Unexpected Kindnesses July 23, 2018 7:15 AM   Subscribe

In the wake of gman's death, I have been thinking about how unexpected kindnesses and generosity have improved my life and the lives of many others. I find such stories inspirational and comforting. Have you had such an experience? Please share your story.
posted by Bella Donna to MetaFilter-Related at 7:15 AM (62 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite

There's something that happened to me when I was in my very early 20s, that I totally didn't realize was a generous act until much, much later.

I was using a low-income clinic for health care then; I was a recent college graduate with a leech of a live-in boyfriend. This was on the Lower East Side somewhere. I went in there once for a checkup to update my prescription for The Pill. The clinician and her assisting nurse examined me, we briefly discussed the medication options, and then they made a recommendation and went to write me a prescription - "And we can give you a month free to start you off," the clinician said, handing me a package.

"Wow, thanks!" I said.

Then the clinician and the nurse exchanged a glance, and then both thrust another four such packages into my hands. "Here, take these too," they said in hushed voices. And finally added still another. In all they gave me nearly half a year's worth of contraceptive pills for free.

I was a little clueless and somehow thought that this was a regular occurrence. It wasn't until much later that I realized that they were doing me a huge favor - they must have somehow sensed how tight money was for me, and wanted to help.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:35 AM on July 23, 2018 [47 favorites]


I was making dinner for my family years ago at a beach house in South Carolina. Money was tight. I walked through the Supermarket picking up things (wine, bread, cheese, chocolate--the inessentials) and exchanging them for cheaper or putting them back based on what I could afford. When I checked out, the items I'd put back were in a separate basket on the conveyer. I told the cashier, " I don't need those," and the she told me that the man in front of me, who I hadn't even seen had paid for them all, plus the contents of my cart--well over $100 worth of groceries. His only instruction was to tell me to pay it forward sometime when I could.

When I got back that night, I saw that he'd upgraded the wine to something I could never in my wildest dreams afford. And it's silly and dumb, but reader: I wept.
posted by thivaia at 7:49 AM on July 23, 2018 [104 favorites]


My brother-in-law is kind of gruff. He, his wife, and their two teen-age kids have gone to Disney World every year for a decade, and we talk Disney a lot. (My family has only gone a couple of times.)

Anyway, yesterday we were talking about their upcoming trip, and how the increasing costs and restrictions have sucked a lot of the joy out of the trip. He said that there's less and less of the Disney Magic around these days than there used to be, and then he mentioned that years ago they bought a lot of small Mickey Mouse dolls for sale as a store was closing down. Every year they take one or two of the toys with on the trip, and all four of them keep their eyes open for a young child in a family who seems to need some surprising cheer (a.k.a. "Disney magic," which is what the Cast Members call it when they surprise guests with something).

He said that some of the adults are a little freaked out by another family approaching their kids, but the children are appreciative. Last year, for example, it was a young boy who'd skinned his knee or something, and the minute they walked up and said "It looks like you're having a bad day" and then handed over the toy, the kid hugged it tight and quit crying.

I haven't ever known him to plan to be so generous, and it made me re-evaluate what I think about their whole family.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:41 AM on July 23, 2018 [52 favorites]


I was a kid and my parents were in a bad relationship and argued about, among other things, money. My mom had, I would learn later, money anxieties that meant that her (and subsequently my) entire financial worldview was dramatically and illogically skewed. My mom yelled about money a lot, how I didn't understand it, etc.

I remember once she said I had to use margarine instead of butter because butter was "too expensive" for popcorn and I did the math and gave her the extra thirty cents or whatever it would cost for me to use real butter. I assumed we were poor. I grew up rural and didn't really realize up until college that we weren't. There were some advantages to growing up class-blind but I remain embarrassed how I didn't understand this.

At one point I was visiting some family friends. My folks would put us on a bus and we'd go out to Western MA for a weekend and hang out with the Todds. I was maybe 8 or 9, my parents' marriage would last another few years. My dad would go on to get sort of wealthy (for the time) in tech. The Toods took me food shopping and I was looking at one of those three-packs of comics you might have seen in a supermarket in the seventies and sort of gazing longingly at it. Susan, the mom, said "Oh you like comics? Let's get those." and just tossed them into the cart like it was No Big Deal. With my mom it would have been a loud, embarrassing argument in the supermarket with a pretty slim chance I'd wind up with comics and a pretty high chance I'd be berated in front of strangers. Susan just made it into a non-event, where my feelings mattered and no one had to get lectured about money. It helped me get a lot of perspective about how money things (once you get past "basic needs" stuff, which my family was and the Todds were) can sometimes be about something else, at least they were in my family. My mom got a LOT more benevolent and generous in her later life, but rarely to us, it was mysterious.

I got older, worked on my own cognitive dissonance about money. My sister and I both have stable financial lives. My parents have died and there's some inherited stuff to slowly get rid of. Much to my delight, my sister and I both really just enjoy basically giving stuff away. We donated a chunk of my mom's money to mostly-local charities she really cared about. We boxed up books for Books to Prisoners. We picked out special things to deliver to her friends. We continue to pay the cell phone bill of the local guy who maintains the yard at her house who is on disability. My foster brother (a whole 'nother story) wanted some things and came over to my mom's this past week, I think expecting a fight over posessions and instead went home with a truckful of things that were important to him (and some junk we didn't want ;)). Jim makes jokes about how visiting my mom's place always involves a door prize. He forgot to take the shredder we tried to give him last time.

And I bring this forward. Whenever I would visit or see gman, he would never let me pay for anything. Even though my money life is stable and good, it was just a Thing He Liked and there was always something nice and reassuring about not forever checking the prices on things (things I could afford but old habits die very hard, if they die at all) and being with someone where my feelings mattered more than whatever their twitchy thing was. Thanks Susan Todd. Thanks gman.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 9:15 AM on July 23, 2018 [62 favorites]


Not exactly what you're asking for, but this is a random recent example about how my life goes sometimes and how the universe itself sometimes seems to be very generous and kind to me. (Plus there are lots of personal examples in the gman appreciation thread!)

It was my bosses birthday last week, and I realized she didn't really have anything on her desk at work because we're all broke, etc. So before she gets in I decide to go crawl the nearby gift shops, which there are many because I live in a touristy town.

I find a small toy/puzzle that fits her themes that I know she'll love. It's not very expensive, just ten bucks, but I'm poor and this is a significant fraction of my current bank account.

I'm slightly anxious about it, but I buy the present. And then I finish my work early so I wander off for lunch and a break before the training session I have later that night. I take a long walk, intentionally delaying my basic lunch so I'll have more energy later and I burn a lot of calories before hand, so I'm actually hungry and stay on my diet, etc.

As I'm walking on the beach I find a twenty dollar bill in the seaweed in the tide line. Cool. Fifteen minutes later I find another five dollar bill in a local park.

After training I go to the weed store and treat myself - which isn't actually frivolous for me, because it keeps my anxiety at bay and I'm still quitting nicotine vaping, so I have given myself permission to smoke as much as I like, which really isn't that much, just often. This is a fine use of my windfall.

On my way home I run into a friend having a really bad day, so we go sit and smoke on the beach and talk for a good while, and it helps a lot.

Life is pretty ok sometimes.
posted by loquacious at 9:17 AM on July 23, 2018 [27 favorites]


I also have a lot of stressful feelings about frugality like jessamyn's but my family did grow up fairly poor, and I still struggle with these things and the weird, dumb stress around them.

Lately I've been investing (relatively) heavy in my bike, one piece at a time, and putting a lot more care/work into taking care of it. I hate that I feel weird at all for investing in this, because it's one of the best places I can invest in myself and personal health and happiness.

So I just replaced the original grips, which were melting and doing that gross thing that over-molded two-part plastics do and it was starting to actually peel off and stick to my hands. I added some great MTB bar ends to the new grips, and I'm loving the new cockpit.

I also finally replaced my brake pads which was LONG LONG overdue and increasingly becoming a huge safety issue. New brake pads + new cockpit means lots of fun and precision control on twisty riding.

I also recently replaced the chain and de-crudded my poor drive train, which was packed with mud, grease and muck from neglect.

I also dialed things in and de-rattled a bunch of parts. Bike hack pro tip: Cut up an old 'thornproof' innertube to make rubber washers and grommets. Place these between ratttling bolt on parts like bottle cages, light/speedo mounts, etc. The thick side of a thornproof tube makes these perfect square rubber pads that perfectly fit the contour of a bicycle frame tube.

The end result is I can hit ruts, potholes and gravel at bone-rattling 20 MPH speeds and my bike is still essentially silent apart from a bit of chain noise, everything feels as solid and good as new and it's just a joy to ride.

