You never know when someone you run into accidentally, for just a few minutes, will change the rest of your life.
If that statement seems like something that only happens in the movies, well, these 16 people are here to share their real-life tales.
16. You can’t judge a book by its cover.
I’ve told this story before but whatever.
I was broke as f*ck in Eugene, Oregon. Steady work was scarce. I smelled like shit because I could barely afford to do my laundry and often didn’t even have detergent when I did do laundry.
The holidays were close so I took a contract job with the Salvation Army, ringing a bell. I’d stand on a cold sidewalk in the freezing pouring wind and rain on a sidewalk outside of Fred Meyer, wearing a thin gray zipup hoody, shivering and ringing for 8 painful hours.
This gorgeous soccer mom rolls up in her gigantic suburban assault vehicle. She steps out wearing a very tasteful tan camel hair coat, jeans, nice boots, her long blonde wavy hair draped across her shoulders.
She walked past me with a disappointed look. When you’re broke as shit, you get used to that facial expression from decent and good people, and you sort of condition yourself to shirk away like “sorry I’m a smelly degenerate piece of sh%t who’s near you”
Anyway, more people come and go, her giant SUV is still out front, when I hear this very loud and aggressive woman bark, “HEY!!” at me.
I turn and look, and it’s her. She has a shopping cart overflowing with bags. She rolls up to me, shoves a hand in a bag and says, “here! Put these on!”
She handed me a very nice and expensive fleece beanie, a puffy fleece scarf and these very expensive looking fleece lined leather gloves.
“Its absolutely freezing outside. You should be wearing more than that thin jacket. Do you have a home?” I told her yes, while putting the new clothes on. They were so damn warm!! I noticed the rain would bead up on the scarf then just roll away. A gust blew and my ears didn’t ring in pain.
She said “well, you need to eat” and handed me a bag of jo-jos and a bag of chicken strips. I swear to God my stomach rumbled at the sight of the warm food.
She stood in front of me and said, “I’ve seen you here before. You were nice to my son when he was having a bad day. You’re a good looking kid, and you seem pretty smart. You deserve better than this. Go to school or something. Figure out a plan and follow it. You don’t have to do live like this.”
I started to well up, but bit my tears back. She realized how awkward it all was, so she just said, “okay, well … Merry Christmas,” then walked off to her vehicle, loaded it up, and drove away.
She showed me kindness and generosity at a time when I thought it was all gone, and she represented love from a demographic I’d grown to hate. She changed my perspective about humanity in less than a minute, and inspired me to aspire for more.
15. The adventure of a lifetime.
Back in 2012 I went my first solo trip to Thailand I was living in Karon Phuket . It was my first day there and at a late night BBQ up in the cliffs , just finished my food and was sipping a cold Chang and this American guy walks up to me.
“May I join you?” ” .. yeah sure I said , he was a 50 year old originally from north Carolina working in Dubai as a teacher that’s wife had died. He asks alot about me why I’m here , aspersions in life , family situation . We have a very intense discussion about life in general he was incredibly intelligent . The conversation switches to him and why he is here , he tells me that he bought a moterbike and he has zero agenda , he had been biking all over Asia solo for months with no concrete plan, He pulls out a little scrap book and starts going through the places and pictures and notes in it and starts giving me tips on places to go , places to eat , places to stay , routes to take . I got some paper from the bar and started taking notes on these amazing hidden gems all throughout South East Asia . We drink all night get hammered and he takes off in the morning I never see him again .
A few years back I traveled on a bike to one of the routes he recommended eating at places he talked about , caves , lagoons , waterfalls , hot springs you name it he recommended it. It was a hell of an adventure loved every minute , he recommended some amazing things and I’m truly grateful I met that American that night. Great bloke hope he’s doing well .
14. This is a great story.
When I was a freshman in college, I took a shuttle from my off-campus dorm to the campus every day. A few weeks into the first semester, a guy sits down next to me and compliments my anime messenger bag. We strike up a conversation, and he offers to introduce me to the other nerds at our dorm. He brings me to another guy, Mark, but then leaves. Mark proceeds to escort me around to a few rooms, and I meet more people. One of these people becomes my boyfriend 2 months later, then my husband 4 years after that.
The weird thing is, I never see the original guy from the shuttle again, and no one knows who he was. That random stranger led me to my soulmate, then disappeared.
13. A small kindness.
I was at the airport waiting to go home after visiting my boyfriend that I don’t get to see much. A little heartbroken, I just sat there trying to keep the tears in my eyes, but a random stranger noticed my emotional turmoil.
Instead of asking if I was okay, he simply said “I’m sorry to see you’re in pain, can I do anything to help you?” And offered me a tissue. He was such a comforting presence. We ended up talking for a while as we were on the same flight that got delayed, and eventually cancelled until the next day. We hung out in the smoking lounge together, he made me promise to quit when I got home. He told me about his travels, I told him about mine. He managed to get my mind out of its pit of sadness, we talked about our shared hobbies, what we’d been doing in that town etc.
