TED Conversations

Debra Smith

TEDCRED 200+

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

Could you tell me about a small kindness from a stranger that made a real difference to you (in whatever way)?

If I look back at my life, the sweet small kindnesses of strangers are pivotal and really combine to help shape my world view - and they probably have no idea.

+4
Share:
progress indicator
  • Aug 3 2012: I was getting prepped for surgery and I was in the operating room. I was 19 and I was all alone. I was on the table and the room was so cold. I was starting to feel the effects of the anasthesia and I was shaking from the cold and being nervous. The nurse by my side held my hand until I went under. I didn't feel alone. I will never forget how such a small gesture of kindness could make such a big difference. I try to make people's day whenever I can. I am famous for letting people into traffic when they would otherwise be stuck during rush hour.
    • thumb
      Aug 3 2012: Dan, thank you. Isn't it astounding what far reaching consequences such kindnesses have. Your reaction is my reaction too. I find that amazing that from where ever you are and where I am, as similar and dissimilar as the places may be and even as we might be, our human reaction of gratitude manifests the same way. I am so glad you are here and even glader you shared your story.
  • thumb
    Aug 3 2012: I was alone in a hospital room in Toronto many years ago when the surgeon who had saved my life that day came in and sat on my bed. The surgery had been so extensive that they did not accomplish all that they had hoped to do and they had left a mass in my abdomen. She told me she got all of the first cancer but that I had ovarian cancer – thank goodness she was wrong but neither of us knew it then.
    I was devastated and she then left. I was in trouble emotionally so I picked up the phone in the hope of speaking to my then husband. No go. I tried again with my cell phone and for some reason I was not allowed to call cell to cell with someone in transit between Toronto and Niagara (maybe it had something to do with cellphone plans)- I do not remember but I was told it was not possible. I hung up that phone and that aching need and loneliness threatened to eat me alive so I picked up the phone again and dialed an operator. I got a young man. I told him where I was and what I needed in my calmest possible voice. He simply put me through.
    I never knew his name. I never said more than a polite thank you. He heard me and he helped me. He could not possibly have been rewarded for one of the greatest kindnesses of my life. He helped me on my way.
    • thumb
      Aug 3 2012: That is very touching Debra. He must have heard the desperate need in your voice. It makes you wonder about the windows these operators get into people's lives. A view seconds of stress, happiness, desperation, elation.
      • thumb
        Aug 3 2012: Henk, as you were first to respond I feel a special bond and I want to thank you. Did you notice that not one of these kindnesses failed to change their recipient? What else in our lives has such power?. I loved the fact that you helped that lady, and I try to do the same wherever I can. It is NOT a debt but it is an endless source of joy.
        • thumb
          Aug 3 2012: That's right Debra, it touches us deeply. Do you remember Groundhog Day (the movie) where the main character begins to use his knowledge of the day to help people with little gestures here and there and only then is able to move on with his life. These touches give me hope for humanity as a whole. If people are capable of small selfless acts, then there is hope for all of us.
      • thumb
        Aug 3 2012: I promise you that this is true that is my favourite movie, Henk. I also love the version of A Christmas Carole with George C. Scott as Scrooge. Somehow to me they tell a profoundly similar story. Thanks.
    • Comment deleted

      • thumb
        Aug 3 2012: Thank you Don, I think it would be great if you were able to tell the story on the front page of your webiste here for the convenience of this audience. I am delighted that in extremis you found someone who was kind enough to help you especially in a Canadian winter. It sounds like a big kindness to me!
        • Aug 4 2012: Hello Debra,
          I know Don and the extreme elder abuse he is experiencing. The Kindness he received was amazing. The only kindness that compares is Don's kindness.

          You Debra, appear to radiate kindness. Your suffering has also been unbearable..
      • thumb
        Aug 4 2012: Eberhard, you have no reply button so I hope you find this note. Sweet person, thank you but as you see the human spirit is amazing and I find that it is actually bearable and we can each commit to never passing it along. That- for me- is the victory in it! Pass along the kindness instead.
  • thumb
    Aug 3 2012: Just a month back while I was walking out of a shopping mall along with my family , in dark on the pavement my younger son was running and suddenly got stuck with an iron bar of the pavement railing. I got puzzled thinking of serious injury and he was crying like anything......wife worried, elder son also started weeping.