And this is all pretty much directly inspired by recent events and the sharing we've been doing here related to gman's passing.

Dear MetaFilter: You help make me go. Thank you.
posted by loquacious at 9:34 AM on July 23, 2018 [20 favorites]


The winter break I found out that my parents were getting divorced, my college roommate invited me up to NYC to stay with him and his family for a couple of days so I could get out of my parents' house. His family folded me right into their Hanukkah celebrations like they'd known me for years, and it was exactly what I needed at that moment. I hope to be that sort of family for my kids' friends someday.
posted by coppermoss at 10:18 AM on July 23, 2018 [16 favorites]


Sorry if this gets all heavy and sappy. It might be considered too small a thing but it's not to me. I've shared that I struggle with mental health stuff here in the past and a number of MeFites have MeMailed me to just say hi, to check in, to see how I'm doing. And every one of these interactions has lifted me up. To know that to just exist matters. I try to reach out to others in the same way because I know that it makes a difference, so yeah, that small little message, it has helped me immensely. I see a therapist and I take medication b/c mental health is not something that you can just solve with a person saying, “Feel better.” But it certainly doesn't hurt to hear those things, to read them, to know that someone took a moment out of their life to connect with you. It's the best part of this community and it's why I'm here every day.
posted by Fizz at 10:44 AM on July 23, 2018 [22 favorites]


When I graduated from college, I was super depressed and had no idea what to do with myself, so I moved back in with my parents. I was in the suburbs and couldn't drive and was totally trapped inside. I wound up getting a job as a cashier at a warehouse club within walking distance. It was good to get out of the house but I was mortified to be in that kind of job after graduating magna cum laude from a good university.

Since it was a warehouse club, people's orders took a while to ring up, and I got to be friendly with a mother and daughter who rescued cats (they bought LOTS of cat food). I had cats too and we quickly bonded over our mutual love for cats. So every time they came into the store they made it a point to come to my line.

One day, my cat died unexpectedly, and I called out of work that day. The next time the mother and daughter were in my line, they had mentioned they noticed I wasn't at work, and I told them about my cat.

The next time they came into my line, they handed me an envelope and told me to wait until I got home to open it. When I got home, I found that they had written me a condolence card for my cat. It was one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me - this was 25 years ago and tears still come to my eyes when I think about it. I hope they know how much they touched me with that simple gesture. I can only hope that I've been able to pass along that kind of kindness to others in my life as well.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 11:22 AM on July 23, 2018 [45 favorites]


I don't know if this is expected, except to the hamsters in my head, but I was at the local big box sporting goods store today getting rockers for our porch, and I was off by about an inch on whether they'd fit in my car. So I took a breath, texted a friend with a Suburu who I thought might be home today, and now the rockers are on our porch (and we had a nice rock and chat).

A few weeks ago when we were closing on our house, our roommate had to get emergency dental work that day (it was a day, y'all), and it was taking longer than expected and I was going to be late to close, and they had to have someone there because he was sedated. A couple of friends of ours came out on no notice and sat with him and got him home so I could make close.

There's a few other examples, but y'all get the point.

I've given all of these same friends rides and stuff at the last minute, but realizing I can ask for the same kind of help and get it... I've always been too insecure to do it. Somewhere along the way, I grew a community and realized I could actually rely on it. And that is magic.

(This whole thread is making me good weepy, thank you for starting it.)
posted by joycehealy at 11:25 AM on July 23, 2018 [12 favorites]


I grew up really poor. It was just my mom and brother and I in a trailer, in a town with no social services, and my mom was the janitor at our school. There was one year where things were worse than usual for our family. I didn't notice much as a kid, and even I noticed that our lunches were smaller and that mom didn't eat breakfast or lunch anymore. I never wanted for anything, but my mom sacrificed enormously. She lived and worked on her feet, and you could see her toes out the front of her shoes.

That's when boxes of food started arriving at our doorstep. A few of the teachers and administration staff at the school where she janitored were bringing us anonymous care packages. Hamburger, carrots, cereal, milk. The basics. My mom could make an amazing pot of soup out of whatever we got, and we would all be warm and happy.

Many years later I was a poor student, living off food bank food and struggling with my health and weight. I asked on Metafilter for some suggestions for healthy meals I could make and a MeFite bought me some cookbooks on Amazon. I still have the cookbooks, and I still have the shipping manifest with that Mefite's name and well-wishes.

To this day, if I have money to donate, my first stop is always a food bank or food-security organization. <3 <3 <3
posted by arcticwoman at 11:37 AM on July 23, 2018 [51 favorites]


When I was getting divorced in 2010, I had a LOT of help with various things - giving me places to go so I wouldn't need to be in the apartment with my soon-to-be ex, things like that. But the night five friends came over help me pack stands out. My understandably angry husband had lashed out a bit and said, "Oh, take whatever you want from the kitchen, I'll replace it WITH MY NEXT PAYCHEQUE" which I interpreted as a dig at how poor I was gonna be. I relayed this, and they proceeded to pack the entire kitchen into boxes, sing to me, shower me in wine and pizza (not literally), and bring me lots of joy. It's clearly a lasting great memory shining out of a deeply awkward time.
posted by wellred at 12:00 PM on July 23, 2018 [20 favorites]


Mine is just a small example, but in third grade, the second to last week of school, I got chicken pox and had to stay home the entire week. I actually really liked school, and had a bad case of the pox, so it wasn't like it was an enjoyable break. I was painfully itchy and tired and couldn't sleep and housebound and was just bored. Also when I returned, my face and scalp still had some big crusty ugly scabs, and I was feeling self-conscious about that, so that sucked too.

When I came back, it was the last week of school, when all the teachers are just phoning it in and you get to do a ton of fun shit like picnic field trips and ice cream at lunch and binge watch movies. But everyone had done required standardized testing while I was out, so while my entire grade was eating candy and popcorn and watching movies, I was sitting in my classroom by myself (with my third grade teacher), carefully filling in page after page of Scantron bubbles, making up all the tests I'd missed.

I was good at tests so it wasn't awful, but I was still very aware of all the great fun everyone else was having, and could hear them laughing at the movie down the hall. My teacher brought back a big bag of Twizzlers from the movie room and told me to take as many as I wanted, and then just left the bag on my desk when it was obvious I was being too polite and only taking one or two. I had finished most of the tests and only had the 'reading comprehension/language skills' test left, which was also the longest one. I walked up to her to collect the next massive packet of test questions and a blank Scantron, and she said "Well, castlebravo...you and I both know of all the kids out there, you probably need to take this test the least. Now get out of here," and marked me as a perfect score on the test.

This wasn't a big leap for her to take - I was the class bookworm and an 'A' student - but I still remember feeling so damn happy and grateful that I didn't have to go through the motions of that test.
posted by castlebravo at 12:26 PM on July 23, 2018 [33 favorites]


This is kinda long, and could go wrong in many places (spoiler alert, it doesn't)


So, I'm this 17 year old kid with a long absuve childhood. Needliness to say I'm a bit of a hot mess. Around this time I fell into one of those online support group places and met some lovely people. I was really really struggling. My friends mom had let me stay for months, (which was its own amazing generious thing) but that fell through for reasons outside of everyones control and I was back home and trying to figure out how to manage my summer.

Anyway, this internet stranger decides to offer me a job at this California campground resort that they owned in the middle of nowhere (they offered jobs to forgien exchange students and such yearly anyway). I'm from Louisiana . I jumpped on this. Now, this sounds like the begining of a horror story, and well it just wasn't. Anyway, jobs legit, campgrounds legit everything. I get a plane ticket and I'm out with like 100 dollars and a cell phone with no service. Friend is amazing in person and becomes mom like figure for me. There are tons of things she did (from subsidizing my cabin housing, to paying me overtime) plus being super awarenof my mental health needs and doting on me. All super respectful non abusive healthy.

Which was a bit of a shock.

Anyway, she did this two summers in a row at a clear fianacial loss which I couldn't understand or be properly thankful for at the time and she just took care of me.

Anyway, time passes and she passes as well. I exchanged phone numbers with a close friend of hers (7 years older than me). More time passes, and I marry that friend.

So, I litterally owe her my life. This woman her open arms and generosity. I don't think I'll ever take in an abusesd adolescent girl with severe PTSD and let her live in a cabin in the woods, because that's a commitment 1)I couldn't afford and 2)holy shit that was a ton of work .

