21 People Reveal the Random Acts of Kindness That Changed Their Lives
Even when nothing seems to go right, the universe will surprise you. Here, 21 strangers share the simple, random act of kindness that altered their universe.
When a friend inspired her to launch her own business
Courtesy Avi Loren Fox
We all need that little nudge to take a big risk, and for Avi Loren Fox, the now-founder of clothing line Wild Mantle, that push came from a well-intended friend.
“A few years ago, I was in a coffee shop with some friends talking about how I really wanted a hooded scarf. I had seen a few around but could never find one to buy in stores. We all mused about how you could totally make the shape by cutting up and sewing together some old sweaters. I guess I kept going on about it, because after a while one of my friends was like ‘Come on, let’s go!’ and marched me to a thrift store down the street and bought me a bag of cashmere and wool sweaters. I went home that night and made a hooded-scarf. It turned out really well, and when I wore it out into the world, people noticed and said, ‘What is that? I want one!’ I started making and selling them, and now two kickstarter campaigns and a Tory Burch Foundation loan later, that first hooded scarf that turned into the company that is now my passion and work: Wild Mantle. I still think back to how that random act of kindness changed everything, and without it, Wild Mantle probably never would have happened. Thank you, Roni!” Here are 10 random acts of kindness you can do today.
When a young singer was praised for her work
Courtesy Fatima Meadows Wood
Fatima Meadows Wood loves to sing, but when she was 18, she was short on cash. A stranger who appreciated her voice thanked her for her talent in an unconventional way.
“Ten years ago, when I was 18, I had to sing for a conference. I did it for free even though I was secretly struggling financially. When I had finished, this older guy came up to me, kissed me on the cheek, told me I was such a blessing, and placed something in my hand. I got to my seat and opened my hand. It was a $100 bill wrapped around a little red heart.” Don’t miss these other 17 stories about ordinary people showing extraordinary generosity.
When a gift helped someone in her darkest hour
Courtesy Rachel Elias
Rachel Elias has been part of an online community for 14 years, but it was a random Secret Santa exchange that helped her help someone going through a difficult ordeal.
“I received such a nice gift, which included several makeup palettes, water colors, and cute little magnets (which went well over the $20 budget). I was surprised when I found out who it was, because I’m not close with her at all. I messaged her to thank her for her generosity and thoughtfulness. She told me how excited she was when she found out I was going be her recipient because when her best friend died in 2006. Apparently I helped talk her off the ledge and was a source of comfort for her. I was astonished because I had absolutely no recollection of this, but it affirmed how important kindness is. Your words and actions stick with people long after you’ve forgotten them, and it’s up to you what kind of impact you want to have.” Check out these other 8 true stories that prove good karma is real.
When a doctor cared to uncover what no one else could
Nikki Martinez, a psychologist, has dedicated her life to helping others heal, but it was a doctor who was dedicated to finding a tricky solution that would return the favor to her, ultimately saving her life.
“Around Mother’s Day four years ago, I went into anaphylaxis—my throat collapsed, and my husband had to sit helplessly by and watch me be intubated. This would have been bad enough once, but extremely similar incidents happened weekly for the next 7 to 8 weeks, and we had no idea why. I was taken from home and work by ambulance on a number of occasions, and had more experience with the ER and hospital stays than anyone would wish in a lifetime in their brief time. We were scared, and we had no answers, even from professionals. Then, one of the doctors that I worked with thought he knew what might be happening. He asked if I would mind if he reviewed my records. Within an hour, he was back in my office and told me to clear my schedule for the week because I had an appointment at the Mayo Clinic, which was a six-hour drive away, in 36 hours. When this Mayo doctor took my hand and assured me she knew what she was looking at, and knew how to diagnose and treat it, my husband and I both broke into tears. True to her word, and after two weeks staying there, I had a diagnosis, a plan, and a way forward. The same doctor connected me with the most amazing doctor back home who took over my ongoing care at home. This extra effort, this genuine act of concern and kindness that could have been left to others not only changed my life—it saved it.” Here are 12 more heartwarming stories that will restore your faith in humanity.
