You never know who you'll cross paths with and what kind of impact they'll have on your life. Here, 16 people share a random encounter they had with a stranger that completely changed their lives.
1/16. The man in front of me in line at an ATM goes "WOAH!". He turns around to me and with a smile and holds up several hundred dollars cash and says "bank error in my favor!". Then he started walking into the bank and I said "Wait, you're not gonna keep it?" and he said "you are who you are in the darkness". I stopped lying after that.
2/16. I pulled into the ER with my 3-year-old daughter turning blue from an asthma attack. I was frantic, I thought she was going to die. The parking lot attendant came over to tell me the lot was full, saw my daughter, ripped open the door of my van and pulled her out of her car seat. Told me to put the car in park, and follow him. He ran with my blue, non-responsive daughter into the ER yelling, "She's not breathing!" They hooked her up to oxygen, set me up with an asthma specialist and she's been fine ever since. I learned that day to never underestimate the importance of someone's role in life. That parking lot attendant had just as much to do with saving my daughter's life as the doctors and nurses in the ER.
3/16. When I was 16, I would go to the park near my high school to run during the offseason of football. One day this older man was walking around the park and waves me down. He said he sees me come every day like clockwork for the past couple of months and wanted to tell me to never give up being healthy. I honestly never even thought about it before at that deep of a level. I was just training to be better for my senior year. I was in no way having a chance to be a collegiate athlete or anything but I wanted to be a consistent starter for a state championship caliber team. We talked for about 40 minutes and then he asks me. "How old do you think I am." He was old, but not digging his grave by any means. I guessed 68. He was 89 years old. He came to the park every day and walked at least 3 miles. It was amazing, inspiring and I'll never forget him. He'd be 97 if he's still alive today and I hope he's still walking around that park.
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4/16. There is an elderly couple that lives in my apartment complex and sometimes I see them walking around together. The husband clearly has no concept of what is going on. He cannot talk or do anything for himself anymore. The wife spends all of her time walking around with him telling him stories about their life and making sure he is warm on the really cold days. It made me realize the kind of love I want to have, and what is really important in a life partner.
5/16. When I first started trying to run, I couldn't even jog a mile. I could barely jog a quarter mile.
One day, I was jogging on a very popular jogging trail near my campus and was basically dragging my feet, sweating like a pig, and wheezing like crazy. Of course the seasoned runners pass me by without so much of a glance but I always remembered this one old man who slowed down to tell me, "Keep it up, you're almost there!"
His smile and encouragement is something I remember now every time I'm struggling during a workout. Fast forward a few years and I am much healthier and fitter. One of my favorite things to do is offer kind words of encouragement to strangers I see at the gym or anyone struggling on the jogging path. Exercise is easy - its the motivation that's hard.
6/16. Two years after graduating from college I drove cross country from Virginia to LA in March 2011 to break into the entertainment industry. I had spent my savings securing an apartment and was desperately looking for work. I got a gig with my best friend from college driving golf carts backstage at the Coachella Music Festival. I ended up driving a gregarious 6'4" red-headed gay guy from Mississippi. I made a joke about how my cart was 'bigger' and his party hopped on and struck up conversation. Turns out he had just founded a start-up with two tech/entertainment industry giants and he offered me a job. When I started there were 10 of us and now, under 3 years later, there are 190 with offices in London and New York. I have a career and a life here I could have scarcely dreamed of. To this day, I still think of how lucky I've been.
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7/16. I was in the US and there happened to be some kind of festival in the city I was in over the weekend so I checked it out. A guy was there missing part of his leg. Lots of the teens and young adults were staring or avoiding him. He dropped something and a little kid, maybe 5 years old walked over and picked whatever it was up for him and then they had a little chat.
She asked point blank why he didn't have a leg. He made up a big story about fighting fantasy animals in a magic forest to save a princess. He then points to his wife and says she's the princess. They keep chatting. The wife slips into the dollar store while they talk after that. She then comes up and sneaks up behind the girl and places a little tiara on her head and says she's now the princess.
I've never seen a little girl so happy. And her parents thought it was all hilarious. It just reminds me that there's so much good in the world.
8/16. As a 10-year-old kid, I was sitting on a bench at a park by myself. A random guy in what I would guess was his mid 20s came up to me and said, "You will remember me for the rest of your life."
Then he left and went about his business.
That f*cker knew how to play the game. 10 years later and I still remember him, and think of him about every couple of months.
9/16. I was day tripping to Vancouver from Seattle and stopped in for lunch at a little cafe. From my window I saw a young teenage girl out in the cold, squatted down in a closed up businesses doorway, holding a small bundle in her arms. She was panhandling, people were mostly walking by ignoring her. She looked just broken.
