The Kindness of Strangers

Susan - Ephrata, Pennsylvania
Entered on January 22, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50

In A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams, a shattered Blanche DuBois responds to a doctor’s compassion by uttering, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” I, too, have come to rely upon the helpfulness of strangers. Indeed, this faith in the goodwill of others has never ceased to be rewarded.

Recently, on a chilly December evening, I was waiting in the car for my partner. Suddenly, the car just stopped. I turned it off, hoping it was just a glitch and would magically start in a few minutes. If this did not work, I would call upon my favorite strangers, my auto club, who has gotten me out of many scrapes in the past. I, however, did not have to do anything. As I was contemplating my plight, there was a knock on my window. A young woman offered to jump the car. After the engine sprang to life, she again volunteered her services, if the car should need another jump.

I can recount many such stories. Two men happened by in a large truck when my partner and I were lodged in a snow bank. They promptly pulled us out, no questions asked. A Mennonite couple regularly comes by the house to inquire if someone is in need of their prayers. Coincidentally or not, they always seem to appear when faith is especially required.

One day I was driving down the narrow alley behind the house and needed to back up the car to let a garbage truck pass. For some, this task would have been a no brainer. For me, whose spatial and motor skills are mediocre at best, it was torment. I struggled mightily until I finally got the car in the right place. As the truck driver passed me, he smiled and said, “You did good.” I was so moved, I immediately broke down in tears. When I had collected myself, I called the sanitation company and asked that the driver be praised for his empathy.

Finally, my partner and I decided to rent tuxedos for our commitment ceremony. We approached the door of the shop literally in a sweat, as we did not know how we would be received. The woman who waited on us did not show the least bit of disdain at our request and treated us like any other customers. When you are in a minority, the goodwill of others takes on poignancy. It can make the difference between becoming bitter and sustaining hope for a better future.

Therefore, in this I believe: The inherent kindness of those around us.