When I was young, a camp counselor of mine gave me a book that changed how I thought about the world. I’m certain that he doesn’t remember giving me the book, if he remembers me at all, but I always remember it as one of the most influential moments in my whole life. Which makes me think: Have I ever done that for someone? I don’t know if I have, but I do know everyone has moments like mine – fleeting connections that mean so much to half of the participants, while the other just moves on, life unchanged.

I’m sure you’ve got at least one moment like that as well. These 12 AskReddit users certainly do:

1. “What do I do?”

When I was 26, I was diagnosed with uterine cancer. I had really good insurance, was diagnosed early, and my prognosis was good.

My first day of radiation therapy, I was sitting in the waiting room waiting for my turn. A young woman, about my age, was standing at the reception desk. I couldn’t help but overhear her conversation with the receptionist. She had just been diagnosed with cancer, but had no insurance.

The receptionist had to tell her they couldn’t help her. She asked, “What do I do?” I didn’t hear what the receptionist said, but the girl left. That was eleven years ago, and it still haunts me. I’ve always wondered what happened to her. I hope she was still able to get treatment and beat her cancer.

2. Waterpark Love

Met a girl at the waterpark. Hit it off instantly and fell in instant puppy love like only 13 year olds can. Rode all the rides together. Made out in the lazy river.

She and her family had to leave, so she writes her phone number down for me on a piece of paper, I promise to call her that night.

I put the paper in my little mesh coin-pocket in the waistband of my shorts. And then I got. back. in. the. water. Hours later, I was devastated that her phone number had turned to unreadable mush in my pocket. Can’t even remember her name, or her face, or even the color of her suit…

My friends swear I made this girl up, btw.

It was 1993 (maybe 1994) in Oklahoma City. I am happily married now. I have no real desire to contact this girl, other than to tell her that she was not rejected, she was not ‘used’. She was absolutely loved for that one whole day and that little boy cried when he realized he had no way of getting in touch with you. You were not rejected, he is just an idiot.

3. Chasing Bright Lights

About two years ago on christmas morning I was walking through downtown LA to go to the movie theatre. I am Latino and my family usually celebrates christmas the night before and we also open are presents the night before. So on this morning I was going to catch Django Unchained.

On my way there I had a couple bucks so I give these homeless guys a dollar each. I had one dollar left as I was crossing the street I see one more guy. He was holding hot wheels in his hand I guess which he was planning to sell.

I approached him and handed him the lost dollar. He was thankful and asked me how I knew that he needed the dollar. I just said that it was Christmas or something I can’t remember.

He begins to speak to me about what I do and what I want to do. At the time I was a sophomore in college. I have always been incredibly ambitious more so the last couple of years. It gets to the point where I feel like I am over working and watching aspects of my life deteriorate.

I have a great relationship with my family and my work. Well this homeless man points over to the downtown LA buildings and tells me not to chase that. To not chase the bright lights that it is going to drive me crazy.

I feel I have recently lost my way and I have been chasing those bright lights again. That is not who I want to become I want to do what I do because I love it. Not for money or reward.

4. Art Lover

There was this new kid in my second grade who had just really striking red hair and thick framed glasses. He was always super quiet and kept to himself, but on the bus, he would draw the creepiest animals ever. Like they were always in distorted shapes with these menacing faces.

So on one bus ride home, I decided to pick up a pencil with intentions of making the strangest looking bird.

He looked over at my shoulder while I was finishing up and he gasped. I looked back at him and I saw his shocked face, and I just knew from that point on that art was going to be a part of my life.

Unfortunately, he had to leave school a week later because he pooped in the bathroom sink and lied about it.

 

5. Garage Sale

A woman in Wisconsin I met while rambling thru on a big roadtrip. I stopped at her garage sale on a whim while heading to the Upper Peninsula, and I was the only person there.

I noticed that there were a lot of clothes in my size, which is rare since I am a big man. I commented on it and she told me that they had belonged to her recently deceased son, and she needed to get rid of his clothes. He had died as a young man in a bad accident. I bought a red vest from her that she said he had worn a lot. I wear it all the time now, and think about her frequently.

This was 6 years ago, and I’ll never forget how she hugged me, how she cried, and how I felt driving away. She also gave me a little stuffed dog that he used to keep in the back of his truck. I know that she saw a bit of her son in me, and seeing me wear the vest as I left meant a lot to her. I’ll keep it for the rest of my life. I doubt I’ll ever see her again though.

6. “Surrogate daughters”

My sister and I once went on a tour to Australia, one put on by Disney. It was several families and two tour guides. There was one family that was just an older couple. My sister and I were the only others without the rest of their family there, so we often sat with the older couple during meals. We talked a lot, and eventually we learned that they had an adult daughter with a severe mental disability. She never progressed past a child’s mental capability. She had a Disney princess bedroom. This was their first trip without their daughter in decades.