But my little girl is here because she laid down a foundation of respect, love and hope I hadn't had in my life until that point.
posted by AlexiaSky at 1:15 PM on July 23, 2018 [49 favorites]


As I have chronicled elsewhere here, it was a tremendous understatement to say that I was unpopular when I was a kid. I was one of those kids - the goat, the kid at the bottom of the social hierarchy that pretty much anyone can pick on. I was the youngest kid in my year, I was fat, I was poor-for-my-affluent-suburb (meaning securely lower middle class), I was smart, my family was eccentric and because I was younger than my peers I was late developing insight into how to fit in. My school was the kind of school in eighties movies about cliques - super white, super snobby, totally oriented around sports and material goods, violence in the background with teacher complicity, far right...just a horrible place.

So basically I was a perpetual outsider and spent a lot of my youth with literally zero friends*

Now, the high school student council had two student participants for each grade who were selected by the teachers rather than the students, and for most of high school I was on student council, incredibly enough, because the teachers felt sorry for me. The others were the popular kids, although the nicer kind of popular kid, and while they didn't really include me they didn't pick on me either.

I did a lot of boring stuff for student council - making signs, updating notice boards. One of the popular older boys used to work on them with me, voluntarily. I have no memory at all of what we talked about, but I know that we talked, and it was nice. I mean, on several occasions he actually signed up to help me in front of, like, all the other kids and everybody.

I knew at the time that he basically felt sorry for me, but I also knew that it was no light matter for someone to voluntarily associate themselves with me. It was a really nice thing to do. In the social hierarchy of school I was positively leprous, and only someone with popularity to burn could afford to talk to me, for one thing; and for another, honestly, I was a weird kid with no social skills. The older I get and the more familiar I am with straight white young men, the more astonished I become that he did it at all.

The internet tells me that he runs a successful restaurant now, so that's good.

In the long run, I think that observing someone to do an act of kindness that could in no way benefit them was a bigger deal than the kindness itself, because it demonstrated the possibility of behaving with genuine decency out of your own free will.

*To illustrate what kind of town this was through the use of contrast: When I went to college I met a bunch of weird fat kids and weird people generally. They'd all had little weirdo social circles in high school, most of them had dated, etc. It absolutely blew my mind to realize that you could be fat and poor and still have friends, because my isolation had seemed so natural and so absolute.
posted by Frowner at 1:22 PM on July 23, 2018 [32 favorites]


Last night I was driving my daughters home from a soccer game and they were being silly in the back seat. It was getting to the point of excessively loud, and play-hitting in ways that easily turn into tears, and I was getting dangerously distracted trying to get them to settle down. Eventually I lost my temper and spoke way too harshly, and demanded that everyone just be quiet for the rest of the drive (we were about five minutes from home).

My younger daughter, who is seven, began to cry. I kept driving in silence, just wanting to get home. About two minutes from home, between sobs, she yelled out "Daddy, why don't you just say that you don't like me" - those were her only words until we got home.

When we got out of the car I tried to comfort her and talk to her about it, but she just wanted her mom. We all went inside, she continued crying with her mom, and I went into a separate room to try and collect myself.

I thought about a bunch of different stuff, but the main thing was remembering a time when I was 15 and my dad smacked me during a heated family argument. I had a bunch of thoughts about that which aren't really the point of the story. The point of the story is:

I went out to the living room to apologize (by then she had calmed down and wasn't actively crying anymore).
"Betsy, I'm sorry I lost my temper. That wasn't fair. I know I said this before, and I'm going to say it again, and I'm going to keep saying it for your whole life: I love you, and I'm proud of you, and there's nothing you can ever do to change that. I'm sorry I lost my temper tonight."
She looked at me calmly. "It's OK, Daddy."
"Thank you, sweetheart. Are we friends again?"
"No, we're more than friends. We're family."
posted by nickmark at 2:21 PM on July 23, 2018 [24 favorites]


After a four-year fight with breast cancer, the doctors sent my 59-year-old Mom into home hospice with a two month prognosis. She died after one weekend. This meant virtually none of the proverbial affairs were “in order,” even though it might have appeared from the outside to be an “expected” death.

A local barbecue joint where Dad’s blues band regularly played heard the news, and the management offered to host and cater her wake for free.

Years later, there are all these pictures of loved ones delivering teary-eyed tributes to her on the stage, with a half-naked anthropomorphized cartoon pig logo in the background of each one. She would have found this darkly hilarious.

I don’t even eat pork; my gratitude remains bottomless.
posted by armeowda at 4:46 PM on July 23, 2018 [40 favorites]


Ok, this is a short story that took place over a long period of time. Back when I was in college (*ahem* the 80s) at the beginning of a semester I ran into a woman who I was sort of friendly with because she lived in my dorm. It was on a nodding, how you doing basis. Anyway, I saw her at the beginning of the semester and it appeared as if she was packing up not unpacking for the semester. I asked if everything was ok. She said yes, yes. But I knew, no, no. Anyway, later that day, actually that night in a bar (it was the 80s!) I ran into her again. She must have had a few bc when I asked her again if everything was ok, she said, "No, I am short of my tuition deposit. Looks like my asshole parents won't pay and I am short $100. Well, I bought her a beer and went home. I decided to take $100 of my summer earnings and give it to her. I put it in an envelope with a note saying, Here is the money for the tuition. Do not worry about paying me back, but one day if you can, make a donation in my name to the charity of your choice." She thanked me a few days later and we never spoke about it again. I do not think I saw her for the last two years of school as we lived in different areas and had different majors, etc.

Fast forward about 30 years. I ran into her at Alumni Hall before a football game. We exchanged pleasantries and she said she had gotten her Architecture degree and had a successful career. I told her my child had just started at our University. We went our separate ways. When it came time to pay my child's tuition for 2nd semester, there was a $500 credit already applied to her bill. Being the clueless person I am, I could not figure it out. I finally called the Bursar's office and they told me that "a college friend was paying me back with interest."

We never did ever speak of the $100 after that one time when she needed it. I had forgotten about it. Apparently she never did.
posted by AugustWest at 5:27 PM on July 23, 2018 [90 favorites]


My son Jack has special needs. He's 11 and goes to a private school for children with special needs. He can talk and relate to people but his social skills are very poor. He would get eaten alive or ignored in a public school. In spite of this he loves music, loves singing and dancing and taking a bow and hearing applause.

We signed him up for a performing class with our village recreation department. Kids with disabilities get matched up with volunteer "typical" kids and they all put on a show. Jack was matched up with a kid named Gabe. They seemed to hit it off. Gabe waited for Jack before every rehearsal and treated him as a peer. The kids put on their show and we bid Gabe goodbye with many thanks.

A few weeks later, Gabe's mom called and invited Jack over to play. First Time Ever this has happened. As we walked up their driveway, Jack said to me, "Are you scared?" I said, no, I'm not scared because I know Gabe is a nice kid and it's fun to go play at a friend's house, you'll see. Jack seemed comfortable enough that I left him for an hour and a half. When I came to pick him up, the smile on his face was huge. His eyes were sparkling. He had a good time playing with his first friend.

Gabe and Jack partnered up for a second session of the theater program. Then, for a school project, Gabe wrote a book about being friends with kids who are different. He dedicated it to Jack and said that Jack inspired him to see the world differently. His mom posted about it on Facebook and many people responded they wanted to buy the book.

Gabe decided to sell the book and donate the proceeds, as his bar mitzvah project, to an organization that helps disabled and seriously ill children, and has been very special to our family. The local news caught wind of this and has featured this special friendship on a few TV stations and in newspaper stories. The first 100 books the family printed sold out fast and they ordered 100 more. Selling fast still!

The two boys hang out .. go to movies .. swim .. went for a memorable airplane ride. Sometimes I think Gabe is just doing his good deed of the day by being so nice to Jack. But he's steadfast and sweet and let's be honest, he's the only child who has ever reached out his hand in friendship to my kid, asking nothing in return.

So, thank you, Gabe. Thank you, Gabe's parents, for raising such a decent little man. Thank you, Gabe's little sister, for tagging along and treating Jack like someone to be looked up to. Thank you, World for making room for a kid like Jack. He really has a lot to offer if you're patient and willing to invest some time and energy in getting to know him. Just ask Gabe.
posted by Kangaroo at 5:40 PM on July 23, 2018 [106 favorites]


I’m in tears. This thread is so wonderful.
posted by mochapickle at 5:51 PM on July 23, 2018 [22 favorites]


Back when I changed the gender on my driver's license, you needed to apply for what's called a "variance", which was the mechanism for getting a license if you couldn't produce the requisite documents, which, if you think about it, makes a kind of sense. But, as it happened, I could produce the requisite documents with the correct gender marker. So I figured I'd go to the DMV and see what happened, prepared to be turned away. I talked my way past the first person, who was a bit baffled, basically by waving my birth certificate at them. Waited my turn and got to the clerk, who looked at my papers and said "I think you need a variance. Let me find my supervisor." She wanders off and comes back a minute later and says "I couldn't find my supervisor. Let me call the state." She gets on the phone to the main state office and explains the situation. More than once, she says "No, I'm holding his birth certificate and US passport right now. They say M." She says "You'd issue him a license if he didn't already have one." They tell her to fax them a copy of my passport because, clearly, this situation is impossible. Then they change their minds and say they'll issue me a new license without a variance. Of course, when it showed up in the mail three weeks later, the gender marker was unchanged. But, hey, at least they hadn't deleted me from the database, which happened to an acquaintance.

