A stranger is just a friend you haven't met yet. Or...stranger danger. Honestly, the world views strangers in several different ways, but either one of the extremes results in an unforgettable story.
Here were some of the answers.
Play Til You Win!Giphy
When I was about 5 years old I was at a restaurant with my family and they had one of those claw prize machine games. My mom gave me a dollar to play and I was fixated on a little teddy bear stuffed animal prize. Naturally I was horrible at the game and had to walk away defeated. I returned to the dinner table and had we had our dinner. Apparently in that time an old man went up to the machine and kept playing for that teddy until he got it. He walked over with the prize and handed it to me. It was such a kind gesture.
However, at the time I was freaked out a man I didn't know was trying to hand me something. My mom ended up taking it from him and gave it to me in the car because all I did was just stare at him and sit frozen like a statue. Kids can be *ssholes. I hope he somehow knew how much I did end up appreciating the bear. I still think about it 25 years later and cringe at my reaction.
I was 17, and had been living in a facility for several years. I was outbound on a flight to the east coast to go see one of my brothers graduate from high school. It was the first time I'd left the facility since being committed.
While I'm waiting in line to board, a handsome, early 30's guy in front of me in a business suit is cracking jokes via a bluetooth headset. I'm watching him thinking, "damn, tech has come so far... I have missed so much." and sort of daydreaming about the kind of life he must have. He looks (in retrospect) like a cross between Steven Colbert and Chris Trager from P&R. Handsome, slightly aged, smile for days.
To my surprise, we end up sitting next to each other on the flight. As we're getting settled, he's cracking up watching something on his computer. I'm curious, but don't want to be nosy. He's laughing so hard he keeps having to sigh to get the breaths out of him after each fit of laughter. Just as I'm about to put my headphones in, he leans towards me and asks, a little puckishly, "Do you like satire? Do you want to see something really f*cking funny?"
I'm a little taken aback. I'm sitting there with my CD player (we weren't allowed to have mp3 players where I was living), feeling so painfully out of date and out of place next to his guy, and I'm only a teenager, why is this successful business man who could be talking to anybody he wanted, talking to me? "Uhh yeah man, I like funny stuff. Whatcha got?" I respond.
He pulls out and fancy pants apple computer (which I'd never seen before, due to being away from tech for so long) and shows me [this video] (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AyVh1_vWYQ).
We both just lose it. We are laughing so loud, he is slapping his knees, I am crying.
We aren't allowed to watch youtube where I'm at, so all of this is so new to me. I love this type of deadpan humour, and it's ahead of its time for being from the mid 2000's.
After it's over, I have this incredible desire to watch it again, to relive that moment, where I have laughed harder than I have in my entire life, with this total stranger, but realizing the moment has passed. He then turns to me, smile just stretching out his beautiful face, and says, "Okay okay I'm sorry but can we please watch that again?"
I just groan, "UGH, YES?? PLEASE?" So we watch it again! It's even better the second time around. We're quoting it as it happens, through breathless laughter, and people around us are starting to lean in and figure out what's so funny. We may have made a minor scene, but folks around us were smiling inquisitively. Laughter, and smiling, is contagious. This is the happiest I've been in years.
When the video is over, the guy turns to me and asks if I have an ipod. I look down at my CD player and bashfully say "no, not yet.. I don't really have any money for that anyway."
"Well, do you want one?" he asks, "I have about.. 16 in my backpack. My company got our business card information printed on the back of these nano ipods since we have a contract with them. Now, don't get too excited, they're only 16gb (at the time, 32gb was the largest there was for the nano, he explained) bur it should still be a bit of an upgrade from that CD player you got there!"
I'm sitting there kind of freaking out, thinking there's no way this is real. He's going to forget, or he's just trying to be nice, or it's all some sort of joke. I've learned not to trust anything until it's in front of me. False promises are like currency where I've been living. Nothing nice comes for free. Just enjoy the moment.
The rest of the flight was fun. For 4 hours, we'd take turns so naturally at talking with one another, then doing our respective things for an hour, then talking again. The flow with this guy was insane. And I forgot, completely, that I wasn't an equal to this guy. He made me feel like I was just another work colleague or friend. He asks me about my goals in life, the music I'm into. And none of this is predatory "older man" type stuff. He's just a genuinely friendly guy who genuinely wants to share his happiness with whoever is around him, and it happens to be me.
Once we deboarded the plane, he stops me at the gate and said, "Hey wait up! Don't think I forgot about that ipod, little lady! Here ya go!" and hands me this brand spanking new, electric blue ipod nano.
