that I could not see the red light in the intersection. I crashed into the back of car in front of me albeit at a slower speed. Like you, I was expecting some type of confrontation. Instead the middle aged woman driving the car came out and asked me if I was okay. she then gave me a hug and said that I should not worry about the minor scratch on her bumper. Even two decades later I still remember this incident. Later on a couple of young men bumped into my car in Los Angeles getting off a jammed freeway exit. The scratch was fairly minor and they look panicked. I told them to not worry about it and sent them on their way. They looked absolutely relieved and thanked me.
Mt Pleasant SCSept. 2, 2022
I have only met very few phlebotomists who can draw blood from my teeny veins, on the first try. I always leave and buy the these angels flowers, returning to give them as a thank you for the gift they give me of a stressless blood draw. The last time I did this I returned to the lab, waited for my person to leave the room she was working in, as I handed the flowers to her she was obviously shocked and confused as she said "For me these are for me?" "Yes for you, you drew my blood so painlessly and were so caring I wanted to thank you." I left her standing there looking at the flowers with an expression of wonder. One of her co-workers smiled at me as I left, saying, "thank you, she needed that today." We never know what random act of kindness will do for the other person, but for me my heart feels full and deeply connected to an utter stranger even for a moment in time.
Watsonville, CaliforniaSept. 3, 2022
I had just turned 18 in 1968 when I found myself pregnant. Roe v Wade was a few years off and I felt depressed, desperate and terrified. My baby's father had abandoned me. Ruby down the street had hung herself when she became pregnant at 16 which seemed like a viable option to me. The college years I had imagined for myself rapidly evaporated. Then the doctor I went to gave me the pep talk of my life. He coached and encouraged me to enroll in college anyway (openly single and pregnant in 1968 was practically a sin). He helped me see my future and today I, my daughter, granddaughter and grandson all have college degrees. Thank you Dr. Scott.
Bay AreaSept. 2, 2022
In the 1960s, our family was taking the Grand Tour of the West, as we relocated from Michigan to California. We stopped for lunch at a diner in rural Wyoming. Seated at the counter was a disheveled man stirring sugar into a glass of ice water, eating the little packs of crackers. Dad asked the waitress about him, and she answered “he comes in every day to cool off, and have this snack. My boss says I can’t give him free food.” Dad asked if WE could buy him lunch. She burst into a smile, Dad gave her a ten dollar bill, and said “do what you wish with the change.” She replied softly that she would give it to him. Talk about a life lesson for a seven year old!
AustraliaSept. 2, 2022
Earlier this year, my 15 year old son was diagnosed with a large tumor in his brain. Fortunately, we discovered - after much pain and grief - that the tumor is benign and he will probably be OK. But sitting in that space of grief and loss taught me so much. It is the small acts of kindness and humanity that matter. Grief is lonely and isolating - but people are afraid to engage with those who are grieving. Human contact, connection, leaning in were all the things that got us through. It taught me to move towards others' pain and grief, not away from it - and that any act of understanding and kindness is absolute gold. Thank you for this article.
Kalmar, SwedenSept. 3, 2022
What a lovely article! When I was 20 I was spending my summer travelling around Europe by train and bus and briefly stopped by in the Netherlands to visit my grandmother. She was temporarily living in a care home on the other side of town, and when I got off the train I looked at the map and worked out that it would take me 30 minutes to walk there with my heavy backpack on my back and daypack hanging from my front. After 5 minutes of walking an elderly man working in his garden asked me where I was going. When I explained he said "Give me a second to get my car keys and tell my wife where I am going and I'll give you a lift." After I got to meet his equally nice wife, he drove me to my grandmother. When I thanked him for his kindness he said "I used to travel a lot in my youth, often on a bicycle and with very little money, and I appreciated all the kindness I received in those days. The people in Britain were particularly kind. I vowed to pass it forward." And I have tried to do the same.
Long Island, NYSept. 2, 2022
On day, I was having a bad day. I went to 7-11 to purchase a cup of coffee. When I got to the counter, the clerk told me the man who just left paid for your coffee. I was clearly confused and asked why did he do it. The clerk explained the man was down on his luck one day and someone bought him a cup of coffee and it changed his life. So now the man pays it forward. So, now I purchase two cups of coffee at 7-11, one for me and another consumer. Sometimes they know I purchased the coffee and other times, I tell the clerk that I will buy this unsuspecting customer the coffee. I like to watch the look on customer's face when they come out of the store and look around for the person who purchase the coffee. There is always a joy and a look of surprise. I hope I made their day.
Raeford, NCSept. 3, 2022
One teacher appreciation day, the student council had students write brief notes to thank their favorite teachers. I got one from a student I didn't even teach. He said I was his favorite teacher because I always smiled at him and said good morning to him in the hallway.
RealitySept. 2, 2022
I try and help when people seem to need it. The other day I saw a young man on a bike whose paper grocery bag had broken and his food had spilled. I could have driven by, but no. I pulled over and gave him one of the numerous shopping bags from my trunk. He was so happy. Yesterday, I helped a woman carry in sofa cushions. She was helping her (25-year-old) son (just saying) move. I couldn't resist saying that I thought she had paid her dues. We had a good laugh. Son agreed that it was "very nice" that his parents were helping him move. In winter, I carry hand warmers and give them to people who are working outside, and in summer I buy cold drinks for the guys in my Trader Joe's parking lot. They have exigent jobs. It doesn't take much, and it is fun. You may not ever see that person again, but you will have made a small difference in their day. It's a win-win. Try it!