So, yeah, the person who did one of the nicest things someone has ever done for me was the clerk at the DMV.
posted by hoyland at 5:58 PM on July 23, 2018 [17 favorites]


Kangaroo, I think I might be a little bit the Gabe in your story, but I invested friendship in a slightly younger and socially awkward kid when I was in high school and since then, he has been a really kind emotional support to me all these years later. My Jack is about to come and visit me and the spouse in the city where we live for the first time, and I'm excited and worried because I want to make his experience as nice as possible. I owe him a lot of the very casual and positive approval that he's been giving me for years now. Being friends with Jack pays off for at least two decades thus far.
posted by lauranesson at 6:08 PM on July 23, 2018 [14 favorites]


As far as kindnesses done for me, there have been way too many and I try to always pay it forward real good. It happened just this week on this site, when a human I look up to messaged just to check in. Love you all.
posted by lauranesson at 6:13 PM on July 23, 2018 [9 favorites]


My first year of teaching, in the mid 90s, was rough. I had done my student teaching in TX, and when I graduated I moved up to NYC to be with my then-girlfriend, who had graduated and moved up there 6 months before me. The school I got my first teaching job at had failed to improve their test scores enough, so ALL the teachers were being replaced, and I was one of the teachers they hired, and like me, many of the teachers had never taught before. We had a principal who had never been a principal before, a vice principal who had never been a vice principal before, and to make matters worse, the administration who we were replacing were well-loved in the community for really turning the school around (but just not enough to avoid them cleaning house). I was unprepared, under-supported, and I was getting really stressed and depressed about whether moving to New York to be a teacher was a mistake.

I spent a lot of nights playing this online game called Acrophobia, which was this acronym word game with a chat element. There was no avatars or anything like that, so people were just reacting to words on a screen when they chatted with you. I had mentioned in the chat that I was close to losing my mind due to being a first year teacher in the Bronx, and this woman named Kat said that I should come visit her in New Orleans for Spring Break, which lined up with Mardi Gras. At first, I thought she was just blowing smoke up my ass, but then we really agreed that we were going to do this. All I knew about her was she was a hospice nurse named Kat, all she knew about me was I was a math teacher named Erik. But she was like “You NEED to come to New Orleans, this will reset your brain, this is exactly what you need” and I finally took her up on the offer. She said there was a room at her place that I could stay at, and that she’d show me around town.

We didn’t even know what each other looked like. I guess some people had cellphones back then, but I sure didn’t. It was basically a blind date without the date- I got off the airplane at the gate, and was just looking for someone with her general description who looked like she was looking for someone. (Remember when you could meet people at the gate?) She’s holding a sign that says Erik, and she’s standing next to her husband. We hug like old friends, and as we’re walking to baggage to get my suitcase we walk a little bit ahead of her man and she says to me “I had to tell my husband that you were an old family friend or he would have been weird about all this. Just go with it.”

Get my suitcase, get in the car, they’ve got a cooler full of Budweisers so that I can start drinking like immediately, which to my stressed-out ass was AWESOME. “Want to go see some live music? Because that’s where we’re going.” They drive me to a bowling alley, and Bonnie Raitt’s playing, and everyone there is acting like it’s on the spectrum of normality to see Bonnie Raitt play for free in a bowling alley, meanwhile I just keep asking “I can't believe it- is that really Bonnie Raitt?” like 50 times. The rest of the week was similarly generous and mind-blowing- they took me out to dinner to some place where they knew a chef with a million stories- he learned how to cook in the navy and he kept bringing out crazy awesome stuff I’d never even heard of before like warm crawfish cheesecake, they took me to secret bars and convinced the bar owners to give me their Mardi Gras beads before their krewe even had a chance to throw them during their parade (apparently that is frowned upon, but Kat is very persuasive), they took me to soooo many parades, they had their friends give me a weirdo all-day are-you-bullshitting-me tour of New Orleans (like, her friend who is nicknamed Wuh-Wuh- never learned his real name- drives me by an old frathouse type place and tells me “See that house? That’s the last place that George Bush Jr. ever did cocaine. It was in the basement. I should know, I was with him.”), and for the whole week, I had a key to their place and was told I could come and go as I please. I’m still kind of shocked that someone could be *that* kind and trusting to someone who they barely knew.

If Kat hadn’t been so insistent that I should come visit her during Spring Break, I 100% know I would have burned out and quit, probably before the end of the school year. If you ever get the chance to see Bonnie Raitt play in a bowling alley, I highly recommend it.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:15 PM on July 23, 2018 [36 favorites]


I volunteer with a domestic violence group embedded in the police department. We follow officers out on calls and offer crisis intervention and referral services for victims.

A few months ago my partner and I were called to a scene, a woman who had jumped out of a car and ran down a residential street yelling for help. Some couple heard her, came out to see what was happening, and took her into their home and called the police. They stayed with her while the officers took her statement, let her hang out in their home until my partner and I arrived, and then, since she was still terrified and essentially in shock, accompanied her to the police station while we helped her figure out her next steps.

A completely random couple put themselves at risk and took a chunk of time to help a stranger feel better about a scary process she was going through.

I'm kind of a cynic these days, but man that made me feel hopeful.
posted by Gorgik at 6:23 PM on July 23, 2018 [19 favorites]


I kinda plan on keeping going with this thread a bit, because it's great. My friend K taught me how to garden and various friends taught me to cook and tonight I made pesto for the first time with stuff I grew and that seems like the veggie version of teaching a human to fish. It was good pesto, even if a cricket got into the house at one point.
posted by lauranesson at 6:27 PM on July 23, 2018 [10 favorites]


Similar to hoyland, mine revolves several points of transition:

1. The Mefite who paypal'ed me 50 USD to live on when I was homeless and just starting HRT in June 2014. (that $50 plus some was paid forward to a TWOC in Seattle in July 2016)
2. A good friend of mine posting a go fund me on my behalf to pay for my name change, which exceeded it's goal in about two hours.
3. The MeFite (who knows who she is) who covered the funds for my name change when the GoFundMe proceeds were somehow transferred into the account my ex-wife controlled and had overdrawn.
4. To all the Mefites who responded to my recent AskMe and sent me MeMail messages. Thank You.

I am here today who I am because of y'all thank you so much.
posted by nikaspark at 6:32 PM on July 23, 2018 [18 favorites]


I moved to Toronto nearly 5 months ago, but have had trouble finding a job. Recently, a friend put me in contact with someone they know in Toronto who used to work at the bank I worked for in Australia, but had never met. This guy is a partner at a big 4 accounting firm and took me out to lunch as an introduction. Since then, he's recommended me for a job with one of his friends, who I'm having a coffee with on Friday, arranged a lunch meeting with the MD and head of Money Markets at one of the big 5 banks, and offered to review my resume and do a mock interview. I am just overwhelmed at how much he is doing to help someone he's only met once.

Also, an act of kindness I witnessed. We were walking home from a gig around midnight and a women flagged us down asking if we could help her break into her car as it had locked while it was running with her keys inside. We tried to break in, but couldn't get anything to work. She didn't have roadside assistance and we called to see if she could use mine, but it was going to cost a ridiculous amount and she has limited funds. At this point I would have given up and headed home. My husband calls a locksmith, and we wait with her for over an hour for him to turn up and break into the car. He then says it's going to cost $400, which my husband starts to pay. Then the locksmith realises we don't know the woman, knocks the price in half, gives us his card and tells us if we ever need a locksmith he'll help us out for free. The woman had a 2 hour drive home (she drove up to visit her son, not realising he was away for the night), so we take her to our place so she can have a cup of tea and go to the loo before she heads back. I think she left around 2am.
posted by Kris10_b at 7:13 PM on July 23, 2018 [21 favorites]


Much love to the MeFites who have messaged me and/or sent me postcards recently as I've been dealing with my broken ankle and now my father's death. I've got at least one postcard still pending to send back... And I still owe a message back to someone else as well.

I still won't ever forget this stuff.