I finished up my meal and went outside, went through my wallet and thought I'd give her $5 for some food. I got up to her and she was sobbing, she looked like she was 14-15. And that bundle in her arms was a baby wrapped up. I felt like I just got punched in the chest. She looked up putting on a game face and asked for any change, I asked her if she'd like some lunch.
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Right next door was a small quick-Trip type grocery store, I got a can of formula for the baby (very young, maybe 2-3 months old.), and took her back to the cafe though I'd just eaten. She was very thankful, got a burger and just inhaled it. Got her some pie and ice cream. She opened up and we talked. She was 15, got pregnant, parents were angry and she was fighting with them. She ran away. She's been gone almost 1 full year.
I asked her if she'd like to go home and she got silent. I coaxed her, she said her parents wouldn't want her back. I coaxed further, she admitted she stole 5k in cash from her Dad. Turns out 5k doesn't last long at all and the streets are tough on a 15 year old. Very tough. She did want to go back, but she was afraid no one wanted her back after what she did.
We talked more, I wanted her to use my phone to call home but she wouldn't. I told her I'd call and see if her folks wanted to talk to her, she hesitated and gave bad excuses but eventually agreed. She dialled the number and I took the phone, her Mom picked up and I said hello. Awkwardly introduced myself and said her daughter would like to speak to her, silence, and I heard crying. Gave the phone to the girl and she was just quiet listening to her Mom cry, and then said hello. And she cried. They talked, she gave the phone back to me, I talked to her Mom some more.
I drove her down to the bus station and bought her a bus ticket home. Gave her $100 cash for incidentals, and some formula, diapers, wipes, snacks for the road.
Got to the bus, and she just cried saying thank you over and over. I gave her a kiss on the forehead and a hug, kissed her baby, and she got on the bus.
I get a Christmas card every year from her. She's 21 now and in college.
Her name is Makayla and her baby was Joe.
I've never really told anyone about this. I just feel good knowing I did something good in this world. Maybe it'll make up for the things I've f-ed up.
10/16. I was working in a sh*tty convenience store after high-school with straight C's. I really had no direction in life, and was pretty happy with sitting around, and watching TV all night. One night a guy came in and held up me up at knife point. After the cops left my boss made me finish my shift. I spent the rest of the night evaluating my life. I decided that night that i was going to do everything in my power not to become the kind of person that robs a teenager working a convenience store, or the scum that tries to dock the money robbed from the store from the employee that got robbed. I am now in my second year of university, and I've had straight A's this year.
11/16. I was having a bad day and was traveling by Greyhound from my friend's city back to mine. I had to transfer and ended up seated next to a guy with a laptop. I don't know if he could tell that I was upset or not, but he asked me if I wanted to watch something with him. We ended up sharing headphones and watching Where the Wild Things Are. I was pretty shy back then but if I could meet him again today I would thank him for cheering me up.
I know it's not a life-changing story, but it's a little thing that made a big difference back then.
12/16. Meeting my wife in a park in Chicago.
I was taking a walk when her dress caught my eye. I told her, "Your dress is really pretty!" which made her cry. She said she'd just been having a crappy day, so any compliment meant a lot to her. Fast forward six years, and I've now been married to her for three years, and we have a daughter.
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13/16. I was stopping through Portugal for a few days on the way home from a backpacking trip through the Basque Country, and a friend decided to take me to an island right off the coast. The island itself seemed to be a common tourist destination, as there were people from all over the world getting off boats and swimming around the dock, and there was a place you could hike to that hosted thousands of seagull nests, but along the southern edge of the island was an old fort and a stone bridge that stood about 25 feet off the water. Now, there was this girl I had a thing for with us, and when she saw people jumping off of it, she asked if anyone else would do it. Of course I would!
I have a dreadful fear of heights.
So I got up on top of this bridge and stood there for maybe 45 minutes, just staring off the edge, trying to get myself to jump. People from every corner of the globe would come up, cheer me on, and then leave disappointed. The girl wasn't even really paying attention to me anymore, but the struggle had become much more than that for me. I was going to cure this fear, damnit!
Well, just as I was about to give up, an old man came along who, swear to god, was the living, breathing embodiment of Ernest Hemingway. He had the beard, the serious look, the belly... were it not for his Portuguese accent, he could have easily passed for Hemingway. "I do not believe you are going to jump." I was baffled. Everyone up to that point had told me I could do it. "What?" "You won't. Here." He reached down and plucked this old pebble off the bridge. "Keep this. You'll look at it and remember the day you didn't jump."
