I Believe In the Kindness of Strangers

Jeremy - Piedmont, California
Entered on March 16, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe in the kindness of strangers. I believe in a friendly “hello” when I walk past the woman walking her dog in the morning. I believe in picking up the ball and throwing it back to the kid whose friend overthrew him. I believe in chasing after the man who was in such a rush that he forgot his wallet behind. You might not even know what you’ve done, but it is amazing what that one small gesture of kindness can do to impact and greatly improve someone’s day. Stories of kindness are often overshadowed by more “interesting” stories involving crime, hatred, and violence. Tales of kindness can inspire people to improve their lives and the lives of others.

There is one story of kindness that has stuck with me ever since I first heard it, as if it were my own memory.

Simon was traveling through Africa on an adventure to experience something he had never done before. He traveled mostly by foot, but whenever he got too tired of walking, or too cold to sleep outdoors, or too lonely to be completely isolated in a place he had never been, he would try to find a road where someone might be willing to pick him up. Fortuitously, as Simon stuck his thumb up while walking down the never-ending road, a truck came to a slow stop right in front of him. Simon tentatively approached the grumbling truck with the bug-splattered rear window. A man and a woman sat in the two front seats, and four young children sat immutable in the back seats, focusing completely on Simon. The man driving the truck asked Simon if he needed a ride, and Simon responded that he would greatly appreciate one.

After 45 minutes, with no words exchanged, they arrived at a small, two-room hut that the family called “home”. Simon followed them into their house, half-regretting accepting a ride with a complete stranger. As Simon settled into the house, he began to convince himself that he was with nice people, and the tight grip in his hands loosened. Simon even worked up the courage to ask for some food.

The man didn’t seem to understand at first, but after many hand gestures, he recognized Simon’s desire. He called out to one of his sons, who appeared in the room with a small plate. On the plate was a piece of cheese. Simon, a little disappointed, accepted the pebble of cheese. After he finished with one bite, Simon asked if he could have a little more. The father once again called to his son. His son, who looked a little upset, unwillingly walked out of the room, returning with an equally small piece of cheese. Simon once again quietly consumed the cheese, and once again requested a little more. The man replied “no”. Simon, who let his angry hunger get to him, began to curse in English at the man. The man shook his head with a bewildered look on his face. The man’s wife, who had not let out single word since Simon was picked up, blurted out, “No more! No more food!” in a terribly desperate voice.

Simon suddenly understood the situation. These people just sacrificed their entire dinner, and quite possibly their breakfast as well, in order to please their guest. These people, who had no reason whatsoever to express any kindness towards this seemingly unappreciative American tourist, gave him great treatment without any hesitation. These people were extremely kind to a total stranger.

This experience forever changed Simon’s outlook on life. This story could change so many other people’s outlooks on their lives. With so many quarrels, arguments and disagreements between people who do not understand one another, there seems to be a decline in any hopes of harmonization. The kindness of one stranger to another is what will ultimately bring about peace to this world of conflict.