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 dinner was on the house
Courtesy Susan Buzby Barnes
While on assignment for a story, writer Susan Buzby Barnes took an early dinner in South Florida. She sat next down to a stranger, helped him out when an accident happened, and then he did something unexpected to repay her.
“A man sitting next to me spilled red wine on his shirt, and asked if he could use some of my water to help blot out the stain because the bartender was preoccupied. As he was leaving, he asked the bartender to add my dinner to his tab, to thank me for helping him out. Absolutely unnecessary and a total random act of kindness that made my trip.” Check out this uplifting story about a restaurant owner who gives hundreds of dollars to stranded travelers.
When an uncle saved me from becoming a child bride
Shon Ramone Barnwell always wanted more for her life than to get married and have children. Her family’s traditions and religion though, didn’t suggest more for her. That is, until an uncle came to her rescue.
“When my sister and I were 12 and 13 years old, our mother made arrangements for us to follow religious protocol and be married. We lived in a major midwestern U.S. city and in a flash, my dreams of becoming a teacher or architect vanished; the opportunity to travel the world—gone; and our ability to see other family members—greatly impaired. We remained helpless, hapless, and hopeless for an entire summer break, detained in a two-story home, unable to go out, watching children play from the windows and wondering if we would ever be free.
One day, I asked our mother if we could visit our dad in a nearby convalescent home. She would only allow me to make the trip and I had to promise to return by sunset. As the hours passed, I felt compelled to stay longer and longer—because I didn’t want to go home and be forced into marriage. When the staff informed me that the facility was closing, it was nearly 9 p.m. As I walked toward the gate guard, he told me that the bus line had stopped running two hours ago. I immediately burst into tears, worried about the situation I had placed my sister in as well as my own safety. The guard told me to call someone I trusted, and in about 30 minutes, one of my uncles arrived.
We drove to the house where my sister and mother were. He demanded that our mother release my sister and me—and she did. We stayed with our uncle and aunt (she’s my mother’s second oldest sister) for a few days. Our mother’s youngest sister (and her husband) petitioned the court for guardianship and we remained in their care until we graduated from high school.
The love of my family members taught me two valuable life lessons: Everyone has a story and when a person is in need, you can never look the other way!”
When Facebook brought happiness
Courtesy Amber Hagler
Amber Hagler’s father was due to have brain surgery and her nerves were getting the best of her. (Don’t miss these 8 silent signs of brain tumors.) When she asked strangers to cheer her up, she didn’t expected the outpour.
“I had been having really bad anxiety for a few weeks, and as the surgery got closer, it became even worse. I posted on Facebook, randomly, asking for people to send me lighthearted, fun things to make me smile. A few responses came from people I’ve never met and others from those I didn’t really get along with well. Even so, they helped in my time of need, and those small acts of kindness lifted my mood. Every little thing counts!” If you need a boost, reach for these 8 foods proven to put you in a good mood.
When a teacher took over for parents who couldn’t
Courtesy Amy Ferguson Almquist
When Amy Ferguson Almquist’s family moved to Texas her junior year in high school, budgets were tight. Struggling for money, this talented singer (who would one day become a choir teacher), didn’t think she could travel to the state competition. Her new teacher had a different plan.
“My dad had taken on a new job in Texas, but we never had sold our house in Kentucky. So, paying rent and a house payment with three kids at home was tough for my parents. My high school choir was headed to a state competition that year in the spring, and my parents told me they couldn’t afford that $600 trip. When my choir director found out, she paid for my trip. I was completely blown away.” Here are 8 more stories of teachers who went above and beyond for their students.
When a stranger shielded her from danger
Courtesy Kelly Frost
Kelly Frost lives in Anchorage, Alaska, where moose aren’t a cute thing to look at, but rather, dangerous beasts that could harm you badly if you cross paths with them. In a dicey situation, a stranger stepped in to save her life.
“I was walking my dog in the neighborhood and a moose was walking down the sidewalk. I went across the street to the top of the snow bank but that doesn’t make much of a difference when a 7-foot, 900-pound creature decides to charge at you, and you have no trees to hide behind with your dog who is very interested in barking. Luckily for me, a car was passing and stopped. They offered to be my shield between me and the moose and they drove in reverse, ‘escorting’ me past the moose and onto the other side of the sidewalk in the opposite direction the moose was going. It was so thoughtful.” For another rescue story, find out how one 13-year-old needed to save his dad’s life when they were hiking.