Next day we found out we were flying to the same destination via connecting flights, and as he was a flight attendant even on holidays he was able to change his booking to be on my flight and sit with me.
Our ways parted when we lost track of each other at the third airport. I never got to say goodbye or thank him for being such an A class human. His kindness made my trip home so much easier and I will never forget it. Sven if you’re reading this, thank you. I hope to be able to pay your gesture forward to someone who needs a friendly face some day.
12. The kids always suffer.
When I was eight or a bit younger, my mom brought me with her to a divorce lawyer’s office on the higher floor of a large building. While she was meeting with the divorce lawyer in his private office, I was trying to keep myself occupied in the waiting room. I recall that it was a very big waiting room.
There was a man in the waiting room. I don’t exactly remember how old he was, but he didn’t seem that old. I would probably guess in the 30-45 range. I can only assume he noticed the bored, sort of sad-looking little girl in a divorce lawyer’s waiting room because he came over to me. He talked to me, played with me, said I was a beautiful little girl and I’m pretty sure that he said something about how the bad stuff that was happening wasn’t my fault. I spent the whole time in the waiting room with him. I don’t remember his name and I can barely recall his face, but I had an innocent crush on him. I asked him where he lived and he told me he lived in San Francisco, which was not at all far from where I lived. Maybe it’s because I’ve just always been a very sensitive and empathetic kid, but while he was smiling at me (gorgeous smile, too) and trying to make me happy, I got the sense that he was sad. I can only imagine why, given the location.
I’ve never forgotten him after all these years. I wish I knew how to get in touch with him because I’d love to just give him a hug. He will never know how much he helped me during a time where I was subjected to my parents’ messy divorce at home and being relentlessly bullied at school. I was a sensitive big-hearted kid with drug addict parents (both are clean now) and I was emotionally neglected a lot of the time… so I think his kindness will live on in my heart forever. Whenever I go to San Francisco, I spare a thought for him and wonder how he’s doing.
11. A road trip together.
I had just finished grad school in another country and was moving back home to my parents’ in Florida after a big opportunity I thought I had fell through. I was devastated, exhausted, and second guessing all of my career choices. Really depressed.
My parents live in SW Florida. The last leg of the flight was on a prop plane (short flight from Orlando) and we couldn’t land due to bad weather. We circled and circled for a while and finally they decided to divert us… aaaaaall the way down to Key West. I could have driven from Orlando by this point and been at my folks’ place.
Anyway, we land in Key West and deplane and they tell us we can’t get out of there at all that night. Weather, etc. Of course the airline is not helping at all.
I end up chatting with this older (than me) woman in her 50s or 60s and we decide to take a big chance and just get a hotel together for the night, rent a car, and drive up to Fort Myers the following morning. Complete strangers. Both of our families thought we were nuts, I’m sure. But it was awesome.
She was so lovely and was a shining light. She had just beat cancer. She was so encouraging to me and everything I was going through. We stopped for key lime pie and scenic pictures on the drive up. We sang Tiny Dancer in the car. A crappy situation ended up one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had.
I wish I had her number or even remembered her name. I don’t know how I lost her contact info but I did. If you’re out there and stumble across this — thank you — I still think about you a lot and hope you’re well. Send me a message if you’d like to reconnect.
10. I don’t even know what to say.
I worked in a subway for the summer years ago. There was a regular customer, 60 odd, rode an old timey bicycle with a basket that he kept his dog in.
Anyway, one time he comes in and it’s just me and him in the restaurant. He asks how I am, I tell him I am fine. He asks how I really am, and for no particular reason i told him some of the problems I was facing in my life. Let me note, this was particularly out of character for me, I keep myself to myself and dont tend to open up to my closest friends and family, let alone strangers.
He told me to “breathe, and listen to what the wind has to tell me”. I didn’t really know what to say to this, so I engaged in a thoughtful conversation with him. The way he spoke was unlike that of anyone I’ve ever met, so sincere, honest and calm.
He proceeded to explain to me how he has the ability to mentally travel to anywhere in the universe, he simply has to clear his mind and close his eyes and he will travel outside of his body and see the wonders the universe has to offer. He paused to tell me, if I think he is crazy just tell him to stop, as most people thought he was.
By this point, I was completely hooked on his stories. He told me of worlds that rained diamonds, black holes, conscious beings made entirely of gases and resin. As he left he said I would see him once again in my life, but only when I was ready. This was about 6 years ago.
I will add, the man did not strike me whatsoever as crazy, and insisted that he had never touched a drug in his life. I honestly believed that he wasn’t crazy.