I think they felt really guilty and they definitely missed her to death, but they were having the time of their lives. I think they sort of adopted my sister and I as their surrogate daughters during the trip. At the end of the tour, we all hugged and cried as we said bye. They were a little too old to keep in touch electronically, so we lost touch. I wish I’d gotten their address. I would have sent them Disney stuff when I worked there…

7. “He saved my life”

I grew up in an abusive home so my social skills weren’t where they needed to be in my early childhood. I’d go to school and pretty much just keep silent the entire time. I never spoke to anyone and if someone spoke to me I’d only give them nods or single sentence responses while making sure not to make eye contact. This eventually led to bullying and the harassment only caused the gap in my social skills to grow over the years.

About half way through 5th grade, I was on the swings by myself as usual when a kid came over and sat on the swing next to me.

He introduced himself but that was it. He didn’t try to talk to me, he didn’t try to play. He just sat there with me all through recess. He did this every day for a few weeks before my curiosity overpowered my social anxiety and I asked him why he sat with me everyday. He looked at me and said “You look like you needed a friend.” I was blown away. Never had anyone extended their hand out to me like that. I slowly started trying to talk to him and for the rest of the year he was my only and best friend.

Over the summer, before going into 6th grade with my friend, it was discovered I was being abused and I was forced to move. I’m 22 now and I’m doing okay but if I could thank Christopher for what he did I would. I really and truly believe he saved my life just by trying to be my friend. I really hope he is doing well.

8. “Too many opportunities…for it to be random”

Met a girl in three airports, three different times, on the same day.

I was heading from Vancouver to Saskatoon, as I live in Saskatoon, and was coming home from a trip to see a girl I was dating at the time.

She lives in Vancouver, and was coming here to see a guy she was seeing at the time.

When I first saw her in Vancouver, I could barely breathe. We sat beside each other, never saying a word, but always staring. Always smiling.

She wasn’t even on my connecting flights, but our days kept putting us together. First in Vancouver, then Calgary, then Saskatoon.

When we literally nearly collided with each other completely coincidentally for what seemed like the 12th time, I felt like I was being given way too many opportunities to see this girl for it to be random.

We talked, we realized we were with other people. We still talked. And talked. And talked.

We ended up leaving those other people for each other, but never ended up together…

We would drift in and out of each other’s lives for a long long time, always wanting to make something happen. Never committing to it.

Seven years later, we’ve started talking again, and I’ve realized that this isn’t just going to happen on its own. I have to try for it. I have to reach out for it. I told her this. She said she thought the same.

I’m going to Vancouver.

9. Wrong Number

I was an international student in the US for college, and I always went back home during the holidays. Every year, whenever I got back from the Christmas holidays, there will always be a voicemail waiting for me. The guy sounds like an old man, and in a forced cheerful voice that sounded kind of sad, he’d always leave a message that’s something along the lines of, “Hey dickhead! You never give your old man a call! Merry Christmas, you loser. I miss you. Please call me. You know you can call me anytime. Well, cya loser! Have a Happy New Year!”

I never got his number so I could never call him back to tell him that the number’s used by somebody else.

After 4 years, I was finally in the US for Christmas since I had work.

I managed to pick up the phone call from that guy and had to tell him that I’ve had this number for the past 4 years. I didn’t tell him I’ve been receiving his voice messages since that seemed too personal, but I’m sure he knew. He sounded so crushed. He just went, “Oh. Right. Right. Thank you so much, ma’am. You have a great Christmas and have a lovely time with your family. Bye now.”

His voice was cracking and he sounded like he was about to cry.

I still wonder what’s the story behind that, and I really hope dickhead would eventually call him.

10. “He just wanted to join”

When I was about ten, my parents went to a conference. At said conference, there were organized kids activities and such. There was one boy and we were sitting in a circle playing some dumb game with a group leader and this boy came up. The group leader said the group was full, and after he left, kids in the circle started talking about how he seemed weird, including the leader! As a ten year old, I saw nothing weird about the kid; he just wanted to join us. It made me feel uneasy, but I didn’t speak up because I was painfully, painfully shy.

Later, on the last day, I was playing “spud” with a girl I had miraculously made friends with (I think she approached me), the kid came up to us and say, “oh, I’ve played that game!” Hovered a minute, and left. I waited for my friend to ask him to join us. She didn’t. And I didn’t say anything.

And this has stuck with me basically forever. How this kid, who seemed nice and friendly, wasn’t included, for seeming “weird” – it was wrong.

I used to fantasize that I had had the courage to ask him to play with us, and then we became best friends. And looking back it still makes me sad.

11. Hot Chocolate

When my cousin and I were kids, we were swimming in the pool at this hotel that had famously great hot chocolate. We decided we wanted more hot chocolate, but couldn’t find our parents anywhere.

We went up to a random couple & demanded hot chocolate. They actually bought it for us and we hung out with them until our parents found us. By then, we’ve finished our hot chocolates & all evidence had been cleared. We decided not to tell our parents because we knew they’d be mad, especially since we tried asking for more hot chocolate, and they told us we couldn’t have anymore since they were so overpriced (I believe they were $6-8ish/cup..can’t really remember). The couple was nice enough not to mention it, so they never got paid back.