Also thank you to a MeFite friend who read and processed way too many words poured out on my part this spring while I was traveling out west, which started as discussion of a comment I had made and ended up with me spilling a lot of emotional paint all over. I've kind of been like this for a while, I feel like, for a succession of reasons.
"I feared that the truth was even worse. I saw myself as a person lugging around a paint can full of walnut stain; if anyone got too close, the stain would slop all over them. So I tried to keep the brimming can to myself."
As I looked back through MetaTalk comments to find that first link, I came back across that thread about how Jess Zimmerman's original emotional labor article was for a time unavailable, and I thought, I'm really thankful for that thread and everything we learned and discussed there. Thank you for the volubility and kindness of everyone who's discussed emotional labor and all the related concepts over the past 3 years, there and in many subsequent threads.
posted by limeonaire at 7:29 PM on July 23, 2018 [12 favorites]


6 years ago this month, I was let go from my job. I was ok with it, because things had gotten quite unpleasant after a re-org (I had developed an eye twitch that mysteriously disappeared shortly after my layoff). After I got the news, an HR rep escorted to my desk, I grabbed my bag and my Nespresso machine and headed to my car.

I was allowed to return on the weekend to pack up anything else I wanted to bring home. I arrived on Saturday afternoon to find that one of my co-workers had packed everything up for me and all I had to do was take the boxes to my car and go. I tossed most of the stuff, but it was so nice to be able to do that at my leisure.
posted by mogget at 7:29 PM on July 23, 2018 [15 favorites]


Holy round numbers, restless_nomad's comment about the emotional labor article's resurrection turned out to be my 55,500th favorite.

I'll have to keep an eye out in the next few days to see who gets honors as No. 55,555.
posted by limeonaire at 7:34 PM on July 23, 2018 [6 favorites]


I wouldn't be anywhere near where I am without my aunt, uncle, and cousin asking me to come live with them to finish high school. I was not going to graduate on time. I was friendless, and due to a lot of issues at home, I simply didn't go to school. I avoided leaving the house. They actually offered twice, but the first time, I stupidly said no, feeling offended, sure than I could turn things around on my own. The following year, it was clear to me that if I didn't take their offer, I would drop out and try to get a GED. My uncle wasn't exactly a kind, gentle person, but he ensured I was in school every day. My grades, now that I was in school and doing the work, improved markedly. My guidance counselor called me in to ask where I was planning on applying to university, and flat out told me that the handful of schools I'd thought of were nothing like what I should be aiming for, and gave me a new list of schools, much better than what I had been looking at, and also schools that would be able to give me the kind of mentoring and attention that would keep me on track. I know that she pulled in favors on my behalf, and I owe her as well.

The school that I went to has pretty great foreign terms for a small Midwestern school. I had literally never thought I'd ever leave the states, even for a vacation. It just wasn't a possibility to me. When the opportunity came up, I called my aunt and uncle, and I asked them if it would be okay to apply, and they agreed to cover the extra costs. My senior year, I visited Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China. After graduation, I lived in China for a year, and came to Japan a year later, and have lived here since then. I'm sitting in our home, typing on metafilter (which I discovered at college, which I likely would never have attended) sitting across from Mrs. Ghidorah, my wonderful wife, whom I never would have met, had my aunt, uncle, and cousin not asked me to come and live with them. Nothing in my life would be anything like it is without their amazing generosity.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:45 PM on July 23, 2018 [39 favorites]


When I flew to Indonesia, my plane was delayed leaving LA and I missed my connecting flight in Tokyo. The airport put me up in a hotel along with all the other people who were in the same situation. They ended up putting me in the same room as a Chinese-Indonesian woman who was very friendly. That night, I "met" her kids on Skype, we chatted a bunch, and she basically adopted me for the duration of my time in Indonesia. I was all set to poorly negotiate to overpay for a taxi leaving the airport, and she was having NONE of that. She got me my taxi, she checked in with me to be sure I made it to the hotel, and then she invited me to celebrate Chinese New Year with her family. So that weekend, she and her husband came and picked me up, and drove me over to her aunt and uncle's house, and they fed me SO MANY dumplings and all sorts of delicious food. She took me to wander around a fancy mall, they checked in on me via WhatsApp the whole time I was in the forest, and then right before I left, they invited me for dinner and gave me a box with 36 shu mai in case I didn't get a chance to eat breakfast before my flight and in case the food on the plane home was not to my liking.

It was a good reminder of how generous and lovely people can be, and also of how friendliness and kindness and openness can build connections even across a whole bunch of different cultural boundaries.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:47 PM on July 23, 2018 [43 favorites]


Thanks for the thread, Bella Donna. It helps to have a big dose of compassionate tales these days.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:55 PM on July 23, 2018 [14 favorites]


I was laid off awhile ago and I've been really depressed and feeling pretty hopeless w/no prospects or interviews. I had to go to the food bank and I just couldn't figure out where the closest food bank was to me that could be accessed by public transit. So I just sort of stopped eating because I found the whole thing too stressful. My sister somehow figured out what was up and popped by with a TON of food. All kinds of staple food items and treats out of the blue. Besides the food I really appreciated the company.

Years ago during a tropical storm I got a chemical burn on my stomach during a hurricane and had to go to the ER. A good friend dropped by my house the next day with some homemade soup and some groceries because she figured I wouldn't be feeling up to walking to the store or cooking. It was so thoughtful and kind (as she is in general). She also cat sat for my terror of a cat who tried to rip her face off every time she entered the apartment.
posted by Stonkle at 12:42 AM on July 24, 2018 [12 favorites]


Just before I turned 18, I was deeply unhappy doing a business degree and so moved over 1000km away to go to uni in Canberra and do a different degree. I knew practically no one in Canberra excepting my very best high school friend.

It was a very hard time for me. My rural high school had not prepared me at all well for university where native cunning only gets you so far. I was lonely, I had low self esteem, and I was crippingly poor - I was working two jobs to be almost self sufficient, my father thought this would encourage independence - but actually it was awful, I could barely afford anything, and when I got sick I always wondered if I could afford medicine. I was living in a house with literally no doors - Canberra gets to -6 centrigrade in winter, and heating was entirely out of the budget. As a parent myself looking back now, I can't believe my parents subjected me to that so needlessly.

But I had my best friendship.... Until the friendship totally imploded a few months after his mid fifties mother moved down and in with us. A lady that age living in the most decrepit student housing imaginable (I used to call it "Paper St", after the house in Fight Club, it was that bad) was very questionable, and she was totally nuts, it turned out. Things came to a head and she started screaming and hurling abuse at me. I was just a kid and was so scared. His reaction of cold hurt and anger was even worse. The friendship was over in like an hour. I knew no one else, I was terrified to stay at the house,and didn't even have the money to call someone. My sister happened to ring and I told her the story. She called some family friends who had lived in our country town over 12 years ago - she was very close to one of their daughters, but I had meet these people like 4 or 5 times in my entire life, when I was about 8.

This couple, Jack and Sheena, immediately - without hesitation - said "He can come live with us." They picked me up, installed me in the spare room of their nice, fully heated house, and treated me like a son for I can't even remember how long - a long time; 3 to 6 months I think.

I was like a beaten dog at that point in my life, I couldn't even think, and Jack and Sheena didn't know me one bit. They agreed to charge me a totally nominal rent, like fifty bucks a week - more I think to stop me feeling awkward, and let me become a part of their lives, sharing dinners, cooking with them, having a glass of champagne on a friday night to celebrate the weekend. Talking books and life with me. Just existing.

They never judged me, never pressured me to stay or go, let me into their house and lives, and bathed me in... gentleness, that I so, so needed.

They didn't have to do anything. No one would have judged them or thought anything bad about them for saying "I'm sorry, we just can't take this burden on". They didn't have to nurse me back to some point of mental and physical health, let alone for so long. Letting me stay just a night or a week would have been an act of pure kindness. I wonder if that was the plan until they saw the state I was in.

I didn't want to outstay my welcome, so when it was spring I started looking at newspaper ads (I'm old, lol) for room-mates. I moved in with someone who has turned into one of my best friends, and it kickstarted my life in Canberra. My friendship group grew rapidly; I got my first serious girlfriend; I started picking up freelance writing work; my marks started edging up. My life really altered direction.

That time was a super dark time for me; maybe even the hardest of my life cause I was just so damned young and didn't know anything, and just felt so, so alone. I think it left a stain on me - or at any rate potentiated some pretty negative stuff. However, I cannot imagine how things would have played out without that automatic, instinctive act of kindness and generosity. I was heading in one direction, and they turned me around 180 degrees.