This thing is like gold to me. It is so beautiful, I can't stop turning it over and over in my hands. I feel like I might cry. I don't know what to say. He's just smiling at me and says, "I can tell you're a really smart kid. Crazy smart. That must drive you insane sometimes, I'll bet. But you're gonna make it, and you're going to do great things. I can see that. I hope you don't forget it. Sorry again that's only a 16g. I'd have given you mine if I didn't need the music that's on it right now. Anyway, good luck!"
And then he's gone.
I will never forget him. He did a wonderful thing for me that day. I still tell that story time to time. I can't remember the name of the company but I will never forget that guy. He did a small thing for me in his eyes--but in my eyes, he gave me a profound gift. Kindness.
And a smile that lasted for days.
A Whole New Kind Of Fomo
Guy walked up to me, put a quarter in my hand, and said make a decision. I had nothing to decide on so I flipped it and said "heads I go out for lunch". I caught it and before I could see it he took the coin off my hand, said "you should have decided to keep the quarter" and walked off.
To this day I feel as though I failed some sort of secret organizations entry test.
Young Kids Mafia
I was flying home from a business trip and my flight got canceled for weather reasons. There were direct flights that didn't have to pass through the weather but I wasn't on one of those.
I went to the flight desk and tried to rescheduled, it was my son's birthday the next day, either his first or second. So I was begging with the woman at the desk to help me get home for it. They told me I was likely not even to get a flight home THE NEXT DAY and I was going to miss it entirely because of demand, etc.
I was begging, I was offering to pay more (didn't matter, all booked), have them switch me to a different airline (no other airlines from this airport can get you there - not sure I believed that), offered to do 2 or 3 hops overnight whatever it took. She just kept steam rolling me.
A guy in the line heard me, stepped up, said he was whoever he was and would give me his ticket on the next direct flight. He was some VIP and listening to the conversation was like night and day. The second they stone walled him he just told them to get the manager, then they basically did whatever he said.
I tried to thank him and he wouldn't take anything from me. Just told me he knew what it was like when he had young kids and I should enjoy it while I can.
It was one of the the greatest things anyone ever did for me.
Here Come The TearsGiphy
After my grandmother died, I went to the cemetery with some of her favorite flowers on the day that would've been her birthday.
As I arranged the flowers at the grave, a kindly lady stopped by and remarked about their beauty.
She noticed from the engraved monument that it was my grandmother's birthday, and said, "If I were your grandmother, I'd be proud to have a grandson like you."
She just left at that point, and I stood there amazed that someone would care enough to go out of their way to share something so special - so comforting - with a stranger.
So, was grocery shopping and chatting with this person behind me. I have Epilepsy (seizures) that have been becoming more frequent. All I remember was talking and then waking up and just surrounded by him and paramedics. When I got to the ER, I was told the gentleman had caught me BEFORE I hit my head on the hard tile and held me on my side the whole time. I want so badly to thank him for that or else it could've been much worse for me. I could have bitten my tongue, hit my head, swallowed vomit or foam if I had foamed at the mouth and chocked on it. But I didn't, because he basically saved me. So thank you, kind sir.
I'm working on my computer in the study lounge in college when I notice my friend sneaking up on me through the reflection of my computer screen, trying to scare me. I let it happen, letting him creep closer. At the last second, before he is about to scare me, I spin around in order to scare HIM.
We both scream in shock!
It's not my friend at all. It's a random guy who was sneaking up on me, because he thought I was someone else, while I let it happen because I thought HE was someone else.
After the initial shock, we collapse laughing for a good long while, he is very apologetic, and then he goes on his way while I continue working. The memory still makes me smile and I still know what he looks like (not at all like my friend, turns out computer reflections are very deceiving).
A Calming, Yet Unsettling, Presence
A few years ago I was at a bar on the beach with two friends of mine. It was the last day of our two-week summer vacation and the sun was setting on the sea, so it was a pretty magical moment already.
This skinny man with long, curly grey hair, light blue eyes, almost grey, shorts and a short-sleeve Hawaiian shirt walks up next to us and orders a drink at the bar. He turns around to face us with a deeply relaxing, almost therapeutic smile and in a very soft, whispered voice, without having introduced himself or anything, confides in us: "You know why I'm so happy and free of worries? Because I've accepted that I'm mortal. I'm at peace with my inevitable death. When I truly realized that, I became perpetually serene."
