The Kindness of Strangers

13 07 2014

Last night, I went to St. Pete to meet up with one of my former colleagues from my time in DC. She recently moved to Florida, so we grabbed a beer at the Ale & the Witch, and caught up on life. One of the topics that we chatted about was how much nicer the people in Florida are as compared to DC.

Now, I loved my time in DC, and I have some fabulous friends there, and I know this is a blanket generalization, but for the most part, everyone in DC is doing their own thing, focused on getting themselves from point A to point B, busy busy busy, and not really stopping to say hi or lend a hand to a neighbor in need. I feel like much of our society is actually this way– selfishly focused on the things they need to do and not taking the two seconds to smile at that stranger walking down the street or to say “hi” to the neighbor across the hall as they walk in their apartment. Like my friend, I had noticed that folks in Florida were generally a bit friendlier, but I hadn’t recently taken the time to really stop and think about it, to notice it, and to extend that kindness myself.

As we listened to the Applebutter Express and sipped our local Dunedin brew, an older gentleman came up and asked if he could sit at the third chair at our table. We got to chatting with him, and he was just so friendly! Throughout the course of the night, my friend and I interacted with several other groups- not groups of young, partying college kids, but other adults (some with kids) who were just enjoying the evening air, live music and a good brew. It all felt just so welcoming and put a smile on my face.

My friend and I said our goodbyes a little after 11, and I was nearly home when, sitting at a stoplight, I was rear-ended by a man who I am 99% sure was drunk. And then he drove off.

I won’t go in to details here, but in all of the commotion, the one thing that amazed me was the kindness of strangers. FOUR different people helped or offered help while I stood on the side of the road. These people who I had never met offered to stay with me while I waited for the police, provided me with the guy’s tag number, and two even tried to chase him down. It was late, and I’m sure all of them were headed home to crawl in their beds- the one guy had his nephew in the car,  who was fast asleep, exhausted from the day’s fishing trip. Another guy was on his way home from a long shift in a restaurant kitchen.  But they put their needs aside to lend me a helping hand. I like to think that I’m a strong woman, but in that chaos, I was scared, shaken up, frustrated, and felt helpless.  Having other human beings there to reassure me that everything would be okay was a life saver.  I don’t know these people, and may never see any of them again, but I can not thank them enough for just being there, taking the time to help a fellow human being. I am so grateful.

I can’t and won’t speculate about how this situation would have panned out if it had happened it DC, but I just found it so ironic that so many people offered to help me out on an evening where I had just been talking about how friendly Floridians are. Perhaps this was the reminder I needed for myself to be a little kinder to strangers. To take the time to smile, lend a helping hand, or offer some assistance when I can. We’re all here trying to do the best we can, and sometimes a little kindness goes a long way.