Note: We had initially intended to feature this story back in April, but because of the marathon bombings, we delayed it. The Boston Marathon spoken of in this piece is the 2012 marathon.
When one-legged runner Chris Mehmel, of East Sandwich, Mass., was training for the 2012 Boston Marathon, an act of kindness occurred that had him overcome with gratitude.
It was a busy Saturday afternoon just before Christmas. I was the third person in line at the cash register at Trader Joe’s in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. The first person in line was an elderly woman who was having a pleasant conversation with the cashier while helping to pack her 3 bags of groceries. Behind her, and in front of me, was an athletic looking, middle-aged man. Just before the elderly woman retrieved her wallet to pay, the man struck up a quiet conversation with the woman and the cashier. When I saw the elderly woman’s eyes tear up as she gently patted the man’s back, I thought that I had witnessed an act of kindness and generosity. Once the man had left the store I asked the cashier to confirm what I thought I had seen: the man unexpectedly paying for the woman’s groceries. She told me that was exactly what had happened. We both expressed gratitude for having witnessed this kindness; and I reflected on this all day.
When I returned home my daughter Emily had just arrived from New York to celebrate the holidays. I was full of excitement and emotion when I told her the Trader Joe’s story, and she was just as moved as I was. Emily is hard to keep up with because she travels around the globe for a literacy project at Columbia University. She had just returned from Singapore so she was really raking up the frequent flyer miles that give her a shot at upgrading her seat to first class. I know it sounds decadent to travel first class but when you live in the air and in hotels, it is a great time to catch up on lagging sleep. When Emily left after Christmas, the Trader Joe’s incident stayed with her. When she got to Logan Airport to head for the west coast she was not even close to the top of the list for an upgrade but was given a comfortable bulkhead seat at the front of coach. Once she was settled in, a flight crew commotion that halted the boarding progress occurred when a woman in a wheelchair was being shuttled to row 25. Emily offered the woman her seat to be able to have more room and took the woman’s seat in row 25. After about 10 minutes had passed a flight attendant walked over to Emily in row 25 and offered her a first class seat.
I believe the positive energy created by the man at Trader Joe’s had an amazing ripple effect for a lot of people. Thank you to that athletic, middle-aged man in line at Trader Joe’s.
Story submitted by Susan DeLiddo
Photo credit: Scarlatti2004/Flickr
For their honeymoon, Steve Brykman and his wife decided to travel cross-country in their camper. When they reached Wyoming, they decided to take the scenic route, traveling up the Big Horn mountains to catch the view. Seeing as it was September, they thought nothing of it. But as they traveled up the mountain, the weather began to take a turn for the worse. A freak snow storm, they called it. Complete white-out. Then they lost control of the camper, and began traveling down the narrow mountain roads backwards. They flipped over. Fortunately, the roads weren’t empty and the actions of several strangers turned what would have been a nightmare honeymoon into a remarkable story of kindness.
My wife and I were on our honeymoon and we had this souped up ‘84 Westy camper and we decided that we were going to travel across the country for our honeymoon in the camper. And we got to Wyoming, and this was the first week in September and so we decided to take the scenic route which went up into the Big Horn mountains. So we started heading up those mountains, and then it started to rain a little, and then it starts to get cold, and rain starts to freeze on the windshield, hindering our vision. And then it begins to snow. I remember cattle heading down the mountain, which probably should’ve been our first indication we should’ve been out of there. And within like 5 minutes we were in a complete white-out, and it became clear this was going to be just a complete disaster. And then a gust of wind just hit the side of the camper, which is basically just a giant rectangle, and actually spun the camper entirely around so that we were traveling down this mountain backwards. I’m not a very religious person but I remember saying like ‘Okay, God! It’s up to you! It’s your call!” It seemed like forever, but it was probably a few seconds later that we hit the side of the road and rolled the camper upside down on the side of the road that happened to have a side to it. Because on the other side of the road it was just a sheer cliff face. And wound up stopping upside down, and we had to get out of it upside down. My wife, who’s a much quicker thinker than I am was able to hop into the road. I remember thinking like “oh wow that’s amazing that she was able to get all the wedding gifts out of the car and arrange them on the road like that.” Of course, she didn’t. They had just flown out of the vehicle. Fortunately, a car came within 5 or 10 minutes and the guy stopped, and he was training to be a fireman so we knew we were in good hands. And he helped us pack up his car with whatever we needed, and took us down the mountain in the Lovell, Wyoming. And we did go to the hospital and get checked out. We were okay. And the nurse drove us back to the hotel, so I asked her how do we get out of here? The nearest car rental place is out in Cody, Wyoming which is 50-60 miles from where we were. So the nurse was like ‘well I’m going that way anyway so I’ll give you a ride.” So I don’t think she was ‘going that way anyway,’ I think she was just doing it to be nice and to help us get on with our honeymoon.
This experience taught me that there’s always going to be somebody to help you no matter where you are. Because, I mean, we were in the middle of nowhere on a mountain in the middle of a freak snowstorm and here’s a fireman in training coming to our rescue. But there it is.
Photo courtesy of Steve Brykman
Living in poverty can generate stories of kindness, a certain quality of which—I imagine—cannot be experienced by even the slightly well-to-do. As a child, I was struck by my mother’s accounts of her family’s meager Christmases, which colored my sense of the meaning of the holiday. But for a middle-class, second-generation American child, those images—though lasting—could be, at best, a mere copy of the original.
Back in July, we launched this digital experiment called “Kind World.” In it, we explore people’s experiences with random acts of kindness. Over the last several months, we’ve collected dozens of stories and featured many of them right here on our Tumblr.
So, to capture the warmth of the season, we compiled our favorite Kind World stories — each one demonstrating the overwhelming goodness that exists in the world. From a man buying a retail manager’s entire staff a cup of coffee during the hectic holiday sales season to a woman with mitochondrial disease helping a man stuck in his New York City apartment during Superstorm Sandy, these stories detail the human experiences that may not necessarily make the news, but are just as important to share.
Press the play button below to listen to the full compilation.