I found it particularly moving because I was in a bit of a rough period of my life and also because I had kind of wondered within myself that this man looked so calm, so it was like he knew what I had thought when I saw that smile if his. Then he just grabbed his drink, gave us a smiling nod and walked away on the beach.
I think I was about 8 or 9. My parents would always go to the mall during the weekends and I thought it was boring so I'd always bring my Gameboy Advance to play Pokemon throughout the day. We were once waiting in a bank for some errands so I just sat somewhere inside and played Pokemon until they were finished. Next to me was an elderly American man who just kept staring at my Gameboy and proceeded to talk to me about it.
Now me being the naive kid, I just started to talk about the game and the pokemon that I had and how the game is played. English wasn't my first language but I could manage myself enough to have a conversation. He talked to me about his young days and then talked about how the landscape of my country was when he moved in from NY in the 60s.
He talked to me about how before the mall ever existed there was long deep green vegetation as far as his eyes could see. My 9-year-old brain was mind-blown about the way he was describing a lot of things before something was constructed in them. It made me really appreciate nature in my country because at some point in my life I will be the one describing them to another generation.
When my parents came to get me after their errand, the elderly man complimented to my parents how good my english was for my age. My parent responded back smiling in broken english, "He speaks better english than any of us in the family."
I just graduated college and I still ask myself what has become of him.
My family encountered a young mother and her baby at the beach bus stop in Maine one warm summer evening. The bus had driven right by her while she was tending the child at the bench, waiting for the bus. She waved, yelled, everything. By the time we crossed the parking lot and got to her to see what was wrong (had she been attacked?) she was in tears, full new-mom meltdown. Stroller, baby bag, lunch cooler all packed and ready, and the bus didn't even pause.
The bus was her only transportation, rain was imminent all the way up the coast, and they lived an hour away. The panic was palpable and she needed to just calm down. So we called an Uber for her, which got her to the next bus station where she could then use her bus ticket home. The uber driver texted me and had made sure she got on the bus. I still think of her and the little boy and hope they are well. Being a single mom is no picnic, and even when you think you've done everything right, prepared for all contingencies, one thing going wrong just guts you. Be well, Maine Mama!
When I was in college I didn't have a car. One evening I was leaving the grocery store, thinking about how I bought too many heavy things as I struggled with the load, I was seriously starting to think I had too much to carry for the km walk home. It was snowing too. All of a sudden someone runs up from behind me and grabs the bags out of my left hand. It was this polite guy, about my age, he offered to help carry my bags with me until our paths split. He carried my bags most of the way and we parted ways,.
That was 18 years or so ago but I have never forgotten that kind gesture from a stranger. I was really struggling with mental health at the time and basically felt disconnected from the world. This interaction changed my perception of the world.
Catch A Falling Star And Put It In Your Pocket
I love this story:
So remember that big meteor shower a few years ago? Yeah, I missed it because I was working. I tried to lay out on my patio late to see if I could see anything, but I live in a major city so the light pollution was too much. I saw maybe one or two little pin-points shoot across the sky.
The next day I'm leaving work, and this one girl and I are standing at the crosswalk. Out of the corner of my eye I see this bright light.
A HUGE shooting star just streaks throughout the sky. It was so bright that it was blue. There were sparkles like fireworks. It lasted for several seconds and crossed the entire horizon.
"WOAH DID YOU SEE THAT!?"
"Was that a shooting star??"
"That was incredible!"
"I've never seen anything like that in my entire life!"
This girl and I, just the two of us, shared this awesome moment of seeing this incredible shooting star.
And we'll never see each other ever again.
So she's my shooting star friend :)
Hopefully, in her mind, I'm hers, as well.
Not Always The Best Time In A CarGiphy
When I was younger, maybe around 12 (20 years ago), my family was taking a road trip to visit my older sister in another province and my dad had to stay home and work. We got kind of lost and my mom turned off he highway onto a narrow side road to get her bearings. She tried to pull a u-turn on a small driveway (with a locked gate and guard dog/ no trespassing signs) but misjudged the space and had to back into the drive halfway through the turn. She misjudged that too and the rear passenger wheel went off the road and was hanging over the steep ditch that was beside the driveway, and the front wheels were now slightly in the air so we were stuck. My little sisters in the back of the van were freaking out and my mom was starting to panic about what to do (no cell phone, no idea where we really were, and a very inhospitable looking gate that we were stuck in front of). She got us all out of the van (possibly afraid it would fall back into the ditch) and my sisters were just crying on this little patch of driveway.
