This prompt originates from this list.
Write about the kindness of strangers.
I have had the benefit of receiving kindness from strangers during unexpected periods of my life where I needed a ray of hope to help me along.
The most profound one I remember was in high school. My school had a bunch of rooms called “Resource Centers” for students to have a place to do homework and/or get help from a teacher. It was my free period so I went to one to work on an assignment. A very common occurrence was for students to come to a Resource Center just to sit and chat with their friends rather than complete actual work. I was sitting alone at a table and two guys came to sit there. I did my best to ignore them in case either of them tried anything. And they did try something by attempting to bug me while I stubbornly kept my focus on copying down assignment questions from my textbook. I basically pretended they couldn’t hurt me although internally I felt myself cracking. One of their friends, a girl, walked over to exchange some brief dialogue with them. She noticed me, and I suspect she could tell from my demeanor that they were bothering me. I heard her say something like, “Oh, you guys”, which was directed at the boys. I didn’t look at her then, but she came up to tell me, “Don’t pay attention to them, okay? Just concentrate on your work.” When she said that, it was like all the air left my lungs because she was so genuine.
Lots of times I was harassed in high school and those people’s friends saw what was going on, they didn’t tell them to knock it off or try to intervene. In response, the guys acted indignantly towards her accusation, as if they hadn’t been up to no good. Then they both got up and left the Resource Center.
After all of them (including the girl) were gone, I still didn’t look up, but this time it was because I was on the verge of tears over how nice the girl was to me. I went to a high school where people harrassed others just for the fun of it. Many times when strangers at school would do that to me, I would try to put on a stone cold face to pretend I didn’t care, though the reality is that every unkind comment or negative remark I had directed at me hurt badly. But I never wanted to cry in front of those people and show them just how easily they could get to me. I believe that’s why when it sunk in for me that the girl had stood up for me, I felt like crying. I never forgot about that girl and saw her many times in other Resource Centers, but I never spoke to her so she will never know how much her kindness meant to me.
Another time in my early 20’s I got my very first summons (by mail) to report for jury duty at a local courthouse. I was scared out of my mind to show up and even had my dad come with me, even though I knew he couldn’t physically go with me into the building. After getting off at the train stop, neither of us knew where the courthouse was. I felt incredibly trapped and anxious standing on the street with my jury summons card. The constant swarm of people passing by also didn’t help calm me. An older gentleman stopped next to me and asked if I was looking to get to the courthouse. It was like a shock for me because it didn’t cross my mind that a stranger could actually want to help me. That’s the main reason I got too scared to ask any one of the people passing by. He directed me to walk under a passageway across the street and then to turn at the corner to reach the courthouse. I hardly heard his instructions the first time due to still recovering from the surprise I felt and I asked him to repeat himself. He explained it slower the second time around. I got it and thanked him for his help. Long after this incident, I wondered about what prompted him to approach me. It’s a very human thing to need help from someone, but it’s another thing to take the initiative by going out of your way to aid a person who you don’t know and/or will probably never see again. I don’t even remember what the man looked like, but I’d like to believe that somewhere out there, my silent good wishes for him have reached him.
The third incident happened a good number of years ago, perhaps 2007 or 2009. I recall how much worse I was on the socially anxious scale then, to the point it was painful. I could hardly go into a store and buy things because my default at the time was to keep my eyes on the counter and not look at the cashier because I was incredibly avoidant. I went in to pick out a birthday card for someone. It was still early in the morning so I was the only customer there. I went up the counter and the cashier said hi to me before she rung up my purchase. I remember responding with a hi as well and I don’t know why I did, but it definitely helped that she was smiling and seemed friendly. Too often there are people working in customer service who don’t bother with that at all and that makes someone as anxious as me less willing to approach an open register for help because I’m unsure about the kind of reception I will receive. She told me my total amount, and to my horror, I realized I was short a few cents because of the tax added to my purchase. I felt as if I was going to die on the spot from the humiliation. As the cashier looked at me expectantly, I handed her the money I had and sheepishly told her the truth. Without missing a beat, she said that was okay and that she could cover for me. I thanked her yet I thought my simple “thank you” didn’t do justice to truly express how grateful I was.