html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: On talking to strangers.

Monday, September 24, 2007

On talking to strangers.

Yesterday while we were cleaning, a handsome older black man with an easy gait weaved through our piles on the sidewalk. "Look at that sight," he said, and I thought he meant all the crap we were moving around and us working so hard. No, he meant my baby nephew, who had turned his huge brown eyes on him. "Now that is beautiful. Innocence is always beautiful." Then he looked up at us and said, "You're doing a great job. You got a great house and a great yard and you're making it better." My sister had the presence to tell him that he'd inspired us. I just stood there, surprised and grateful that he'd seen our effort and said such kind things out loud.

Since I didn't say anything to him yesterday, and since I love to hear these stories, maybe you could tell me in the comments about a stranger offering some drive-by kindness. We could send out a thank you. Or steal an idea and do it ourselves.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

About 10 years ago, before cell phones were ubiquitous, a woman stopped on the Interstate to offer me the use of her cell phone after I drove off the road (I was very tired, not drunk). I called AAA and asked for her name which she wouldn't give me. Finally I persuaded her to give me her phone number, and my friend and I did a reverse lookup later and got her address and sent flowers. I have no idea whether they ever got there....

4:29 PM  
Blogger John said...

I think the gentleman you mention was sitting across from me on the bus not long ago. He makes an appearance at the end of this post.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Man, he was a huge lift. He rides the buses, too?

5:08 PM  
Anonymous Mitch said...

Hmmmm, new tagline, does that mean the old one was consummated?

6:11 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

About 7-8 years ago I was moving out of an apartment on Logan Circle in Washington, DC. I lived up on the top floor of a giant brownstone, and although it was only technically the third floor, there were enough stairs that it felt like six. I had 2-3 of my friends helping me, but it was exhausting work. Among other things, I have a fairly massive record collection, and those things are heavy!

Anyway, we were about half way through the move when a man came running across the park and up to our truck. This was Logan Circle in the late 90's, so it hadn't yet gentrified, and you never knew quite what you were going to get. But wouldn't you know it, he came up to the truck, smiled, and - I will never forget this - said:

"I've had a lot of trouble in my life, you know. Lots of things I've done that I shouldn't have. But I was over in the park just now, praying to God that today he would make me useful. I said, 'Lord, I don't got much but my hands and feet, but please, make me useful today. Show me the way I can be of service to you and to my fellow man.'" And then I looked up, and your truck was there, and I knew I was supposed to come help you. So here I am. Where should I start?"

He spent the next 6 hours carrying the heaviest boxes, no matter how much we protested. Then, when we were done, he asked if he could meet us again the next day to finish loading the truck. The other half of the UHaul was going to be filled with the belongings of a friend who lived clear across town, but wouldn't you know it, he showed up the next day ready to work.

I know I'll never see him again. I also know I'll never forget his kindness.

7:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"great yard"

Is this your sister's place?


8:15 PM  
Blogger Megan said...


Nope. I switch them up for no reason.


That was awesome.


No, my house. My sister's yards are still waiting to be planted, although I've got a vegetable garden in the raised plot. We have lots of conversations about what to plant.

My front yard is often weedy, but there are lots of flowers in it right now.

9:44 PM  
Anonymous A Life Less Ordinary said...

I was getting my car washed in West Los Angeles and I was starving around 3pm on a Saturday. I was wearing a bright UCLA sweatshirt because I was going to watch the basketball game later on that day.

I walked into the nearest pizza joint with nothing but a wallet full of credit cards. After I asked for the slice of pizza and the cup of water that I wanted, the lady said that it will cost $2.50. I handed her my credit card...which she turned away because she said that I need a minimum of a $5 purchase.

So I said that I guess I can buy more than I need and just throw it away since all I had was plastic. And I mentioned that I was just hungry.

She looked at me, smiled and said: why don't you take the slice of pizza and pay me some other time?

And then added: Go Bruins!

11:07 PM  
Blogger jens said...

Years ago, when my oldest son who is now in college was just a baby, I was in a nice Hungarian restaurant with my wife, and the baby was a handful. We had to pass the baby back and forth to get any eating done. An older couple was eating at the table next to us, and one of them said "We've finished eating, we remember when ours was that size. Can we hold him until you're done with your food?" We gratefully passed the boy over.

8:33 AM  
Anonymous scottb said...

Oh my gosh. The baby story just above - that happened to us, too. We were on holiday, in a small village in Cornwall, and the female proprietor (it was a husband and wife team) of the local pub did just that with our daughter who was just a few months old at the time so we could actually eat dinner together. I'll send my _even better_ story in another comment.

3:58 PM  
Anonymous scottb said...

This is probably 17 years ago, when I lived in Pasadena. A tiny 500 sqft house, with a 1car garage and driveway. And I'm rebuilding brakes one night on the drive, next to the concrete porch. Porch light on, work light near the wheel I'm working on, car on jackstands.

A nice young guy comes by and starts chatting about cars and the like and eventually offers to pitch in. We both do a few hours of wrenching and chatting. Button up the brakes. I send him off with $10 for some beer for us and he comes back and we sit on the little concrete porch on a quiet Pasadena night and talk until maybe 1am about family, cars, etc.

Never saw the guy again.

4:06 PM  

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