The Kindness of Strangers

“Whoever you are…for I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” I’m sure most of us know that is a line from the movie/play A Streetcar Named Desire, written by Tennessee Wiliams and spoken by character, Blanche Dubois. It has always been one of my all time favorite lines of dialogue for so many reasons. Chief among them is that I believe we all depend on the kindness of strangers so many times in our lives we probably can’t keep track.

The person who stops when you are broken down on the side of the road and inexplicably spends the next two hours helping you get back on the road, for no reason whatsoever, the woman who lets you in line ahead of her because your baby is obviously upset and crying, the IRS agent or government worker who helps you straighten out a mess that would have taken months, the bartender who calls and pays for a cab to take you home when you are stranded in a bar by your angry boyfriend, and so on. I’m sure we all have a thousand or more such incidents that we can name both on the receiving and giving end.

It gives one pause when you stop to think of these small but ever so kind acts. Especially from people who do not know you, whose lives are not connected to yours in any way, who simply have no motivation other than kindness to help you. It touches the heart – at least it touches mine.

I was raised to believe that being kind to others was the way to be. Simply so. No question about it. No argument no pondering. It just made sense, really. And so in my life I do try to always be kind to people, I do not always succeed since I do have an Irish temper, after all. But I try. And the reason I try actually probably isn’t really because I was raised to do it, it is because it is so easy to be kind to another person. So easy to pat them on the back, offer them a hankie or five bucks for a sandwich and coffee. So easy to give someone else a reason to smile and feel just a little bit better about themselves and life in general. So easy that it hard to resist giving that little piece of your time and attention.

There is so much anger, and unkindness in the world. So many examples that you can’t swing a dead cat without finding 200 of them right within arm’s length, that it seems to me that if everyone just did one act of kindness per day, it could truly change things. I know that may sound trite and even ridiculous or laughable to some. There are those who believe that you must change the entire world, the entire pardigm of existence in order to have a real impact on people and the world around you. But I’m not one of them. I am one who believes that every good thing begins with one small act. One small kindness. Something that barely costs anything at all and pays back a thousandfold.

Unlike others, I don’t believe there is any lack of technology, innovation, programs, ideas, resources, etc. We are aswim in those things, I think. More to the point, I think it is what we do with those things, how much we share not of the things but of ourselves that always makes the difference. It’s what we give that matters I think much more than what we get, what we want, what we control.

So, like Blanche Dubois, I will always depend on and be happy for the kindness of strangers, and friends and family and do my best to be one of those strangers, who is kind and knows that we are all just human beings, frail and full of flaws but deserving of the kindness nonetheless.

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15 thoughts on “The Kindness of Strangers

  1. Thank you. I agree with you and thank you very much for the reminder. Being kind to strangers – even if just offering a smile and and friendly wave can also cheer you up as the giver of these small deeds and I try to employ this strategy when I’m down. (Which is why hiding inside one’s house is not the best thing you can do…) It’s sometimes easy to be rude and scowl – especially when driving? but then I try to think, WHAT IF THEY are one of my blogging friends?! It does give me pause… Glaring at the kids on bicycles because they are spinning in the middle of the street irks me but maybe, they’re “just kids”, yaknow? I could smile and remind them to be careful rather than yell at them for being in my way.

    Hey C,
    You’re more than welcome for the reminder – but I think I was trying to remind myself. You’re so right, giving a smile or wave is as good for ourselves as it is for the recipient of same. And it is easy to just grump down and scowl and think everything sucks. But so much of our day is determined by how we approach it, isn’t it?

    Hugs,
    Annie

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  2. I also believe acts of kindness are so easy to perform for others and should be done more regularly. I always appreciated it when a gentleman pulled off the side of the road when my car did a 180 on an off-ramp in a snowstorm and even though he couldn’t help with the car, he just stayed with me until the tow truck came. I thought that was really touching because it was such a compassionate, human thing to do. I like C’s idea of reminding the kids to be careful rather than yelling at them because they are in the way. Kindness is definitely a mindset, I think. It may be simple for some but for others it is more work until they have changed their thinking a bit. I think we could all stand to work on that.

    Hey Teens,
    Wow, how wonderful that that fellow waited with you for the tow truck to come. You see, it is things just like that which make you feel great, isn’t it? So compassionate and kind. Yes, it is a mindset and a lot of people don’t want to do it, I think. Or maybe they it is just too hard to do it. But really, it is the easiest thing in the world – at least I think so.

