When my grandson Max told his mother, Andrea, to donate any check she would give him for his 21st birthday, Andrea got an idea.
She handed Max’s brother Charlie a video camera. Then she took out 21 $10 bills from the bank and bought 21 apples at the supermarket. When they spotted a homeless man, Andrea told him, “Today is my son Max’s 21st birthday, and he asked me to give a gift to someone to help him celebrate.” She handed the man a $10 bill and an apple. The man smiled into the camera and announced, “Happy birthday, Max!”
Soon, they passed out their booty to men and women waiting in line at a soup kitchen. In a unified chorus, they wished Max, “Happy birthday!”
At a pizza parlor, Andrea left $50 and told the owners to feed the hungry. “Happy birthday, Max!” they shouted.
With one last $10 bill and apple, they stopped at Andrea’s sister’s office. Unable to contain her laughter or her tears, she bellowed into the camera, “Happy birthday, Max!”
~ Dr. Donald Stoltz, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
It was one of my first missions on a gunship during the Vietnam War. I was scanning for enemy fire when I spotted a bright object that looked as if it were coming straight at us. “Missile! Missile!” I shouted into my interphone. The pilot jerked the airplane as hard as he could, dumping guys from one side of the craft to the next. Well, turns out the “missile” was a flare we had just dropped. Suffice it to say, the guys weren’t pleased.
Back at the base, my commander put an arm around my shoulder. “Sergeant Hunter,” he said, “you keep calling them like you see them. Better safe than sorry.” That kind act gave me the confidence to be one of the top gunners in my squadron.
~ Douglas Hunter, Fort Walton Beach, Florida
Driving home in a blizzard, I noticed a vehicle trailing close behind me. Suddenly, my tire blew! I pulled off the road, and so did the other car. A man jumped out from behind the wheel and without hesitation changed the flat. “I was going to get off two miles back,” he said. “But I didn’t think that tire looked good.”
~ Marilyn Attebery, Spokane Valley, Washington
When my husband died unexpectedly, a coworker took me under her wing. Every week for an entire year, she would send me a card saying “Just Thinking of You” or “Hang in There.” She saved my life.
~ Jerilynn Collette, Burnsville, Minnesota
As I walked through the parking lot, all I could think about was the dire diagnosis I had handed my patient Jimmy: pancreatic cancer. Just then, I noticed an elderly gentleman handing tools to someone working under his stalled car. That someone was Jimmy. “Jimmy, what are you doing?” I yelled out.
Jimmy dusted off his pants. “My cancer didn’t tell me not to help others, Doc,” he said, before waving at the old man to start the car. The engine roared to life. The old man thanked Jimmy and drove off. Then Jimmy got into his car and took off as well. Take-home message: Kindness has no limits and no restrictions.
~ Mohammed Basha, Gainesville, Florida
Last December, before work, I stopped at a deli and ordered an everything bagel with cream cheese. It was toasty warm, and I couldn’t wait to dig in. But as I left the store, I noticed an older indigent gentleman sitting at the bus stop. Knowing it would probably be his only warm meal of the day, I gave him the bagel.
But all was not lost for me. Another customer from the deli offered me half of her bagel. I was so delighted because I realized that in one way or another, we are all looked after.
~ Liliana Figueroa, Phoenix, Arizona
A woman at our yard sale wore a perfume that smelled heavenly and familiar. “What are you wearing?” I asked.
“White Shoulders,” she said. Suddenly, I was bowled over by a flood of memories. White Shoulders was the one gift I could count on at Christmas from my late mother.
We chatted awhile, and she bought some things and left. A few hours later, she returned holding a new bottle of White Shoulders. I don’t recall which one of us started crying first.
~ Media Stooksbury, Powell, Tennessee
I saw a dress in a consignment shop that I knew my granddaughter would love. But money was tight, so I asked the store owner if she could hold it for me. “May I buy the dress for you?” asked another customer.
“Thank you, but I can’t accept such a gracious gift,” I said. Then she told me why it was so important for her to help me. She’d been homeless for three years, she said, and had it not been for the kindness of strangers, she would not have been able to survive.
“I’m no longer homeless, and my situation has improved,” she said. “I promised myself that I would repay the kindness so many had shown me.” She paid for the dress, and the only payment she would accept in return was a heartfelt hug.
~ Stacy Lee, Columbia, Maryland
I was balancing caring for a toddler and working a full-time job, all while my Navy husband was on extended duty overseas. One evening, the doorbell rang. It was my neighbor, a retired chief petty officer, holding a breadboard loaded with a freshly cooked chicken and vegetable stew. “I’ve noticed you’re getting a little skinny,” he said. It was the best meal I’d had in months.
~ Patricia Fordney, Corvallis, Oregon
One evening, I left a restaurant just ahead of a woman assisting her elderly mom. I approached the curb and paused to see if my arthritic knees could climb it. To my right appeared an arm to assist. It was that of the elderly mom. My heart was so touched.
~ Donna Moerie, Goldsboro, North Carolina
Leaving a store, I returned to my car only to find that I’d locked my keys and cell phone inside. A teenager riding his bike saw me kick a tire and say a few choice words. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
I explained my situation. “But even if I could call my wife,” I said, “she can’t bring me her car key, since this is our only car.” He handed me his cell phone. “Call your wife and tell her I’m coming to get her key.”
“That’s seven miles round trip.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
An hour later, he returned with the key. I offered him some money, but he refused. “Let’s just say I needed the exercise,” he said. Then, like a cowboy in the movies, he rode off into the sunset.
~ Clarence W. Stephens, Nicholasville, Kentucky
I forgot about the rules on liquids in carry-on luggage, so when I hit security at the airport, I had to give up all my painting supplies.
When I returned a week later, an attendant was at the baggage area with my paints. Not only had he kept them for me, but he’d looked up my return date and time in order to meet me.
~ Marilyn Kinsella, Canmore, Canada
While going through a divorce, my mother fretted over her new worries: no income, the same bills, and no way to afford groceries. It was around this time that she started finding boxes of food outside our door every morning.
This went on for months, until she was able to land a job. We never did find out who it was who left the groceries for us, but they truly saved our lives.
~ Jamie Boleyn, Emmett, Idaho
My neighbor, Jim, had trouble deciding if he wanted to retire from the construction field, until he ran into a younger man he’d worked with previously. The young man had a wife and three children and was finding it difficult to make ends meet, since he hadn’t worked in some time.
The next morning, Jim went to the union office and submitted his retirement paperwork. As for his replacement, he gave them the name of the young man. That was six years ago, and that young husband and father has been employed ever since.
~ Miranda MacLean, Brutus, Michigan
When the supermarket clerk tallied up my groceries, I was $12 over what I had on me. I began to remove items from the bags, when another shopper handed me a $20 bill. “Please don’t put yourself out,” I told him.
“Let me tell you a story,” he said. “My mother is in the hospital with cancer. I visit her every day and bring her flowers. I went this morning, and she got mad at me for spending my money on more flowers. She demanded that I do something else with that money. So, here, please accept this. It is my mother’s flowers.”
~ Leslie Wagner, Peel, Arkansas