Looking back, I think they were probably on their honeymoon since they were really gushy around each other. I’m sure they weren’t planning to spend half a day babysitting 2 annoying 5-6 year old kids.

To the couple whose honeymoon I ruined, I’m so sorry. I hope you’re still together and happy!

12. “You can choose to be happy with anything at anytime”

Every week or so I keep thinking back on this random moment in my life and it makes me realize that sometimes all I need to feel complete is to break my self apart. A few months ago I was in South Africa visiting my sister. She lives in Cape Town, and had to work for a week. It was the perfect time to get out of the city and try and find a new place to explore on a solo adventure. One of the lesser known countries in the world is Swaziland, which is the smallest country in Africa and neighbors South Africa. I booked a flight to Johannesburg, and rented a car to make the drive out to Swaziland.

My destination was Mkhaya game reserve, one of the more interesting reserves that offered a three day safari that I was very interested in. I didn’t really have a time period of when I needed to be there, as I had a week to do anything I wanted to. The drive out was casual, to say the least.

The thing about Swaziland is that it doesn’t have physical addresses. It made my predicament a little harder to maneuver because as always, I opted to go about the road trip without a GPS. I got lost for roughly a day after crossing the Swaziland border, and what a day it was.

I was driving through this rural town that didn’t make it any different than the towns prior to it. It was small in size, lacked building or structures that we are used to seeing in America, and for the most part life just seemed to move at a completely different pace. I came across this bus stand and this old man caught my eye. He was standing there alone, in this bus stand that was a mile from any discearnable location in either direction. He had nothing to entertain him, and from my observations while driving, I already knew that the bus wouldn’t pass him for at least a little while. But he didn’t seem to mind any of it, and just stood there smiling and looking around.

I drove probably 5-10 minutes past him, and just couldn’t get him out of my mind.

Like most people, sustained silences seem to bother me because of the way I grew up and how society is. I am constantly filling those gaps with phone breaks, sometimes surfing sites that offer me nothing, and sometimes re-reading the same subject written in a different way. It was hard for me to understand how this man could be living here in the middle of nowhere, and still be so happy and content in life.

I couldn’t get the man out of my mind, and having no where to be at any specific time, I turned my car around. I got back to the bus stop, and sure enough he was still standing there. I pulled over and cautiously approached him, not knowing how he would react to this stranger obviously coming towards him for a specific purpose or goal. He broke out of whatever deep thought he was in and smiled at me as I greeted him. A lot of people in Swaziland speak english, and to my luck, this man had a good grasp of the language as well. I didn’t really know what it was that I wanted to talk to him about, only knew that I did. We talked about life. He told me that he lives 15 minutes away on his son’s farm, and helps him as much as he can. He was here to catch a public bus to the city to buy some supplies and whatnot.

I asked him what he does on a day to day basis. He told me he wakes up early and walks the lands because there was something special about looking out into the landscape when the rising sun hits it in a certain way. He plays with his grandkids, walks the dogs, reads the local newspapers. He walks around and talks to the neighbors, and every other day buses it to the city and sits arounds bars or shops and talks to the people that come to do much the same thing.

His days were never wasted, and he didn’t need the things we need to have happiness in his life. It got me to thinking about what happiness really is. I am the result of everything I’ve ever seen and everyone I’ve ever talked to. I wake up too cranky, work too much, rely on coffee to enjoy talking to people, get too angry at traffic home, and sometimes watch too much tv. I mean, sometimes I’m not even watching tv, rather just staring at it, become lost in it, not even getting anything out of it. I do all of this, and squeezed inside of these moments are bouts of happiness. I look forward to the weekend, timing it, thinking “only a few more days until happiness can begin”. I love my job and what I do, but I would be lying to you if I told you that I didn’t let it get the best of me from time to time, and let it control my mood and emotions.

I asked the man what makes him happy, and he told me something I don’t think I’ll ever forget. He told me, “happiness can not be gotten from things or places. Happiness is a state of being. I can travel to where you live, and be happy because I am seeing something new. But I can also travel to my back yard and be happy for many different reasons. I can be happy that I have a backyard, or I can be happy because the weather is nice there. I can be happy because my backyard gives me a feeling of comfort, or I can be happy because I am still healthy enough to be able walk myself to my backyard. You can choose to be happy with anything at anytime. I mean, you choose to be sad and angry at things, why not simply choose to be happy instead?”

Things don’t make you angry. It’s you who chooses to react to certain things in an angry way. Things don’t bring you happiness, nor does the weekend. It’s you who chooses to be happy with things, and with the weekend. And it’s you who can choose to be happy whenever else as well.

I thanked the man for his time and he hugged me goodbye. I really haven’t stopped thinking about what he told me since. That man did not have much in his life, and he didn’t have the fancy gadgets that we do. There aren’t people and signs constantly telling him how he should live. There wasn’t a written guideline to where he could obtain bliss. But he did have happiness. And now, he has a friend in me as well.

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