    I was looking for something cold to rub before I take him to emergency....one of my friend was with us crossed the street running to buy a bottle of cold water........meantime out of dark 3 /4 men came out , two of them were holding small chunks of ice in their hands and were offering to me.....they were actually three wheeler driver waiting in front of mall fo catch passengers.........I don't konw how and from where they brought ice so quick....how they understood I am looking for ice , as I don't speak their language neither they speak mine nor they speak English.I

    was short of words to thank them.........my elder son later with all his childlike excitement told me he was surprised to see such good people in a foreign country........Yes every country has lot of good people was my answer to him

    By the way , 20 minutes later we were confirmed at emergency that nothing is wrong with my son.......
    • thumb
      Aug 3 2012: i am delighted that your boy is fine and thrilled to know that this crucial kindness is everywhere. Thank you, Salim!
      • thumb
        Aug 3 2012: Thanks Debra and also welcome you are....

        I feel the world is still livable despite of all huge man made as well as natural catastrophes time to time because of such small but great kindness....

        As usual you opened up a very impactful and close to life discussion.Have a good day
        • thumb
          Aug 3 2012: "I feel the world is still livable " -it sure is with men like you in it!
          Thank you.
    • thumb
      Aug 3 2012: Your extraordinary ability to find great lessons in everyday experiences always amazes me Salim.
  • thumb
    Aug 4 2012: A small kindness that someone has shown me that didnt mean much to them but it meant a lot to me was when i was younger, i didnt have my dad around. But my best friend's dad would always come to my games and cheer me on...and just me being on the soccer field and recognising his face and seeing him smiling made my world. Just the support and care he showed made a huge difference on who i am as a person and what i would like to be in the future :)
  • thumb
    Aug 3 2012: When in a foreign hospital after a spinal fracture and forbidden to bend, the husband of the other lady in my room helped me put my sandals on, which allowed me to walk around. That one small kindness allowed me to get outside the four walls of the room, which was a huge relief after being flat on my back for several days.
    • thumb
      Aug 3 2012: Thank you Anne for your genorous sharing. I am delighted you got out and that you joined us!
  • thumb
    Aug 3 2012: All right, that's my story...

    I was about 10 years old, it was a beautiful and sunny day, and my friend and I were on a bicycle tour reaching a nearby town from home. Having no eyes at that age for any usual attractions such as architecture or landscapes the only thing we immediately noticed was this little snack-shop serving those beautifully fresh and golden-brown French fries.

    After cash check of our pocket money we had to face the horrible fact, that we were missing 10 cent of the selling price for one portion and didn't even know about the custom in trade of beating down the price.

    But both of us were very hungry, so the only chance we had was to find those missing 10 cent hopefully hiding somwere on the ground. And that's what we did. Heads down, searching the parking lot...

    After some while a man was passing by wondering what we may have lost. Nothing, we said but that we were hoping to find a small single coin to get some fries. He smiled, got out his wallet and handed over to us the most beautiful 10 cent coin I have ever seen in my whole life so far.

    This man became our hero that day. We never met again, but he remained within my memory ever since...
    • thumb
      Aug 3 2012: i could not love this more. Thank you so much!
  • thumb
    Aug 3 2012: I was once on a flight from Geneva to London and was seated next to lady who was clearly worried about something. We got talking and she had been at a catholic convention representing a Malaysian group (she was a nun). It turned out that she was worried about her tight connection for her onward flight in London. As I had 2 hours spare, I decided to show her the way at London airport. It took 15 minutes and she made her flight.

    A few weeks later I received an email from a stranger who wrote: "dear Sir, I want to thank you. When I was really worried about missing my flight, God sent me and angel who helped me out". Me, an angel?

    I don't know who was more affected, her by my help or me by her thank you message. Either way, these random acts are free and generate tons of good feeling.

    By the way, i you haven't seen "The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain", go see it now. It's entirely about these acts of kindness.
    • thumb
      Aug 3 2012: Really? I will find it Henk and thank you for the story and the recommendation.
  • Aug 11 2012: My car and house keys once got lost along a road somewhere when my wife drove off with her car after I set them down on top of the trunk while the car was parked in the garage. The next day when I noticed the keys were missing we retraced her route in the car hoping to find them. No luck. A couple of days later, after we had all but given up hope of finding the keys, my wife took an early morning walk down the street to make one last attempt and found them set on top of a mail box where they were easy to see. Don't know who found the keys and put them where we could see them, but I was grateful because it saved me a lot of trouble having to make duplicates and change locks.

