The Kindness of Strangers

Today was turning out to be a stressful one for me and I was dreading my monotonous trip to the grocery store, as I always do. I felt on edge and tearful about a couple things and just didn’t want to go out in public. The fridge is empty though, so I had no choice. But as a delaying tactic on the way there, I stopped at a drive-thru to get a fish sandwich. The young girl who handed my food out the window actually made eye contact and smiled at me, which immediately and unexpectedly lifted my spirits. I ate the sandwich while watching some sparrows in a nearby shrub, and when my stomach was full I felt better about facing the grocery store. So I went in, planning to make a quick trip through for the bare minimum to get us through a few days.

Within the first two minutes a stranger stopped me and we had this exchange:

Him: Did anyone ever tell you that you look like Laura Bush?

Me: Yeah, all the time.

Him: Really? She’s a very attractive woman, by the way.

Me: Oh, how sweet, thank you.

Him: Really, you could almost double for her.

Me: (laughing) I’ve actually heard it a lot more in the past couple of weeks….

Him: Did you get a new hairstyle or something?

Me: Yes, I did!

Him: I’m sure that’s it.

I think it's the eyes....

I think it’s the crazy eyes….

LauraI’ve been hearing this comment off and on for more than a decade, since Mrs. Bush became nationally-known as the First Lady way back in 2000. I didn’t like it at first because I thought she had a sort of quirky-looking face. But then I realized that I have the same quirky-look about my face, so I totally see why people comment on it.Β (I really hate every picture ever taken of me, but I’m showing this so you can see what I’m talking about here. I’m not sure if the resemblance will come across in a still photo the same way it comes across in person, but here it is anyway.)

I just wish I had told that nice man how he’d made my day. I almost went back to do that, but I still felt sort of weepy and was afraid I’d burst into tears and make a fool of myself. Have you ever felt like crying when someone was nice to you? That’s how I felt right then. (Menopause is such a joy…)

Then on the way home I remembered what I’d posted on Facebook about a week ago: “The rudeness of people around here is astounding.” I generally try not to write depressing stuff like that on social media, but that particular day I really needed to get it off my chest. Β It had been one of those days where other drivers were aggressive and rude, fellow shoppers let doors close in my face, and store clerks were not appreciative of my business.

These two incidents remind me of what a profound impact we all have on each other as we move about in the world. Even casual interactions can make someone’s day better or worse, can’t they? If you’re like me, you may be finding it harder to tolerate the increased rudeness in our society these days. Small kindnesses have become so unusual that they are much more appreciated. Imagine what the world would be like if we all tried to lift each other up in our daily interactions instead of just viewing everyone else as someone we have to “put up with” to get through our own day. We all have bad days when we don’t feel like being nice to strangers, including me. But that 30-second conversation today was a good reminder to me of just how much difference you can make in another person’s day, and it reaffirms my goal to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

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10 Responses to The Kindness of Strangers

  1. Littlesundog says:

    I love this post, Kim. I feel the same ill feelings about getting out to shop, enduring the “masses” and dealing with poor customer service these days. Recently, I have had some good and unexpected “nice” experiences with strangers. I too, almost got emotional during these encounters… so moved by people’s kindness and good thoughts or deeds.

    Funny how varied our perspectives are! I wouldn’t use the word quirky at all! I looked at both of the photos you posted. Laura’s looks like she’s leery, unsure, and guarded – but attempting to put her kindest face out there. I’m sure she had to be that way most of the time to ward off media constantly bothering her. Your photo (to me) exudes interest, hope, willingness to listen, and maybe just a tad bit guarded. But that is normal I think, for HSP’s to be a bit guarded. Overall, your smile is confident and your eye’s kind and warm. I’m an eye person, but a smile always distracts me. I think smiles are our best asset, no doubt!

  2. Donna Madrid-Simonetti says:

    Aww…Kim. I hope you are doing okay. Your writing is so emotional. What a sweetheart of a man. I actually think you are more attractive than L. Bush.Anyway… while I was in the Chiricahua Mts. I came across some other campers. I wasn’t feeling well & was hungry. A kind lady made me the best PB&J I had ever eaten. Acts of kindness by
    strangers can sure leave one with hope. Must keep it going.

    • Kim says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Donna. Sounds like you had a nice encounter too. I haven’t noticed if you’d shared much about your trip yet on FB…I hope you will though. πŸ™‚

  3. Hi Kim. I saw your lovely picture in my reader and had to click and see what it was about. I’m so glad I did! Your writing always brings a smile to my face and mirrors and validates what I so often feel. Recently I discovered Peapod grocery delivery in my area and I love it because I so often dread going to the grocery for the same reasons as you! haha. And you are much CUTER than Laura Bush in my opinion. Not a bit quirky-looking to me!! Cute as ever! πŸ˜€

    • Kim says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Roxanne. It makes me happy to know that we share so much of our outlook on the world.

      I used Peapod for a while when we lived in Columbus and loved it. It really helps eliminate those impulse buys at the supermarket (Fritos and Oreos!).

  4. BTW, a satisfied tanned happy face beats a made-up pasty white any day! You are lovely!

  5. I learned a long time ago that a way to approach the world was to smile at people! They never know what you are thinking – and for a guy smiling at women it might be strange – but almost always – even when I was younger and more studly and perhaps more fearful? – I would get a smile back! I know it is not as easy as a woman to greet with a smile. Sadly! People find compliments hard to accept without thinking about ulterior motives.. Some are inappropriate like “you have a nice – whatever”- and I am always suspicious I might say the wrong thing like “you are really beautiful” (as I sometimes want to do but never do) and get misinterpreted, but a smile never seems to hurt. Often I do not get a smile back, but as I age, I guess I am still running maybe 85%! Actually, many years ago I did a thing where I smiled at everyone (men and women) I passed for two weeks. Then, I think I was running maybe 95% for a return smile! I know it is different for a woman, but sharing good blessings still will win overall.
    On the other hand,I definitely agree that rudeness has increased perhaps logarithmically over the past decade or so and I wonder if I should give up trying.
    And, I note that my comments only apply to when you get “face contact”.. When we remain :anonymous” as on the freeway or choose to ignore those who ignore us as we go about our business we are also the anonymous. that “they” can choose to hate because we are not them.
    It is all silly and stupid not want to share happiness!!!

    • Kim says:

      How interesting that you did a “smile experiment,” Dr. Bob. You could have fooled me into believing that you were still conducting that one, because you always seem to be smiling and spreading your unique brand of joy. I hope all is well with you and Judy these days.

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