I've had a lot of great things happen to me in life - but if I'm looking at single acts, that was the biggest.
posted by smoke at 4:21 AM on July 24, 2018 [48 favorites]


I love that this thread is basically Chicken Soup for MetaFilter. These stories are all good for the soul.
posted by Fizz at 5:42 AM on July 24, 2018 [20 favorites]


Right after college I worked a lot of poorly paid office temp jobs, data entry, reception cover, that kind of thing. One of them that lasted a few months was on the executive floor and they were always ordering in food for meetings: sandwich trays, muffins, even hot food for the monthly board meetings. The catering was meant for the $150k+ execs, I was never a part of those meetings. Often, however, there was leftover food and I would sneak in to the exec kitchen after work and pick up something small to take home with me for dinner, as it would just get thrown out and I had very little money at the time and was mostly eating dented canned food. I thought I was being sneaky, but one of the senior secretaries must have noticed because the three of them started taking the best servings of leftovers, packaging them up nicely and leaving them on my desk at the end of the day. They made it look like restaurant takeaway and I never ate at restaurants then so it felt super special. I ate so much better for the rest of that job.

I was embarrassed back then that I was scavenging food so I never talked to them about it or thanked them. Thanks you three for looking after me.
posted by mosessis at 6:53 AM on July 24, 2018 [35 favorites]


My partner's father made me a gift of buying continuing education for me in the specialty type of therapy that I'm most interested in. Because of that stepping off point, I've been able to successfully pitch to my agency that they cover the rest of the cost of certification which is actually, literally one of my life goals. It has set my career going down a fascinating and wonderful path, and I don't think it would have happened without my partner's dad's extremely generous gift to get me started. This weekend I will be getting to share this with him in person and thank him!
posted by fairlynearlyready at 11:51 AM on July 24, 2018 [12 favorites]


Almost ten years ago. This place.

this happened (link/self-explanatory).

Thanks again, Matt, and thanks to everyone who bought t-shirts to make it possible.
posted by mrbill at 2:13 PM on July 24, 2018 [18 favorites]


This is a really little thing in a way. Was it 2003 maybe, there was a big summer blackout in New York, just when I was there visiting my mother. My flight home to Japan was a day and a half after the blackout ended. Lines at the airport were long, and for some reason I was afraid I no longer had the right parts of my ticket (before e-tickets were a thing) and they wouldn't let me on the plane. Finally I got up to the check-in desk and said to the clerk "Um...I don't know if this is okay..." He was a black guy around forty, in glasses. He went through the papers and gave me a huge smile and said "Hey, it's fine, you're just fine. Here's your boarding pass, have a good flight, okay?"
In a way he was just doing his job, but--that has to be a high-stress low-pay job to begin with, and exponentially more so in the wake of a huge city blackout. Even so he took a moment to notice that I was stressed and unhappy and to smile at me and reassure me, not just shove the paperwork at me and go on to the next. I've remembered that ever since.
posted by huimangm at 2:32 PM on July 24, 2018 [13 favorites]


nickmark, your story made me ugly cry in the best possible way.

The first "unexpected act of kindness" story that I can think of:

My anxiety really kills executive function at times. It also makes it incredibly hard to ask for help, or even let slip that I might have a problem.

A few years ago, I was in a situation where I had a hard deadline to move by the end of the month, and I Just. Could. Not. Get. Functioning. I had already run through all of the savings I had just paying rent in the place I was in, so I was flat broke and behind on payments, the end of the month came between paychecks, and I knew I wouldn't make it out in time. Three days to go, I emailed the landlord asking for a week's extension (and the struggle just to get that email out was... yeah. It almost didn't happen). Their response was "nope, we have contractors coming in the next day to start work, you need to get out".

Reader, I panicked. Big time. Like, I was already in horrible headspace, but I had no idea at all what I was going to do. Nothing in the house was packed, I could barely get off the couch. In tears, in panic, I texted my ex-girlfriend.

Instead of just telling me the situation sucked or that I should have prepared, she came over. She looked around, and she looked at me. She hugged me very very tightly and said "so, I have this credit card that I just got that I have never used. Whatever you need to get this job done goes on the card, and you pay me back when you can".

I took two days off of work, and the two of us bought supplies and started packing. She consoled me through panic attacks and freakouts, and packed for me while I arranged a U-Haul, a storage unit, moving helpers, and a Got-Junk pickup for everything that needed to be dumpstered, all on her card. She couldn't be there on the day that I moved, but she checked in with me over text over and over that day to see how I was.

It absolutely struck me to my core. Like, how do *I* deserve to be helped like this?

I have since paid her back and, taking her example, I've been trying to do the best I can to be there for friends who need help and don't always know how to ask for it.
posted by hanov3r at 3:13 PM on July 24, 2018 [27 favorites]


When I was 25, I decided to quit my job and spend 6 weeks walking along a river in Italy with a friend. We had no money - we camped in our tent every night, and if I recall, our food budget was $5/day for both of us - but we managed to scrape by on a lot of ciabattas, canned tuna and pasta. For the most part we absolutely loved it, but about 4 weeks in the novelty and romance were wearing thin and we were tired and hungry. We made a wrong turn and ended up climbing a fairly long, steep hill in a small village outside Florence, and we needed a rest.

We were standing on the side of the street and bickering a little about whether to turn around or keep going, when out of the blue we heard the distinctive bass line from the opening of Money by Pink Floyd. This was well before iPods and tiny MP3 players, and we had no space in our heavy backpacks for anything to play music, so just hearing a good song was a treat, and we decided to sit down, enjoy the song and rest our backs against the wall of the house. After about 5 minutes, the owner of the house came out and started talking to us, asking us what we were doing and why. In my very halting Italian, I told him our story and that we'd just wanted to listen to one of our favorite songs and we'd be on our way again, sorry if we disturbed. He laughed and said that it was Easter Sunday (we had no idea) and would we like to join them for Easter dinner?

It was an absolutely amazing feast. I don't remember the specific dishes, but I do remember every single one being delicious, especially to someone who had been primarily eating bread and pasta for weeks. They gave us wine and dessert and refused to let us pay a dime, then offered the spare bedroom for us to spend the night (a real mattress!) and shower (hot water!). It was... just amazing. His young wife was one of 13, and her entire family took us in. Literally. We ended up staying with various members of the family for almost a week, and had many other amazing experiences with them. We stayed in touch for many years.

I think about that frequently - what an incredible act of kindness that was. He didn't know us from Adam, and we must have looked pretty disreputable, just sitting there in dirty clothes and our giant backpacks. But he just thought no one should have to be outside and hungry on Easter, and they shared everything they had with us. Incredible.
posted by widdershins at 3:29 PM on July 24, 2018 [47 favorites]


When I was in first grade, my parents carpooled me to my private school with another family whose kids went there and who lived on the same block we did. They took us all to school in the morning, and my folks picked us all up in the evening. Since they lived so close, I would just walk over to their house after breakfast, and they would leave the front door unlocked for me.

This was all well before cell phones.

One morning, I was running really late, I forget why. So late that my mother actually drove me the few doors down to their house on her way to grad school. We were worried for a moment that they'd left without me and we'd missed the call by being in the car or something, but I opened their door okay, so my mom waved and went off to her class.

It took me three minutes after that to realize that they had left without me, and had forgotten to lock the door on their way out. No one had individual phones, of course. I knew my home phone number, but there was no one there. I knew my dad's work number, but he worked a full hour's drive away. I didn't know how to get hold of my mom through her school, or if that was even possible. I could have gotten back into my own house, but that didn't seem like it would help anything. I had never been left alone in a house-- I was six years old. I was terrified. I melted down utterly and had a gigantic crying fit.

Then I remembered I could dial 0 and ask the operator to look up numbers, like they did in Nancy Drew. The operator sent me to 411, and I got the number of my school. Unfortunately, it turned out to be too early for their office to be open. The answering machine message I left was mostly another crying fit, especially since I didn't know what number I was calling from, so I couldn't tell them to call me back. After that I called every ten minutes, still crying, until someone picked up.

When I finally got through to the office, they stayed on the phone to help me calm down, while my class's teacher put our class in with another class and drove the twenty-five minutes over. She hugged me, cleaned me up from all the crying, explained that they had gotten hold of my mom through the grad school and the other parent through work to describe what had happened, and offered me the choice of coming to school for the rest of the day or of waiting with her for my mom to get home.

Either way, she insisted on taking me out to breakfast first. At a sit-down place, with pancakes and waffles. She told me I'd done exactly the right thing and was good in an emergency, which was the first time anyone had ever told me that, starting a self-perception that has been useful from that day to this. And then she drove me to school, when I decided to go, and gave me the choice of telling people what had happened or of having her do it, whichever I would find least awkward. (I wound up asking her to do it.)