I dont know if he was just fucking with me, having a bit of fun, or whatever. But the way he told me this story, I honestly believed every word, and I am not a very gullible person. At the time as well, I had never drank or taken any drugs.
The story honestly sounds so ridiculously unbelievable, and I have never spoken to anyone of it. But I hope I see him again.
9. Like untying a knot.
My daughter was born and she wasn’t breathing when they took her from us. I assumed she was dead but she wasn’t when they took me to the NICU she was tubed with all these scary monitoring. All the other babies were in incubators but mine wasn’t.
I remarked to the nurse that that felt like a good sign. It was a gut punch when she said ‘We only have her in the open air in case she has a heart attack and we need to move quickly. We will control her environment when the doctor says it’s ok’ A doctor came in an explained the she is very sick but getting better.
I simply didn’t believe him I was terrified. One of the other parents in the NICU took me aside and told me that the doctors here wouldn’t lie to me for liability reasons. If he thinks my girl is going to get better she probably will. It was like he untied a knot in my stomach and made it a little easier. She pulled through and is healthy.
8. What a fun story to tell.
I was on a plane flying to my first consulting gig and elderly gentleman was seated next to me. Normally, I just heads down on the plane, but he was really friendly and initiated the conversation. He told me he was coming home from a music festival and was excited to get home and wanted to know why I was traveling. I told him that I was a bit nervous because this would be my first big consulting gig but had spent time preparing, studying the customer, reading up on similar customers, etc. He told me that I should feel confident because I had done everything I could ahead of time and now it was time to enjoy the payoff.
When we got off of the plane he was met by an entourage, and whisked away. He was obviously “somebody” so Googled him to learn it was Hank Jones. He basically invented bebop piano. That music festival he was returning from was the Montreux Jazz Festival.
I have always kept his words in mind. Doing everything you can do to prepare ahead of time is what gives you confidence in pretty much anything you do. Then it is up to you to just enjoy the payoff.
7. Someone’s cutting onions.
When I tried to kill myself in high school I ended up in the hospital, and then shipped off via ambulance to a local mental hospital.
On the way there, the EMT in the back told me he used to be suicidal, we talked the whole way about how he chose to live and why and how he could tell I was a nice and worthwhile person from the little we’d interacted.
I don’t remember most of the conversation because I was all drugged up, but I remember feeling like someone actually saw me, actually understood, and actually cared.
It was kind of a first, and it’s one of my happiest memories even tho I can’t remember most of it. I don’t even remember his name. But whoever you were, I hope your life is great, and thank you.
6. A wise man.
There was a homeless man called Grant who stayed at a tunnel underneath a pretty busy road. I had always tried to give whatever spare money I had and he’d always been incredibly kind to everyone.
I think he got back in touch with his family and he left that tunnel but the last time I saw him he told me “Get some self respect because you’re helluva better person than you think you are.”
It was a major boost in my confidence and Its nice having some confidence for once. He also told me to stay away from Apple stores.
5. That will change your perspective.
I was in a plane at JFK stuck on the tarmac for three hours, feeling kind of sorry for myself. Struck up a conversation with the elderly man next to me.
Turned out he was the youngest child to survive Dachau. Showed me his tattoo. Told me he survived because he ate whatever was left on the dishes he washed.
I don’t feel sorry for myself so much any more.
4. This is hilarious.
I told this once before on a different account.
I was on a cruise in the Caribbean, three days out of Miami, to Nassau and back to Miami. Dude at the bar was chillin, about 20 years older than I was. I was already drunk, started talking to him and asked where he was from. “Jupiter!” was his answer. I assumed that this dude is just nuts and I left mid conversation.
Years later I learned that Jupiter, Florida is a real place and I was just oblivious and needed to get out more. The only assumptions I make are about myself now.
3. Just when you think all is lost.
Had a customer at my previous job telling me about how he used to stress about being single for most of his life until a week after his 40th birthday when he met his future wife outside a grocery store, just after he had accepted the possibility of being alone.
He ended with sometimes waiting patiently is the only course of action, even if you don’t like it.
I think about that whenever I’m feeling the single’s blues.
2. When a stranger really sees you.
I was going through a really rough time, I was about 15 at the time. I was having a lot of identity issues and family troubles, I was also struggling with dissociation.
This culminated in me sobbing in a Kohl’s bathroom. I was at the sinks and a woman came up to me and told me “I don’t know who you are, I don’t know what your going through, but it gets better”.
She offered me a hug, which I accepted. It wasn’t a lot but it definitely helped me realize that there’s some genuine nice folks out there.
1. Sometimes a reminder is all you need.
Once at the mall I was chasing my 3-year-old.
I was feeling real irritated when this guy yells to me ”just like his dad, huh?” indicating I was a child too once.
Really gave me some perspective, just that one sentence.
These are beautiful stories, don’t you think?
If you’ve got one to add to the pile, I’d love to hear it!