These 8 Chance Encounters with Kind Strangers Will Warm Your Heart

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Readers share their accounts of kind people who helped them when they needed it the most.

We all have so much going on in our own lives that it can be hard to realize when others are struggling. But random acts of kindness can change the world for someone, as our readers can attest. A few of them shared their stories about the kindness of strangers and acquaintances—and how even the smallest act turned their day around. Whether it was receiving a good book, free tickets, or even ears of corn (keep reading, you’ll see!), these moments not only helped them in the moment but also made a lasting impact on them. Just consider yourself warned: You may want to grab a box of tissues before reading this one.

A treasured friend

I had just gone through three big life changes within nine months: a divorce after 32 years of marriage, a move, and receiving custody of my 22-month-old granddaughter. At the same time, an old college friend was diagnosed with a terminal illness and asked me to reach out to some of our classmates to let them know. One of them, Molly, was the first to our friend’s bedside. We hadn’t spoken in decades, but we kept in touch through the following weeks.

It was very overwhelming to raise a toddler and adjust to the heartbreak and depression. One day, I came home to a gaily decorated box filled with birthday gifts for my granddaughter. It was from Molly. We received a similar box with Christmas gifts for both of us soon after. We’ve received them every birthday, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Halloween for the past four years.

I can’t tell you how excited my granddaughter is to open these treasure boxes, but I was also buoyed by these acts of kindness. During a year in which I was struggling with so many life changes, Molly’s extended thoughtfulness helped keep me afloat. —Roberta Edgar Whitenight, Warrington, Pennsylvania

Carrying the day

I bought a Little Tikes car for the kids but found out too late that it was too big to fit into my sedan. A woman in the parking lot noticed me struggling and offered to put the car in her minivan and follow me home. I never forgot her kindness.

Two years later, I noticed someone struggling to fit patio furniture into her car. This time, I was the “woman with a minivan.” I told her the Little Tikes story and that it was my pleasure to pay it forward. We loaded the furniture, and I followed her home. She and I stayed in touch, and 25 years later, LeAnne and I are still friends. —Michele Levine, Silver Spring, Maryland

More Touching Stories About Good Neighbors

  • The Sunshine Mayor: This man found his purpose in life while sitting on a bench and listening to strangers.
  • Neighbors to the Rescue: When this woman’s cat was stuck in a tree, her neighbors stepped up to help.
  • The Net Changer: This man uses his own money to buy new basketball nets for playgrounds.
  • A Lifesaving Effort: These neighbors rushed to help a man and his son after they fell into a well.

Just the ticket

In 1991, I was taking a group of Black high school students to attend a lecture by author and former Reader’s Digest writer Alex Haley. I was annoyed because another teacher who was supposed to help had flaked at the last minute. I was trying to figure out how to stretch my already thin teacher paycheck when a woman approached and asked if we had tickets yet. She promptly handed over enough extras for the whole group, then disappeared into the crowd.

For students who hadn’t considered themselves intellectuals, it was life-changing to be surrounded by academic role models who looked like them. Many are now educators and describe that night as pivotal. I wish there was some way to inform that woman of the impact her generosity had. —Dixie Ross, Austin, Texas

Lending an ear

I was living paycheck to paycheck, and most days my fridge held only condiments. While pumping away my last dollars at a gas station, the father of a good friend pulled in. He was a farmer and the driver’s education teacher at school. He jumped out of his truck and greeted me with his booming voice: “Hi! Do you like corn?”

He gave me instructions for how to make “the perfect loaded ear of corn” as he filled my backseat with countless ears of sweet corn. I went home and made the corn exactly as he’d instructed. That night I ate the most delicious dinner I’d had in a while.

I ran into him again years later and told him how he’d unknowingly fed me for days. He dismissed his kindness with a smile and laugh, but I could tell he was pleased. Thank you, Mr. Henry Bohen. You made such a difference in a struggling young adult’s life. I’ll be forever grateful. —Nanci King-Sterett, Biggsville, Illinois

paper chain of people on a pink background with periwinkle cast shadowsJamesBrey/Getty Images

A change of heart

My son needed a diaper change right when we arrived for our day at the zoo. In the changing stall, I realized I had only one diaper left in the bag. I hated explaining to my daughter that we had to go home without seeing any animals. She was disappointed but didn’t argue, which made it even sadder.

When we emerged from the stall, a woman was waiting for us with a spare diaper in hand. We could stay at the zoo after all! This stranger turned our bad memory into a precious one. —Rene Bane, Bowie, Maryland

Instant friends

A big family walked into the small waiting area at our local steakhouse, and my friend’s husband jumped up to help an elderly woman to his seat. Our groups chatted as we waited and were laughing like old friends before we knew it.

We stopped at one another’s tables several times throughout the night. It felt as if we were having dinner together, only at separate tables.

They came to say goodbye while we were still eating, explaining that they’d been a bit uneasy about stopping because it was a predominantly White area, and they were Black. We told them we had loved their company and wished them a safe drive. When we were finally ready to leave, the server told us they’d already paid our bill, desserts included. —Linda Orsini Fair Lawn, New Jersey

Forever in our good book

In a few years, my daughter Olivia would be diagnosed with autism, ADHD, and a hearing impairment. But on this morning at a pancake house, I knew only that she was an extremely challenging (and adorable) two-year-old. Luckily, most of the other diners seemed entertained when Olivia toddled up to their table and introduced herself. She spent an especially long time at a table of older gentlemen, one of whom eventually walked her back to where we were sitting. He told me they’d loved Olivia’s company, and asked for our mailing address.

A few weeks later, we received a package from him containing the book Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw. It took Olivia and me several reads to get through it without crying.

Now she is about to graduate from high school. We still sing the book’s song to each other every night: “I love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” Then we hug. Sometimes twice. That gentleman’s kindness has made a long-lasting difference in our lives. —Bonnie Weiss Duvall, Washington

Be our guests

Years ago, when my daughter was four years old, we went on a trip to Orlando, pinching pennies for weeks beforehand in hopes that we could spend a day at Disney World. Waiting in line for tickets, I was growing less and less confident that we’d saved enough to afford them.

Out of nowhere, a man walked up and offered us free tickets. He told us that he and his wife were park employees. They got the tickets as a perk and didn’t want them to go to waste. We thanked them profusely and walked through the gates of the Magic Kingdom together. They even got us discounts on souvenirs. Then they shooed us off and told us to go have a wonderful day. —Karen Mills-Tribble, Richmond, Kentucky

Next, check out these kindness quotes that will stay with you.

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