I had not thought this teacher liked me. She was strict and kind of terrifying and very big on proper manners. That didn't change afterward, except that I knew what was under it.

I can't describe what a big difference this made to me at the time, during what was up to that point one of the most frightening experiences of my life. It was only many years later that I realized that at many schools, all they would have done was call my mother. It was years after that that I realized the breakfast must have been from her own pocket.

Pretty sure she didn't like me better than any other kid, actually, that she would have done the same for any kid in those circumstances. I still don't know if she liked me, or my classmates, or children in general. But she loved us hard enough to make up for it, and I will never forget.
posted by Rush-That-Speaks at 6:10 PM on July 24, 2018 [43 favorites]


During a financially stressful situation a few years back, a business owner kindly comped a service (worth a couple of hundred dollars) when I went in to pay. This was the one bright spot I remember from that series of unfortunate events.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:31 PM on July 24, 2018 [5 favorites]


The day after the 2016 election, I was so depressed and anxious that I called in sick to work and my SO and I spent the day trying to distract ourselves. At the time, I lived about 20 minutes from the town/school district that I worked in. My vet was also in the same town as my work. I can’t remember why I took my dog in that day – I think he was supposed to get shots and an earlier appointment opened up? Anyway, we took him in and still had to wait an hour or so. When we walked out to my car afterwards, there was a note on my windshield. I have a Hillary Clinton sticker on my back window, and the note said: “I love your Hillary sticker and I’m so sorry she lost. Stay positive, when they go low, we go high. Love you <3 #imstillwithher :)”

The note was just what I needed at that moment – I was miserable and terrified, and it was nice just to see something kind. I cried and I posted it on my Facebook and Twitter and thanked whoever the anonymous person was who left it for me. It’s been up on my refrigerator ever since.

This year, I decided to leave the school district (mentioned above) that I’ve worked in for the past 3 years. In those three years, I became close friends with some of the teachers and other staff at the school where I was assigned. One of my colleagues/friends gave me the sweetest card at the end of the year that she filled with all of these wonderful, kind thoughts. I took it home with me and I’m not sure how, but at some point, I realized that her handwriting and the handwriting from the anonymous note from two years ago were the same. We had a game night at the beginning of July and I asked her about it – she remembered the note, but had no idea that it was my car that she left it on! She lives in the same town and happened to be near the vet's office when I was there. Neither of us had any idea that the other was involved. It was pretty cool to be able to tell her how much the note meant to me.
posted by yeahyeahrealcute at 6:55 PM on July 24, 2018 [26 favorites]


When I was in elementary school, I was sent to Catholic school in the next town over. So, as a very shy and bookish kid, I barely knew any kids in my neighborhood since they all went to public school. The Catholic school had no library and neither town had a library, so I was always desperate to find books to read. One summer, I was reading next to a creek a street over from my house when a much older girl of 12 came and asked me what I was reading. It was one of those old Reader's Digest condensed books (my mother kept a few of them in our living room as decor.) I told her that it was not very interesting but I didn't have any other books to read.

This girl, whom I had never met before, invited me to come into her house and see her books. She had all of the Nancy Drew books, I think there were nearly a hundred! She invited me to borrow any of them, one at a time. Amazed, I borrowed the first one and took it home and read it that day. The next day, I returned it and got the second one. She told me since I read so fast I should come by every day.

I did go to her house for a new book nearly every day. By summer's end I had read them all and stopped going to her house. The next year, our town built a library so my book supply was more secure. I never saw her after that summer but I still think of and thank Jane Shelton for generously sharing her books with a shy little kid she didn't know. And I still love reading mysteries.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 9:22 PM on July 24, 2018 [28 favorites]


Here's the story of me huddling under the counter in the Post Office after having a tooth pulled and the lovely woman who gave me a ride home.
posted by bendy at 9:29 PM on July 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


After the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, I was in shock. Like, my brain shut off and I just did shit that didn't make sense for awhile. I lived inland (still do) and had no idea about the tsunami yet, but the earthquake had been enormous and lasted forever. The power was down. I couldn't cross the streets because they were filled with cars. There were helicopters flying around.

It was March, but March is cold here. There was still snow on the ground here and there. I'd managed to protect the little student I had been with during the earthquake and passed him off to his mother, who screeched into the parking lot to pick him up. The owner and only other staff member of the conversation school I worked at was in his home country due to a loss in the family. It hadn't been a year since I'd moved here and I had a background in Japanese, but I wasn't anywhere near good enough, and I certainly wasn't used to any vocabulary used in an emergency.

At first I thought I'd go get some groceries, because that vaguely sounded like a good idea, but I couldn't get past the cars, so I wandered home. I had granola in the house, full stop, and no milk. The heater didn't work because the power was down, and Japanese apartments tend to not be any warmer than outside if a heater isn't on. I was 25 years old, and too freaked out or proud to ask for help, it didn't even occur to me, so I sat down in my cold kotatsu with a bowl of granola and tap water planning to watch a DVD until the battery on my computer died.

Just then, the doorbell rang. It was my student, wanting to know if I was OK and offering to let me stay at her family house. They had plenty of food there, and a heater that didn't rely on electricity. By the next night there were four of us local foreigners staying in their house.

Then the power came back on and we saw what had happened on the coast, and then the gasoline shortage, and then the Fukushima disaster. And then, and then.

We were lucky to be where we were, and I was lucky to have had that granola, that water, and that apartment still standing, but it was so much better to have had real food, and warmth, and a bed, and company. I think of the Sasakis every time I think of that disaster, and natural disasters in general. I'm grateful for neighbors who check in on the vulnerable, and I'm grateful for old-fashioned heaters that don't rely on electricity.
posted by sacchan at 5:05 AM on July 25, 2018 [24 favorites]


> Frowner:
"on several occasions he actually signed up to help me"
Frowner, you're interesting and smart, probably he liked hanging out with you. I'll bet you listened to him. Maybe his life at home was bad, maybe he isn't straight and was terrified of being outed, maybe he had some other secret pain or loneliness. Some significant portion of the population has just a thin veneer of normalcy over some sort of hurt. Anyway, I'm glad somebody was nice to you when you needed it.
posted by theora55 at 9:12 AM on July 25, 2018 [8 favorites]


I mentioned in a comment that I hadn't gotten a flu shot last because I didn't have insurance, and a very kind MeFite memailed to offer to pay for my flu shot this year. I have insurance now, so not a problem, but thank you, kind MeFite.

kindnesses, large and small; they are the best.
posted by theora55 at 12:54 PM on July 25, 2018 [8 favorites]


> During a financially stressful situation a few years back, a business owner kindly comped a service (worth a couple of hundred dollars) when I went in to pay.

That reminds me of another story. Mid-2008. I'd put my wife in a mental hospital a couple of days before after a bad breakdown; she was finally getting the help she needed. I was at the vet with my St. Bernard, Max, as he'd been bitten by a spider or a snake and had been getting treatment for almost losing a foot/leg.

His leg healed.. but the badness had gotten up into his hips, and Saints are known for bad hip dysplasia anyway. He couldn't stand up. It was time to do what had to be done.

I sat in the floor, with his huge head (he was 167 lbs) in my lap.. the vet did his thing... I cried for a few minutes, took his collar off to take home with me..

Turned to the doc. "OK, i guess I need to pay.."

He looked at me. "Bill, your wife is in the hospital right now. You've got enough on your plate. Tomorrow, I leave for vacation. How about you go take care of Amy, and give me a call in 2-3 weeks, and we'll worry about money stuff then."

I was floored. This is a vet in the middle of Houston, not some small town "country doc" (although that's the vibe I got from the entire practice). I left, teary-eyed and thankful. Amy got out of the hospital a few days later, and about two weeks later, I went back in and took care of the bill.
posted by mrbill at 1:35 PM on July 25, 2018 [17 favorites]


It’s a small thing, but this month has been kinda epically shitty and I be been stumbling from one crisis to another not daring to look back, and money issues has suddenly gone from a problem to a scary all consuming mess.

Then it was announced that New MeFi merch was launched (a mug), and a saint of a Mefite offered to send me (well five people) one gratis.

It’s small and stooped but this act of generosity made me cry.
posted by Faintdreams at 1:30 AM on July 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


Mefites have invited me to hang out with them when I fled a massive flood and when I was feeling really alone in my new city in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting.

When I was going through the hell breakup with my ex best friend, I got into a really bad spiral and ended up staying with a friend for a couple of nights. I dreaded going home in part because my apartment was a chaos bomb (I'd just finished a massive performance before this whole breakdown so it was a mess on multiple levels). A bunch of friends came over and basically cleaned my apartment thoroughly for me.