I took the pebble from him and looked at it. He shook his head at me. And then, I don't even know what came over me, I just shouted, "F*ck that!" and threw it at the water. As I jumped from the bridge, he was still laughing in this deep, jolly tone. Long story short, another man who had been watching the entire time helped pull me out of the water and offered to buy me a beer, but as I was standing there, with all of what had just happened sinking in, Hemingway came down the steps to the water's edge and handed me another rock. "You'll remember this one as the day you jumped."
14/16. When I was about 14 I had a very bad fight with my parents. I have had a history of fighting with them ever since I could talk, but this was the first and only time it got physical. I was really upset so left the house and sat on a bench crying outside.
This punk guy walked up to me and asked me if I was ok. He asked what happened and offered me a smoke. I declined and he basically held a monologue for an hour and one of his friends stopped by so they had a conversation too. He talked about his life and his way of dealing with things (very similar to mine at that moment).
I hardly said 10 words to him, but he changed my life. I have since gotten quite a good bond with my parents and we haven't really fought since. I've always wanted to thank him for just being there when I felt so alone, but I have never seen him since.
15/16. It was a woman at a grocery store. I was having an absolutely miserable night. The wife and I had been arguing and I went for a long walk. It was very late, and I found myself at a 24 hour grocery store. Decided to buy a couple things.
I get to the checkout line (the only open one) and there are two women in front of me. The girl right in front of me looked like a young college student. The young woman ahead of her did not speak English, and had one of those newspaper coupon flyers in her hand, and a bunch of baby food.
The woman running the register was trying to explain to her that her government assistance would only pay for certain baby food items (this flavor, not that one. this brand, not that one) And that she would have to pay for the rest.
The mother was very upset, and didn't understand, and, I gathered, had no money. And started to just walk away, leaving the baby food.
Some kind of Whoville anti-grinch moment hit, and I got the bagger to go bring her back, and I bought all of her baby food for her. It wasn't a lot. Just under $40. But the woman was in tears and very grateful (I know almost no Mandarin, but I do know "thank you").
I doubt I changed her life, but she changed mine. It made me look at some of the things I was angry and upset about and realize they were not that important after all. My wife and I had money. We could pay our bills. Hell, if she quit her job, I could still support us both. And the issues we had were not life-threatening. I looked at my life from a renewed perspective after that.
16/16. I work as a manager at a restaurant. Unfortunately a good amount of our guests feel like they should be waited on hand and foot, especially when it comes to families. Nine times out of ten they will be the ones that complain about their food taking forever minutes after they have ordered, complain about something so minuscule that it is more inconvenient to fix than it is to ignore, or ask something so ridiculous from me that it might as well be comical.
Quite a while ago I was so close to my breaking point; in those past few weeks I felt like almost every customer I spoke to was rude and nothing was going well at work. We were understaffed yet again and everybody needed help. I was ready to find a new job but decided that I would finish my shift before I decided to quit, so I went to go help a server take some orders. Right away on the first table I approached, I immediately noticed that it was a husband and wife who had 3 children with them. All I could picture was me, approaching this table, and having what might as well have been 2 demons and their little hell spawns ask me for food in the most rude way possible and then proceed to eat what little bit of dignity I had left for the day. Well while I was introducing myself, one of their younger daughters started holding my hand for no reason. I had no idea why she grabbed my hand, or what I should have done about it, so I just kind of let it happen. Her mom told her to stop but didn't explain anything to me.
As strange as it was, it was a nice gesture, and as little as it may have seemed it made me feel better. I finished taking their order without saying much and went to go help some other guests but the more time that passed the less upset I felt about work and the more I thought about this little girl. I could not figure out for the life of me why she held my hand and what she was trying to say to me. I brought out their food about 15 minutes later and asked if they needed anything else. They all thanked me, and said they were all set. The little girl did not say a single word to me but she did try to hold my hand again. I didn't know if she could talk or not but I did not want to ask. Her mom must of read my mind because she looked at me, apologized, and began to explain that her daughter had autism and didn't understand how to communicate very well. I told her it was no problem and it didn't bother me at all, but I had to ask what she was trying to tell me by holding my hand. Her mom smiled and said she saw that you were upset and decided to hold your hand because she always feels better when someone holds her hand. I swear I almost cried. I said thank you to both her and the little girl and spent the rest of the day with the biggest grin on my face.
That one girl showed exactly how one small gesture can change someone's day by flipping mine around without even saying anything to me. She doesn't know but she stopped me from quitting my job just by being one of the nicest people I've ever met and it is because of that little girl that I spend everyday appreciating the small things I see people do for each other.