When a flight attendant provided comfort
Courtesy Lauren Hunter
When Lauren Hunter’s father died unexpectantly, she had to get from New York City, where she lived, to Michigan in a hurry. Still stunned from the news, and without anyone to travel with, she found herself crying on an airplane. (Don’t miss these 13 things airlines won’t tell you.)
“The flight was practically empty, especially at the back where I was seated. I was inconsolable in the airport and they kindly let me through the faster first-class security as a convenience, but on the plane I was crawling up the sides of the interior in emotional and physical agony. What got me through the flight though was this amazingly kind stewardess. After bringing me the whiskey I’d asked for and seeing the state I was in, came and sat with me for the rest of the flight. Not saying anything, just holding me while I cried. She didn’t leave me until we had to prepare for landing. I really hope, wherever she is, she knows how much that truly meant to me.” Check out this story of an airline worker who saved two lives within minutes.
When a routine smoke detector check saved a life
Courtesy Fatima Riddick
When Red Cross volunteer and fireman Matt Ronan began checking fire alarms to help keep communities safe, he didn’t know that he would ultimately save someone’s life. Fatima Riddick will forever be thankful for his act of service.
“I told him I only needed one alarm to replace a broken existing unit, but upon inspection, Matt encouraged me to install a total of three, especially one in my bedroom. Just a month later, Matt responded to a home fire in the middle of the night at my home. My son and I were asleep at the time and we were only able to escape because of the alarm in the bedroom he had installed. He is my angel.” Find out what firefighters nationwide say is the “most hospitable” town they’ve served.
When her mother granted her wish
Courtesy Tonya Fleetwood
Tonya Fleetwood’s mother battled cancer for 24 years, but when she was given the opportunity to do something on her bucket list, she passed it along to her daughter in a final act of kindness.
“It had gotten pretty dire, so one of her chemo nurses submitted a wish for her to the Dream Foundation (comparable to Make A Wish, but for adults). My mom and I were best friends, and my dream had always been to see country superstar Garth Brooks in concert. My mom also loved him, but she made that her dying wish so that my dreams could come true. She ended up getting floor seats to one of Garth’s concerts in Omaha, Nebraska, which coincidentally was on Mother’s Day in May 2015. My mother passed away a few months later, so it turned out to be the last Mother’s Day I’d spend with her. I’m forever grateful to my mom’s chemo nurse, Chimene, for making all of that happen! So very magical!” Find out how the mother of a 2-year-old is learning to find happiness after the death of her daughter.
When a store manager is recognized for her dedication
Shelly, a store manager at Ashley Stewart in East Orange, New Jersey, was surprised with a ‘Citizenship Award’ from her CEO, letting her know that her colleagues nominated her to be honored. Taken aback, she not only was thanked for her hard work, but she used the funds she was given to help others.
“I was shocked to learn that the inaugural award was going to me and not to my boss Chary, who is also my mentor! I was in complete disbelief, but obviously also thrilled. I love what I do and feel like I’m part of a family, but when that family recognizes that you’re doing well, you somehow want to do even better for them. Everyone likes to be told they are doing something well! It’s a great feeling to be noticed and appreciated for what you are already doing right! I’m donating my reward to my son’s school in Orange, New Jersey. The school was there for me when times were tough and I couldn’t think of a better way to show my appreciation than by paying it forward.” Here are stories of the 11 nicest things CEOs have done for their employees.
When a kidney donor saved a mom
Courtesy Jennifer Vang
Jennifer Vang, a 31-year-old mom of three, received the ultimate act of kindness: a kidney. The experience has not only saved her life, but inspired her to greatness too.
“I had a dire health situation that escalated quickly: one minute I was healthy and the next I was on death’s doors, going to dialysis treatments multiple times a week and badly in need of a new kidney, but without a compatible match.
I know I wouldn’t have survived if I had been placed on the donor registry where people tend to wait for years, but luckily I was referred to the kidney transplant program at Sutter Health’s California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco where they used a program called MatchGrid to match me with a 20-year-old college student who had a compatible kidney and was willing to donate it in order to save her cousin who also needed a new kidney.
Since the surgery, I’ve fully recovered and feel like I have been given a second chance at life. I’m so grateful to the brave young woman who gave her kidney to me, and thankful that my husband, was also willing to return the favor for another individual through the program. I still keep in touch with my donor regularly, and I encourage everyone to be a donor in one shape or form—you will impact more people’s lives than you could ever imagine. And even if you think you may not be a match for your loved one, you may be able to help them through another similar program.” Find out how one woman’s kidney donor matchmaking campaign has saved 23 lives and counting.