Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Kindness of a stranger

Has someone ever been kind to you for no good reason? It doesn't happen all the time but it did this one particular time and I've never forgotten.

I was in university and was invited to spend the weekend with a new crowd of people I'd just met. Actually I was sort of dating the guy who owned the house hosting the weekend gathering.

I didn't want to go.

The people in this crowd were several years older than me, seemed sophisticated beyond belief, had established careers and I felt completely out of place among them. While they discussed ensuites and time shares, I was wondering if I should pay the phone bill or spend the money on a new bus pass.
Everything about me screamed I was a struggling student from my thrift store clothes, to my worn out Doc Martens. I was working two jobs, living in a one bedroom basement apartment, just barely scraping by while finishing up my thesis and looking forward to graduating.

Since he lived out of town, knew I didn't have a vehicle, Ben (the guy hosting the get-together and who I was sort of dating) organized for me to ride up with a couple who were also going. The husband was forgettable but the wife, Debbie, well she shines like a diamond in a ditch full of coal. I think about her often.

Throughout the weekend my discomfort increased with each new activity. I couldn't afford to buy anything when the women invited me to go shopping at a nearby outlet mall and squirmed with shame when we went out for lunch to an expensive restaurant where all I could afford was a side salad and water.

Most conversations during that two days left me dry mouthed and at a loss. I didn't have a clue about investments, or yuppy life, had never played euchre, and had absolutely nothing to contribute to a discussion about golf club memberships.

It was Debbie who eased my out-of-placeness when she could. She didn't ever come out and say that she understood how I felt but small gestures made me aware of her empathy. She showed interest in what I was studying, recalling a few stories about how difficult it had been for her to juggle part time work while she was in school herself. Once she even suggested that we take a walk when she sensed I was at the pinnacle of my discomfort. Looking back, I wish I had just confided in her.

The few dollars I had budgeted for the weekend were earmarked to give Debbie and her husband to thank them for the ride. This I did quietly just as we were about to leave to come home. When her husband suggested we stop for lunch about half way through the trip, my stomach lurched. I had absolutely no money left and was planning to eat when I got back to my tiny apartment. We stopped in front of the restaurant and Debbie got out of the car. She leaned down to move her seat up to let me out and did something I will never forget. She reached down to the floor in front of me and handed me something.

I think you dropped this Kim, it must have slipped out of your purse.

It was a twenty dollar bill.

She understood my situation and saved me the humiliation of having to explain it to them. Needless to say, the relationship between Ben and me fizzled and I never saw Debbie again.

For years, remembering the moment she handed me that money always brought me a sense of shame. However, in the last while I've found my mind wandering to it again. What a beautiful way to help me out. She could have let her ego take over and loudly refuse to take the gas money, or she could have just pretended not to notice my discomfort like the other women. I'm grateful for this experience. I know that I am changed because of it.

I've tried to google her and find her on Facebook to say thank you after all these years. But she's nowhere to be found.

This post is brought to you by Shell's Pour your heart out over at Things I can't say. I took her lead in writing about a time I felt out of place.


  1. I kind of have a lump in my throat after reading this. I hope she's out there somewhere, and realizes in some small way how much this meant to you. Beautiful post.

  2. this is only my third visit to your blog, and the third time I my eyes are welling up with tears! I bet she thinks of you often too.

  3. What a beautiful person she was to do that! I bet that someone helped her at some point in her life and that's why she understood.

  4. What a truly nice lady. How perceptive she was to notice.

    What an awkward postition for you to be put in. I know it wasn't the topic of the post, but it is shocking the guy you were dating wasn't more help!

  5. What a touching story Kim. You remind us about how many good people are really out there. It seems like everyone keeps talking about the world being cold and selfish. Your story is proof that we can make connections with people that will leave a lasting effect on our lives.

  6. Reading this makes me hope that I have touched someones life so memorably.

    What a wonderful and her both.

  7. It is the little things - which to the recipient are anything but little - that mean so very much and stay with us I think. What a very nice lady.

  8. What a great story, and a really cool woman! I hope someday you're able to find her :)

  9. A person you will never forget that touched your life. What a neat story to remind us all that there are still some very good people out there.

  10. I think is just one of those people who are angels in disguise - hiding in plain sight and there just at those moments in life when they are most needed.

  11. I have so many times feel like you did when the people around me seem to just pull money out of a tree, while I look in the dirt for pennies.

    Beautiful story, and God bless Debbie wherever she might be.

  12. What a blessing Kim. I hope you find peace if you can't find her to thank her. I also hope she knows in her heart she did a good thing even if she doesn't hear it from you. :)

  13. I almost cried reading this! That is so amazing :)

  14. I think those moments of kindness are around us everywhere, because people are generally kind. Sometimes we just don't take the time to realize what is happening. the repayment comes when you help another. that twenty (cash not needed) can now be spent by giving someone else a helping hand - this time of year is a good time to be looking for someone to help. a young mother for instance that might need hand-me-down baby cloths perhaps.

  15. Moments like that makes me proud to be a part of the human race. What an awersome woman who understood where you were in your life. Doesn't it ever make you feel like you should pay it forward?


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