When a language barrier was broken
Courtesy Masami sato
Masami Sato, the founder of B1G1, was visiting Costa Rica when she found herself in a bad situation: her credit cards and bank cards weren’t working abroad, and she only had $5 to her name. It was strangers who came to her rescue to get her home.
“I had no money, no way to get money, I didn’t know anybody in the country, I only knew basic Spanish, and the only possession I had was a return ticket to Guatemala in two weeks. Back then, there were no such thing as mobile phones, and even email was very limited at some Internet cafe that charged heaps for a very slow connection.
I thought to myself, staying in the city of San Jose would be dangerous. If I went to a countryside, maybe I would find kind people. With my remaining coins, I headed to the bus terminal and found a countryside that cost almost the exact amount. About 4 to 5 hours later, I arrived at Santa Rosa. It was pitch black in the middle of the night. There were no streetlights as it was very rural. You could see some houses in the distance, so I walked toward the houses.
I went knocking door to door, explaining with my very poor Spanish that I was Japanese, and I was in Costa Rica with no money but I needed to stay here for two more weeks before I can go back. I can cook and clean and look after your kids, I can do anything, can you give me a job? Everybody replied saying ‘Oh my gosh, but we are so poor. We have no space and no extra food. Maybe you can try the next family,’ and they’d point me to another house.
Finally, I arrived at a Chinese restaurant. The owner of the restaurant was incredibly kind. She heard my story and really empathized. She said that her son went to Europe many years ago and had a similar experience. At that time, some other people were very kind to him, and she remembered how warm that made her feel. She invited me in, gave me food, and called the Red Cross to come rescue me. I spent my remaining days in Costa Rica with the head of Red Cross.
I’ve travelled all over the world and been to over 50 countries. But this was one of the best trips, the best two weeks, I ever had in my traveling life.
At first I felt guilty and stupid for not traveling with a clear plan. But then I realized that when you’re in a position to be able to receive, it actually makes people feel happier. Another thing I learned was that even when people didn’t have much, they could still lead a happy life, they could still smile and be kind. Being able to receive kindness is a gift for other people as well. And kindness inspires more kindness in small ripples.” Read these 19 powerful quotes about compassion for more inspiration.
When her brother wanted to make her day
Courtesy Jodi O'Donnell-Ames
In 2000, Jodi O’Donnell-Ames had a lot going on: Not only was she working, but she was taking care of her daughter and her husband, Kevin, who was suffering from Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Being a caretaker is never easy, and on a random afternoon after Labor Day, her brother decided to carve her a slice of optimism. (Don’t miss these 10 easy ways to be more optimistic.)
“While a day at the beach sounded blissful, it was too much to ask from Kevin. A day at the beach was like running a marathon—an extraordinary event. It would mean having help with us, having medical equipment, keeping the wheelchair and medical equipment free of water and sand, it would mean keeping Kevin cool and comfortable, and it would mean a tough day for everyone involved. After running errands, I got to our home and I saw my brother’s car. After asking me to wait before coming in, he covered my eyes with a scarf and took my hand. Once inside, he asked me to sit down and then took off my shoes and socks. My foot did not land on a brick patio, but rather, something cool and scratchy. I soon realized that my toes were sinking into sand. It was a beautiful morning and the sand felt cool and welcoming under my feet. Still blindfolded, Jamie then guided me to sit down on a towel. Then he sat behind me and held me in his arms. Seagulls screeched in front of me. Mists of water speckled my face.
‘Here you go,’ said my brother, handing me a hot latte and biscotti. We sat there, not needing to say anything. He embraced me while I sipped my coffee and nibbled my biscotti. I was in awe. What a miracle of love! I hadn’t made it to the beach that summer but my brother had brought the beach to me! It was the nicest thing that anyone had ever done for me. It was perfect. For 15 minutes, until Kevin woke and needed care, I was at the beach. When my basking was over, my brother gently removed my blindfold. Now I could see where I really was. The patio was covered in sand. A CD player sat on the brick wall, inside were sounds of the ocean. He had supported the hose on a bucket and the water was set to sporadically mist.
