Good Neighbours: Acts of Kindness Close to Home, from our Readers
A heartwarming collection of stories about community and kindness
A Treasured Friend
I had just gone through three big life changes within nine months: a divorce after 32 years of marriage, a move and receiving custody of my 22-month-old granddaughter. At the same time, an old college friend was diagnosed with a terminal illness and asked me to reach out to some of our classmates to let them know. One of them, Molly, was the first to our friend’s bedside.
We hadn’t spoken in decades, but we kept in touch through the following weeks. It was very overwhelming to raise a toddler and adjust to the heartbreak and depression. One day, I came home to a gaily decorated box filled with birthday gifts for my granddaughter. It was from Molly. We received a similar box with Christmas gifts for both of us soon after.
We’ve received them every birthday, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Halloween for the past four years. I can’t tell you how excited my granddaughter is to open these treasure boxes, but I was also buoyed by the kindness. During a year in which I was struggling with so many life changes, Molly’s extended thoughtfulness helped keep me afloat.
—Roberta Edgar Whitenight, Warrington, Pennsylvania
The first time I got my period, I was in sixth grade. It was our annual sports day at Ansar English School in Perumbilavu. I was sitting with four of my friends, when one of them yelled out “What’s that?!” As I pulled out my white top and saw dark red patches, I began to panic. As is the case in many Indian families, normal topics like menstruation were not discussed, so neither I nor my friends had any idea what was happening to me. A nearby parent heard our commotion and came over. Terrified and embarrassed, I just stood there not knowing what to do. The lady quickly understood and walked me to the bathroom herself, calmly explaining that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. She showed me how to use a sanitary pad, washed my top and took me to a teacher, who contacted my parents. I’ll never forget how one woman’s kindness turned a traumatic moment into a positive coming-of-age experience for a scared, young girl.
—Nahala Nasrin E.A, Thrissur, Kerala
Under Her Wing
Two years ago when our US-based daughter was expecting her first baby, my wife and I were both on hospital beds here in India, battling acute health problems amidst the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our daughter’s in-laws, also India-based, had various pressing issues preventing them from being by her side as well. We felt helpless at not being able to help our child when she needed us, but her American landlady, a retired 72-year-old attorney who lived in the same building, came forward to take over the part of loving parent. She threw her a baby shower, drove her and her husband to the hospital at three a.m. when labour set in and was there throughout her post-delivery recovery. Yes, kindness is truly around every corner of our beautiful world!
—Group Captain Dev Dutta Roy (rtd) and Mrs Baby Roy, Greater Noida
A Change of HeartMy son needed a diaper change right when we arrived for our day at the zoo. In the changing stall, I realized I had only one diaper left in the bag. I hated explaining to my daughter that we had to go home without seeing any animals. She was disappointed but didn’t argue, which made it even sadder. When we emerged from the stall, a woman was waiting for us with a spare diaper in hand. We could stay at the zoo after all! This stranger turned our bad memory into a precious one.
—Rene Bane, Bowie, Maryland
Carrying the Day
I bought a Little Tikes car for the kids but found out too late that it was too big to fit into my sedan. A woman in the parking lot noticed me struggling and offered to put the car in her minivan and follow me home. I never forgot her kindness. Two years later, I noticed someone struggling to fit patio furniture into her car. This time, I was the “woman with a minivan.” I told her the Little Tikes story and that it was my pleasure to pay it forward. We loaded the furniture and I followed her home. She and I stayed in touch, and 25 years later, LeAnne and I are still friends.
—Michele Levine, Silver Spring, Maryland
The Power of Giving
One morning during a visit to Chandigarh, I came across ‘The Wall of Kindness’. My companion explained that the effort had started a few years ago across the city: Citizens would leave clothes, utensils, blankets, shoes etc. along the wall, and any one in need of the things on offer could simply pick it up. It is a dignified way of sharing, without anyone feeling belittled. Punjabi culture encourages sharing and caring for each other—a philosophy also observed in langars (communal meals) at gurudwaras. It reminded me of the Jewish gemach (Hebrew for ‘acts of loving kindness’), that operates similarly. In a world full of growing indifference, the Wall serves as a reminder of community systems that encourages reuse and lets the little guy know, that none of us are alone. We are all connected.
—Sunanda Satwah, Mumbai
Forever in Our Good Book
In a few years, my daughter Olivia would be diagnosed with autism, ADHD, and a hearing impairment. But on this morning at a pancake house, I knew only that she was an extremely challenging (and adorable) two-year-old. Luckily, most of the other diners seemed entertained when Olivia toddled up to their table and introduced herself. She spent an especially long time at a table of older gentlemen, one of whom eventually walked her back to where we were sitting. He told me they’d loved Olivia’s company, and asked for our mailing address.
A few weeks later, we received a package from him containing the book Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw. It took Olivia and me several reads to get through it without crying. Now she is about to graduate from high school. We still sing the book’s song to each other every night: “I love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” Then we hug. Sometimes twice. That gentleman’s kindness has made a lasting difference in our lives.
—Bonnie Weiss, Duvall, Washington
More than a decade ago, while pursuing a hotel management degree in Switzerland, I had to relocate to Zurich from Lucerne for a six-month internship. The hotel didn’t offer accommodation to its staff, so I had to find my own. It was a titanic task, as Zurich is exorbitant, but I found a tiny room that suited my budget. I soon became acquainted with the building residents, among them a father and son duo from Lahore. Their warm welcome, made me feel as if I had known them for ages. When I told them I was from Amritsar, they seemed more delighted still. “All three of us are from Punjab. Forget the border. If you need anything, we are there for you,” they said. True to their word, they shared food, cheered me when I got homesick and gave me shopping coupons to help save money. Six months later, my internship was extended by 15 days. My lease, however, had ended and once again I had nowhere to live. Neither my uncle in Zurich nor a friend who lived close-by could help. But my Lahore neighbours invited me to move in with them the moment they heard of my troubles. A manager at the hotel was able to arrange a room for me that day, but just the way this family opened up their home to me left my heart so full of gratitude and awe. The borders between India and Pakistan may be rooted in hostility, but the hearts across the line are certainly not!
—Rameshinder S. Sandhu, Amritsar
Be Our Guests
Years ago, when my daughter was four years old, we went on a trip to Orlando, pinching pennies for weeks beforehand in hopes that we could spend a day at Disney World. Waiting in line for tickets, I was growing less and less confident that we’d saved enough to afford them. Out of nowhere, a man walked up and offered us free tickets. He told us that he and his wife were park employees. They got the tickets as a perk and didn’t want them to go to waste. We thanked them profusely and walked through the gates of the Magic Kingdom together. They even got us discounts on souvenirs. Then they shooed us off and told us to go have a wonderful day.
—Karen Mills-Tribble, Richmond, Kentucky
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