All of a sudden this old pickup truck comes driving up the road from the opposite way we came (so driving towards the highway) and pulls up next to us. "Hey you guys stuck? Here let me!" A big golden retriever hops out of the box of his truck and runs up to my sisters and just lays in front them and they all forget all their worries and they start petting this friendly dog and the guy hitched up a winch to van and pulled us out in about 2 minutes. He gave my mom directions back to where we wanted to go, hopped back in the truck with his dog and drove back the way he came as if his sole purpose from driving out to the highway from this random country road was to save trapped travellers.
Off we went without another issue and I always think of that guy as being the perfect person at the right place at the right time for what we needed.
Cute With A Tangy Name
I never once spoke to this kid.
My freshman year of high school, he sat behind me during the standardized test. Never saw him again until my junior year. Not even in the hallways.
Then every day in between three classes there he was, heading in the opposite direction of me. We passed each other every day for that whole year.
Then never saw him again.
He sat next to me.
Like, i recognized this guy as the guy who scratched the metal of his pencil on the desk anxiously behind me during the test, with the pretty eyes and swoops hair, for three years. And then he was just the cute guy I passed in the hall every day.
And I didn't even see him at graduation rehearsals. I didn't see the dude until the day of graduation and he was sitting next to me.
Didn't even know his name until the principal said it so he could walk across the stage.
Poor guy was named after a soy sauce. Not really but his name was Kirkland.
The Curious Incident Of The Pizza And The Streaker
I was on a porch in Lexington drinking bourbon with a few of my buddies. It was an autumn night--certainly long pants and hoodie weather, but not all the way into coat territory yet. It was kinda the ghetto and streetlights were few and far between, however in the distance, we could see a man running up the street for all he was worth. As he got closer, it became apparent that he was about our age and wearing nothing but his shoes and his boxer shorts, and that he was carrying a pizza box. This man did not break from his sprint for an instant--we watched him tear up the last hundred yards or so at full, breakneck speed.
"Ay!" my friend Ricky shouted as the young man ran past us. "You alright, buddy?" They guy turned, full deer in the headlights expression, and then walked casually up to our porch.
"You guys want a pizza?" he asked, offering up the box he was carrying. Ricky took the box, opened it, and sure enough--there was an entire untouched pizza.
"Uhhh...thanks, man," Ricky replied. "You want like a shot of bourbon or some pants or anything?"
"No, no, I'm fine," the guy waved dismissively. "You guys have a great night!" And at that, he once again took off sprinting down the street. I watched him go for a minute before turning back to Ricky, who now had his face full of pizza.
"Dude," Ricky commented. "This is really good. It's like...still hot."
I've thought about this for years, and I still have absolutely no explanation for who this semi-nude, pizza-delivering mystery sprinter might be. Wherever you are--thanks, man. That was some seriously good pizza.
Sometimes The Only Upside
I had several ruptured aneurysms in my lung last year and was hospitalized for less than a week.
They put me in a big room, with four other beds.
Suddenly I hear loud laughter in the hallway coming towards my room. The curtains around my bed are closed, but I can tell it's an elderly man and his daughters are with him. He shouts "Any ladies in here?" "Yes." I reply. He grins loudly and says something like, he is a lucky boy, surrounded by pretty ladies, nurses and a ~lady~ room mate.
This man had severe dementia, and his daughters told that he was reliving his best years as a happy and healthy teenager. He was biking a few weeks ago, fell, and had to have hip surgery. He then forgot, biked and played soccer with some strangers in the park. He then fell again, and had to have the surgery all over. But he was so happy, and really made my stay wonderful.
Well, his daughters leave, and he asks if he can draw the curtains. He would love to see his ~lovely lady neighbour~. I tell him, okay. He draws the curtain and sees my nasal cannula, and my IV. He just laughs and tells me, that I probably couldn't play soccer with all that gear. And tells me I look very graceful. He was so lovely. He made me smile and laugh.
Before he came, I felt so lonely sad and was hurting. I had been puking a lot from vertigo and hadn't been able to eat.
The nurses return with dinner, and he asks if we could eat together. He just kept talking about soccer and how he couldn't wait to get out and play. We both had trouble eating and we both vomited after. I think he heard me cry, and he just joked about the food being terrible.
We hugged goodbye when I left a few days after and he said we should play soccer some time.
He really made my stay something else. Bless this man. He was the happiest man I have ever met. :')