With my eyes open, the beach was gone. But that memory, that sincere gesture of love and hope, kept me basking in happiness for a long time.” Check out these other 10 photos that prove there’s still good in the world.
When one door closing opened another
Courtesy Carol Gee
Carol Gee, now a writer, had been laid off from her job after 12 years of working. Though she looked for 17 months, she couldn’t land another job. A coincidental turn-of-events led her to the path she didn’t know she needed.
“I hoped to remain at Emory University so I could soon retire, so I told everyone I knew that I was looking, and to let me know if they heard of anything. One day an co-worker emailed me about a position at the business school where she worked. She even sent me the job description. Even after reading the description I wasn’t sure it was right for me. But she thought it was and told me to apply. I did and I got the position, which included copy-editing scientific journals and researching and writing case studies which I loved and—a skill I didn’t realize I had, although I had recently realized a lifelong dream of writing. This position game me the time and service I needed to retire. The moral of this story is that sometimes other people know us better than we know ourselves.”
When a few words made all the difference
Courtesy Cheryl Rice
Last November, Cheryl Rice listened to that little voice that sometimes calls when you see someone in need, but you’re not sure what to do. Instead of ignoring it out of fear, she took a leap of faith that helped lead her down an important path. (Check out these 10 “dream big” quotes if you need an extra nudge.)
“I was standing in the checkout line behind a woman who looked to be in her 60s. When it was her turn to pay, the cashier greeted her by name and asked her how she was doing. The woman looked down, shook her head and said, ‘Not so good. My husband just lost his job and my son is up to his old tricks again. The truth is, I don’t know how I’m going to get through the holidays.’ Then she gave the cashier food stamps.
My heart ached. I wanted to help but didn’t know how. Should I offer to pay for her groceries, ask for her husband’s resume? I did nothing—yet. And the woman left the store. As I walked into the parking lot, I spotted the woman returning her shopping cart, and I remembered something in my purse that could help her in a different but hopefully profound way. It wasn’t a handful of cash or a lead on a job for her husband, but maybe—just maybe—it would make her life better.
‘Excuse me,’ I said, my voice trembling a bit. ‘I couldn’t help overhearing what you said to the cashier. It sounds like you’re going through a really hard time right now. I’m so sorry. I’d like to give you something.’
And I handed her a business-sized card. When the woman read the card’s only two words, she began to cry. And through her tears, she said, ‘You have no idea how much this means to me.’
I was a little startled by her reply. Having never done anything like this before, I hadn’t anticipated the reaction I might receive. All I could think to respond was, ‘Oh my. Would it be OK to give you a hug?’ After we embraced, I walked back to my car and began to cry too. The words on the card: You Matter.
A few weeks earlier, a colleague gave me the same card as encouragement for a project I was working on. When I read the card, I felt a warm glow spread inside of me. Deeply touched, I came home and ordered my own box of You Matter cards and started sharing them too.” (Loved this story? Don’t miss these 24 touching tales about the kindness of strangers.)
When a nurse was recognized for her work
Courtesy Elizabeth Campanello
Elizabeth Campanello was speeding to get home on New Year’s Day, after putting in a long shift as a nurse. She couldn’t believe what happened when she was pulled over.
“When the police officer asked why I was going 20 mph over the limit, I told him I had no excuse except that I was a nurse who had a tough day, and just wanted to get home. He came back to my car and told me ‘Everyone deserves a warning.’ In the midst of an ugly cry, I told him ‘You don’t know how much this means to me’, to which he replied ‘I think I’ve got a pretty good idea.’” Don’t miss this sweet story about a cop who set a prisoner free—and why the man came back.
When a free coffee changed her day
Courtesy Lia Picard
Lia Picard, a writer, was having one of those difficult days when a good samaritan gave her some java to give her a little pep in her step.
“I stopped by my local coffee shop on the way to work and happened to be feeling really rundown, tired, and a little sad. The barista must have noticed this because when I went to take out my wallet she smiled and said it was on her. It was a really nice boost to my morning and lifted my mood a bit. Nothing tastes better than free coffee!” Don’t miss these other 23 ways to instantly boost your mood.