ConnecticutSept. 2, 2022
I learned about random acts of kindness many years ago. I had just flown out to Utah for a ski vacation with friends. At the end of our first day of skiing my dad called me at my hotel to tell me my mother had died. Naturally, I was on the first flight back home. I had a window seat and was crying during the entire trip. When I left my seat to use the bathroom, I found a pillow on it when I returned. I assume it was left by the man in the aisle seat but I don’t know. I never thanked him. Just took the pillow and cried some more. But, I have never forgotten that gesture and I have been waiting for an opportunity to publicly thank him. I think this is that opportunity! Thank you, sir! Your kindness did not go unrecognized.
Madison, WISept. 2, 2022
I was mailing a package today and a man in line started chatting with me and the sales clerk. The man mentioned his wife had passed away at a hospital where the clerk had once worked. On my way out of the store, I asked when his wife died. He said three years, and I replied “but it’s never really the same.” He paused and then quietly told me how much it meant to him that I recognized that. His gratitude for my words made my day, too. We can all feel better when we do better.
VermontSept. 2, 2022
When I pick my granddaughter up after school and we walk home together, she says, "hello" to everyone she sees, people walking, people working, young people, old people. I asked her why she speaks to everyone she sees. She said, "Because 'hello' is a nice thing to say." Everyone response to her "hello" with a smile.
Princeton, NJSept. 2, 2022
I'll never forget my experience one morning in a Saranac Lake cafe -- the cashier told me that my order came to $4.50 for coffee and muffin. Then she told me "You could pay for it, or you could use this $5 bill that a customer forgot earlier today. Or, you could gift the $5 to the next customer. All morning, people have been passing along this $5 gift." I paid my bill and passed along the $5 to the next person. It made me happy to think how many people were pleased to be offered a random gift, and felt even more pleased to give it to a stranger!
BinghamtonSept. 3, 2022
After the birth of my first child there were long stretches of days and weeks where I didn’t have another adult human capable of speech to interact with. I went to the grocery store and everybody was able to do their jobs without ever really even looking at you. One day, a store employee was stacking the dairy shelf next to me. He stopped and smiled at me. I nearly cried because I felt I had been acknowledged as a living, breathing fellow human being. It’s 40 years later and I have never forgotten that just a smile can have such a powerful impact on someone’s life.
New YorkSept. 3, 2022
It was a spring evening and I just left a meeting downtown Manhattan. I was feeling rather sad with everything that was going on in my life at the time. I stopped in a diner to grab something to eat, and before paying for my meal, the waiter came over and gave me a piece of lemon meringue free of charge. He had no idea what that lemon meringue meant. It meant everything as he lifted my spirits with that small, kind gesture. For me, it meant someone saw my sadness, someone saw me and took the time to show me kindness. I am forever grateful.
San FranciscoSept. 2, 2022
I recently had skin cancer surgery on my nose, then a skin graft. It encompassed half of my nose. When the bandages came off, I was horrified but happy I still had a nose. The next day, one of the maintenance workers in my community told me I looked beautiful while I was walking my dog. It was one of the sweetest things anyone could have said to me, knowing full well it didn't look too good. I will be forever grateful for his lovely, thoughtful comment.
Düsseldorf, GermanySept. 3, 2022
Years ago, I was at a shopping centre with my baby son in a baby carrier. I had run all my errands and he was getting heavy and restless, but when I was about to leave I realized it was pouring down outside. While I was still debating whether to run the half mile home, soaking both of us, or remaining inside with heavy bags and an increasingly impatient baby, a stranger walked up to me and offered me his umbrella in broken German. I refused initially because I didn’t want him ending up wet, but he insisted. So thank you, kind stranger, I am still grateful and I hope you have been receiving the same kindness you showed me that day.
BfloSept. 2, 2022
A decade ago I was traveling with a friend in Krakow, Poland. We split up and planned to meet later in the day for a tour of Wawel Castle. I was wandering through the city streets, doing some shopping and just taking in local routines, when I realized I’d gotten very lost and had no idea how to make it to the castle. There was no easy access to iphone Wi-Fi in those days, and I am terrible at reading maps - plus, I speak no Polish. It was getting close to the time when I needed to be at the castle, and I approached a group of people waiting for a bus. A girl close to my age took out her headphones, and instead of just pointing me in the right direction, insisted on walking me several blocks to where I needed to go. It was a hot May day, in the high 80°s, and I asked if I could buy her a Fanta or a water or anything to thank her for missing her bus and going out of her way in the heat to guide me. She wouldn’t hear of it! So I gave her a hug and thanked her for her kindness. Still remember it to this day.
East Coast.Sept. 3, 2022
I had some extra tickets to a museum viewing of the Obama Portraits, which are currently traveling around the USA. (I highly recommend seeing the portraits, if you can) The special exhibit cost 27. dollars but came complimentary with my museum membership. My family had a conflict, so I went solo to the museum with three extra tickets in hand. Two young black girls were entering the museum at the same time I was, so I offered them my additional tickets. The young girls were going to decline my offer. However, an older woman at the museum stepped forward and said to the girls, "take the tickets; it's a really nice gift." I have to say, seeing these young black woman's fces as they looked at the Obama portraits made the experience 1000x better for me. I can't appreciate what it meant to them culturally having the Obama family in the White House. However, watching them view the Obama portraits made me tearful, their joy and pride were palpable, and it was amazing to see the images filtered thru their eyes. I felt like I was experiencing a private moment. I would never have witnessed this without offering them the tickets. It was so special for me, and I didn't expect it to make me feel so good to share the experience. I gave, but received ten fold in return.