This year I'm working on my first full show, but all our funding applications were rejected. I discussed hosting a fundraiser event, and a good friend who's also something of a local legend with the cabaret/performance art/queer arts set went and ORGANISED THE FUNDRAISER FOR ME. She wouldn't let me help!! It was sold out and the money went towards props & costumes - such a huge help.
posted by divabat at 2:34 AM on July 26, 2018 [6 favorites]


When I was studying in Toronto eons ago, I lived with my father for the first year I was there because he was stationed there by his company, but he had to move to Iran because, well, he was told to work there. (This is the basically the story of my life, actually. My father is told to work somewhere and the family tags along. But this story isn't about my dad.)

So I had a year left to go before graduating and suddenly found myself having to look for a place to live. I'd transferred from a Japanese uni and didn't really know anyone apart from the few friends I'd managed to make in that first year at U of T. I suppose I would have done something about finding a place eventually, but didn't really have to thanks to the generosity of an U of T English professor who offered to let me stay in a spare room on the top floor of his beautiful home at Hilton Ave. and St. Clair in T.O., near Casa Loma.

I can't even remember now if I'd taken any classes with Dr. Bill Keith. But his wife, who is Japanese, was an old friend of my best-friend-at-the-time's (Let's call her R) mother. So what happened was, he pulled me aside one day at University College and told me that I could stay with them until I graduated.

He didn't even know me that well. He and his wife Hiroko offered to let me stay just because I happened to be R's friend, and perhaps because I was Japanese. And I did, and I graduated, and god I loved that old, cozy house on Hilton Ave. filled, and I mean filled! with old books from top to bottom. That house was like a dream to me.

R contacted me last week to tell me Bill Keith passed away peacefully on Saturday, July 14. I hadn't kept in touch, I hadn't thanked him enough, and his passing is hitting me pretty hard. I sent Hiroko a card, but it's been so long since I'd contacted them that I'm not even sure if she remembers me.

R tells me they sold their house on Hilton Ave. a few years ago to live in a retirement residence. It must have been so hard to let go of that little dream of a house. I miss it, and I miss Bill, I wonder if Hiroko is doing OK... well, as OK as anyone would be after losing a loved one, such a good man that Bill Keith was.

I didn't know gman, but perhaps long ago when I lived in T.O. we might have passed each other on the street. I usually don't write details about my life on the internet, but I'm sharing this story in your honor, and in Bill's. RIP gman, I wish I could have met you.

And RIP Dr. Bill Keith. I'm sorry I didn't keep in touch. Thank you for your kindness. I'll miss you.
posted by misozaki at 3:30 AM on July 26, 2018 [17 favorites]


I've shared unexpected kindnesses visited on me before, but I have a new one.

On my family Facebook page I used to post my son's wishlist for family who didn't know what to get a kid on the spectrum. They never bought anything off it, but used it as a guide so I didn't have to field 30 conversations about ignoring age appropriate or birthday appropriate things. Mostly I used his wishlist as a combo of that and things that I was saving towards for him.

Mom was the one that asked it be posted and after she died I just forgot about it. Then one of his old sitters emailed asking if the clothing sizes were still correct because she wanted to get him something for his birthday since it's been a bad year with family deaths, a long bout of unemployment, and whatnot. So I cleaned up his list and posted it.

Things got crazy in the best way. Readers and friends showed up hard to make a difference in my son's life. I mean, really.

For a mom that currently has $100 I have to make stretch for two weeks, this birthday was an amazing kindness that I can't even explain without breaking down in tears.

I'm forever grateful for the goodness in people.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 4:45 AM on July 26, 2018 [17 favorites]


Just a few years ago, around Christmas, my husband and I were very, very broke. We didn't have the money to even buy each other a card, much less any Christmas gifts. It was making me super depressed, but I figured there wasn't much to do about it but try to ignore all the Christmas "SPEND SPEND SPEND" ads and pretend the whole thing wasn't happening. Some online friends knew what was going on, and decided to send us enough money for a date night -- we went out for cheeseburgers, and to a movie, and had a wonderful time. I had tried to keep our financial miseries quiet, because it was embarrassing, so it was very kind of these friends -- most of whom I have never met in person! -- to make that gesture. It really helped to pull me out of a pretty deep depression.
posted by sarcasticah at 9:23 AM on July 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


The simple truths of which kindnesses I've received in my life are too large for me to comprehend and too specific for me to attempt to recite. Another issue is that I've always internalised the idea that "kind" is something people intrinsically are rather than an act they perform. That's blinded me to a lot of the conscious indulgences I've received as well as the (very) occasional thoughtless kindness I've perpetrated myself.

Bit of a rubbish/generic/playing to the crowd offering here but SWIM had a problem at work and had no-one to turn to, yet asking Ask MeFi if not solving it certainly helped to put it into perspective and deal with how things eventually played out.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 10:40 PM on July 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


This is such a tiny thing, but it meant the world to me. In junior high, I was awkward and nerdy, and any time I dared to open my mouth, my delightful peers would ridicule me mercilessly, no matter what I said, because: junior high. What saved me was Tisha, a sweet, smart, wonderful kid who moved to town in the middle of the first quarter. She was assigned to be my lab/desk partner in Physical Science, and we became fast friends. At the end of the quarter, the teacher announced the new seating chart, and, somewhat sheepishly, admitted that we were going to be partners again. He said, "You're like a set of salt and pepper shakers, I can't break you up." He let us sit together for the rest of the year.

I have often reflected on how observant he was, to see that she and I were nearly overwhelmed in a sea of pubescent misery, had found one another and were clinging to each other for dear life.
posted by BrashTech at 9:58 AM on July 28, 2018 [5 favorites]


Oi shit, what? gman is gone, and I even missed the Meta thread?? Sorry to derail but I need to say my small bit as well, he was a good internet friend many years ago. We exchanged a lot of email talking about our mideast travels, and I always hoped I would meet him some day. And only now I hear that he was the guy behind the incredible "I destroyed Van Vieng" story too? So I had TWO disconnected memories of excellent and interesting MeFi people, and now after he has gone they have collapsed into one. The guy literally contained multitudes.

Holy shit, I am really sorry I missed you IRL gman.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:09 PM on July 28, 2018 [5 favorites]


So many people have been kind to me over the course of my life. In high school an anonymous benefactor gave me 100 smackers for the senior prom. It must have been one of my teachers who knew my family was poor. Another teacher (it might have been him, although he denied it), my high school favourite who taught creative writing, handed me an envelope after the class was over one day and I found 5 crisp 20s inside. I was thrilled; my mom burst into tears when she found out. Those were not tears of gratitude but of shame. I wasn't ashamed, though, I was grateful.

Teachers of all sorts have been instrumental in making my life better. In college I started falling asleep in one class because I was working a horrible job outside of town between midnight and 8 am. My professor asked me what was wrong. When I told him the situation, he asked how much money I needed to quit my job for the rest of the semester and get a work-study job the following semester. (Work-study? I had never heard of that. My parents never made it through high school.) I did a quick calculation and two days later he handed me a check for the exact amount. He had gone to my college's provost and wrangled a strings-free grant for me. This guy is my hero.

I am also tremendously grateful to the MeFite who I met first IRL and who introduced me to this great place. That was one great kindness. Another was gifting me with a significant sum of money when I was struggling financially. This MeFite refused to consider it a loan and asked me to pay it forward when I had the opportunity. In the end, I paid forward roughly 30% more than I received, which felt like the right amount for me.

In an ideal world, with justice for all, paying things forward might not matter so much. But I don't live in that world, so I am grateful to everyone who has made my life easier. A lot of those people are MeFites who have supported me without knowing it through the thoughtful posts they have made, the helpful comments they have left, and all the contributions to MetaFilter that keep this place running. Thanks, folks. Couldn't have made it this far in relative sanity without you!
posted by Bella Donna at 1:44 AM on July 29, 2018 [5 favorites]


.

One more thing: Today gman's Gay Jesus Offends Christians tee landed in my mailbox. Many thanks to his partner, who sent it to me; many thanks to gman who offered it to me even though we were strangers. I admired it in his goodbye thread, and he said I could have it. Now that was an unexpected kindness. I am crying at a public cafe because even though I didn't know the guy I know he was a complex and special man. The timing of his gift is excellent. It is Stockholm Pride week; the parade is Saturday and I'm going to a lesbian film showing on Sunday and I will be wearing the hell out of this tee now and forever. Thanks again, gman!
posted by Bella Donna at 6:08 AM on July 31, 2018 [5 favorites]


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