    Another time I left my ATM card in a machine and a stranger went out of his way to return it. Had the stranger not returned the card, I would've taken the precaution of closing the account and set up a new one even though the chances of anyone accessing the account were slim. I even offered the guy a respectable monetary reward for his effort, but he refused to accept it.

    Can't say how these deeds affected my morals or view of humanity, if that's what you want to know, because I've done similar things myself and generally have a good opinion of humanity. But I'm always grateful for the kindness and glad to share the experience. Hope this helps.
  • thumb
    Aug 7 2012: Here is a group and a video who expresses that idea of small kindnesses in a very approachable way:

    http://youtu.be/Rs38lKxmtI4

    Can't resist! Its like that potato chip ad!

    http://youtu.be/WZzraWFgpgE
  • thumb
    Aug 5 2012: Oh, I've never seen her afterwards, what it's a pity. I didn't get the job but her attitude to me showed me how worth people can be even when they are in a contest. That's the moral of the story, I think! Thnks for reading and commenting my response.
    • thumb
      Aug 5 2012: hello Again Jose! This almost makes the story better. I love that you remember her name. She is not just anyone, she is a real person who chose goodness when she might have made another choice. I think your story is wonderful. Thank you!
  • thumb
    Aug 5 2012: Hi Debra. Once I was making a civil servance job application and I've missed the pen at home. I was just some minutes from beggining the exam, so, I asked some inthe classroom to lending me a pen. Everybody look at me shocked and astonished. Then, a girl, who I had never seen her before, lended me a pen, her name was Aline. Thanks to her I made the exam. That was a great signal of kindness. It's been kind of her lending me the pen, dontcha you think?
    • thumb
      Aug 5 2012: Jose, thank you for taking the time to share your experience. If you read my response, I am hoping you will extend that kindness to tell me how it affected you, beyond getting the job, and did you ever see Aline again?. Aline who ever you are- people from half way around the world are glad you are among us!
  • Comment deleted

  • Aug 4 2012: Debra, thanks for calling my attention to the misuse of words.
    I found my purse at home, where I left it, I did not pay the man, but I'm sure God will bless him for his kindness.
  • Aug 4 2012: One day I boarded a taxi in Johannesburg; on reaching the last bus stop I realized that I didn't have my purse with me. So, no money for the taxi driver.
    If I was the one(being an actor) I'd think 'this guy is trying to be smart, he doesn't wanna pay'

    The man just smiled and told me not to worry.
    Believe me, its a rare act of kindness in the concrete jungle called Jozi.
    • thumb
      Aug 4 2012: That was a real investment in kindness for that man! Were you able to find him and pay him later? Did you find your wallet? Thank you, your last line is an expression I have never heard before although I have heard its opposite in literature. Thanks for taking the time to share that this goodness is everywhere.
  • thumb
    Aug 4 2012: OK. Two years ago, when I was like 15, it was the first time I left for America, alone. It also was my first time to take a flight alone. When I arrived at SFC airport, I had a difficult time claiming my baggage and finding the next terminal. So I went to the information counter. There was a man in front of me. So I had to wait, and when it was my turn, he stayed there and listened to the conversation I had with the employee. Surprisingly, he goes, "Hey, I can walk you around, come here." So the guy actually walked me to the baggage claim place and, after taking a look on my board pass, he walked me to the next terminal. I was totally amazed by his kindness. When I expressed my appreciation, he just said "no problem", waved his hand, and walked away.
    • thumb
      Aug 4 2012: Welcome here Hugo Zhang! Thank you for sharing this story of kindness. I bet you are willing to help others too.
  • thumb
    Aug 3 2012: Besides meeting all these guys here on Ted? lol

    Europe had some really nice guys. When I first arrived in Denmark, I was pretty much completely lost. Then a taxi driver noticed me and took me to a hostel where I could stay for the night. We had a nice conversation and all, and he told me a lot about Copenhagen and showed me around.

    While I still disagree a lot with their unnecessarily bureaucratic way of doing things, they really are nice people overall.
    • thumb
      Aug 3 2012: We love you and your story too. Thanks to the good people of Copenhagen for taking good care of you!