anxiety · kindness · life · school life · strangers · Talking to strangers · Writing prompt

Prompt: Kindness of Strangers

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.

9 thoughts on “Prompt: Kindness of Strangers

  1. I’ve been trying to remember a time when I experienced a kindness from a stranger and can’t. It doesn’t mean it didn’t happen but I can’t recall it and I imagine that if it happened, I most certainly would have remembered. It’s interesting that I read this today after the conversation I had this morning with a friend.

    I’ve always been very fragile inside, ready to break at any moment, hurting and in pain. However, no one ever approaches me for comfort, compassion, anything that is, outside of a therapeutic appointment. My friend told me it’s because I carry myself with confidence and strength. It simply doesn’t occur to anyone that I would need anything. Wow, that explains a lot. I mean, we never see how others perceived us, do we? When I was in the Air Force, I was the only woman on the flightline, when I was going to the VA (back then) I was one of very few women who went there, when I was getting counseling at the Vet Center, I was the only woman that attended events. I could go on. Society expects men to keep a stiff upper lip and carry on in all situations but women are expected to be more in touch with their emotions, intuition, etc. It never occurred to me that I would be just like a guy in all this but it explains it perfectly! How would I know to be any other way? No matter how much I’m breaking inside, I still carry myself upright as always. If I’m going to get care and compassion I’m going to have to outright ask for it. Well, since I have a huge problem asking anything for myself, that’s problematic, lol. Ah well, such is life, eh?

    I’ve had feedback from many of my kindness to them even when I didn’t know them yet. To me, that is what it means to be a human being. Plus, I never want people to feel the pain of rejection and loneliness I’ve experienced.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have a problem asking for compassion and care too. Being emotional in front of almost everyone pretty much makes me very uncomfortable. I also do not enjoy talking about myself so even when I have troubles or something o my mind, I’ll mention it in a vague sense or not say anything about the topic at all. I have complaints and worries just like everyone else on Earth, it’s just I find it hard to allow myself to be the focus of people’s attention and to open myself up emotionally. To varying degrees, I have opened up to certain people but never all the way. I wonder sometimes if I’m just a cold bitch, though it sounds awful to call myself that. I keep my emotions under wraps because I would prefer if people don’t see me at my most vulnerable. I feel weak when I cry in front of others. And I find myself feeling disgusted, at times, when certain people in my life attempt a heart to heart with me and either my current mood is all wrong for the occasion or I simply recoil at the first sign of affection because I’m so used to distancing myself from it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow, that is exactly how I used to be. I think going to so many programs filled with groups, etc, plus seeing a really good therapist has helped a lot. It’s funny, I remember asking my therapist if I had an antisocial personality disorder because I was so cold and unfeeling. She actually laughed. Talk about a fun house mirror. She knew I wasn’t but asked me what I would do if I saw an injured puppy or kitty cat? Okay, yeah, I’d go out of my way to help the little critter and yeah, I get upset if I hear of anyone being unfairly harmed or worse, abused. So no, I’m not a cold bitch and neither are you. I wouldn’t normally outright say that but after reading your blog for quite sometime I’m fairly certain you feel deeply and strongly. It’s just the fear of expressing it for many reasons… that’s the issue.

        See here’s the thing. You find it hard to open up but the fact that you have feelings at all is meaningful. A person who is truly cold, wouldn’t even care. They don’t have emotions to keep under wrap, they have nothing.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wow, I never really considered (until you pointed it out) that having any feelings at all means something. With the cat/dog example you gave, I would react the same way but if it were an injured person, I don’t know. I would feel bad for the person but probably stay away just because I don’t know how to help. Even with an animal, I feel afraid of getting emotionally attached although I have a very strong sense of how an animal can suffer because I’ve seen suffering before.

        Do you remember that post I wrote a while back about my sickly parrot who I gave up to a rehab home? He wasn’t sick in the conventional sense since the vet exam the lady at the home took him to showed he was very healthy. It was his years of self plucking that was problematic as a behavoral issue. He plucked his feathers all over and at the time I gave him up, he was starting to pick himself to the point of bleeding. I was in so much mental anguish seeing him hurt himself like this to the extreme that I lost my appetite and could hardly sleep. Meanwhile, my own parents seemed to fixate on how giving him up would make me sad and lonely, but it annoyed me to no end that they glossed over how bad my parrot was doing and did not even seem to have empathy about an animal’s wellbeing.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s amazing what one little act of kindness can do for someone else. I try to remember that when I’m talking to customers at work, sometimes I’m stressed out and don’t come off as nice as I want to, but I always calm myself so I don’t take it out on them lol. It’s not their fault we’re busy and it’s only me ringing up customers. Anyways, I’m glad you’ve had a few people, strangers, who brightened your day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, one act of kindness goes a go way. One time a man held the door open for me and he smiled at me too. That helped since I remember I was feeling particularly anxious about going into a certain public place. No one knows what someone might be going through. It meant the world to me that the guy was nice to me, a stranger, because he wanted to.

      Working in customer service is not easy. That’s great you work hard to keep the professionalism even when you might not be in a superb mood.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It really does. You never know if just helping someone, even by opening a door, could help someone even more than just that.

        And it really isn’t. There’s a lot of stress, and then you have the occasional rude or over the top customer that gets under your skin, but you have to keep your cool because you can’t take that frustration out on someone else.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. So true about the rude customers. I can only imagine how unfair that is having someone mouth off at you and yet you have to be the bigger person by remaining cordial.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It’s hard! I have to bite my tongue in those situations and stay calm despite how ridiculous they’re being. It can be really frustrating. But then you have those really nice customers, so I try to focus on those ones lol!

        Liked by 1 person

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