    Annie

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  3. After thinking of this a bit more, I can understand some trepidation. We do see our fair share of people getting taking advantage of or getting mugged or worse when they actually think they are stopping to help someone. So, some of it is probably not that they don’t want to help but that they don’t want to get taken advantage of – you really DO have to be careful even when all you want to do is be nice. A few bad apples can certainly affect your judgement I guess, but there are many ways to be kind without putting yourself in jeopardy too.

    Sure Teeni,
    like anything you do need to be careful about things – but I was talking about the really simple things that any of us can do without fear of being harmed. You know?

    Annie

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  4. Totally agree with this. Infact, if everyone did this – and I mean everyone – those little things would actually lead to that paradigm shift.

    Yeah, Tony – I think so too. And I guess that was my basic concept. That it really doesn’t take a lot to change things in a big way. Just give one extra smile a day and yeah, if everyone did it, every day? I think the shift would be visible, quite visible.
    Annie

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  5. Hi Annie,

    Well shucks, Ma’am. I had no idea you were Southern.

    the Grit

    Hey Grit,
    Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was southern, but I am Irish and they are big on this stuff. Also, I do a mean Blanche DuBois and Scarlett O’Hara. If I ever get up to one of your famous bbq’s I’ll be happy to entertain the crowd. πŸ˜‰
    Annie

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  6. i agree with you. i think if we could practice kindness, because it is what we should do, the world would be a better place for sure.

    i also agree that it is easier to be kind for most folks. Not only does it increase trust and encourage kindness in others, it blesses us as well.

    Good, good thoughts, Chica.

    Hey Chica,
    Yes, it is a blessing actually to be human, isn’t it? Seriously, I really ponder that sometimes. How wonderfully lucky we are to be able to talk, exchange ideas, fix things through own kindness and understanding. Being a fish would be way cool too, but I think the human mantle is more my style.

    Annie

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  7. I needed this reminder. I’ve gotten way too cynical, suspicious, and sometimes just plain fearful, even though I’ve always believed most people are good at heart (didn’t Anne Frank say something like that?).

    Hey Girlfriend,
    I know what you mean, sweetie, it’s so easy to go there – especially if life isn’t being grand. I’ve felt the temptation a lot in the last few months actually, things have been rocky for me. But I’ve come to realize that going with that flow actually only makes things worse, you know? So, it’s as much a reminder for me as anyone else. Yah, that Annie Frank was sure something, wasn’t she?

    Annie

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  8. I used to compare myself to friends and acquaintances who did Great Works. I found this intimidating, and thought I couldn’t possibly Make A Difference. But I have come to realize that this is their way. My way is One Smile At A Time.

    You see Panther, this is why I just love you. You’re so positive and fun and sparkly. A joy to be around. Thank you for that.
    Annie

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  9. I love the Panther’s comment!

    and I think you are right (per comment on my blog) that a cup a coffee with you would turn into a trip to MN for the Mall of Am… or… 3 pots of coffee, a few packs of cigs, a run to the liquor store to make up some unique martini recipes and one of those exclamations: no, it just can’t be 2 am – I haven’t told you about the time when…

    Hey CC Rider,
    Oh yeah, we dare not have coffee together unless we plan to marry. LMAO. Yes, one coffee would turn into our trying to hitchhike out of Mexico and back into the states without passport and probably shoes, but with some pretty nifty pottery bargains though. πŸ˜‰
    Annie

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  10. Wow … love that post. That huge web of people who come and go (and some stay) who have impacted us in ways they will never know. That, truly is such a wonderful part of being human.

    I will never forget when I was a busy exec in a thriving company, people would call me about jobs … never had time for them. Then one day, I found myself on the other end of that phone. And ya know what? Strangers were so nice and helpful to me, I will never forget. And will never be foolish again about not helping others while I can either.

    ~G

    It really does change your perspective when you find yourself on the other side, doesn’t it? I’m glad you enjoyed the post – it’s a very simple thing being kind, really, but I think most people dont even think about it. Thanks, Gerry.
    Annie

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  11. Acts of kindness can be so easily forgotten when we get wrapped up in our own little lives. I try hard to remember to be kind to others, if only to teach my children to do the same. It just all boils down to the Golden Rule, doesn’t it?

    I agree it really does. I’m sure your kids are great and perform many acts of kindness a day, I mean, after all, look at who their mom is. πŸ˜‰
    Annie

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  12. Aww!! Kindness.It’s so simple. It’s one of the most genuien acts I feel a human being possesses. It’s so easy to be kind. I practice being kind every day with my nearly 17 year old son just by keeping my mouth shut and smiling ( took some practicing I have to say )

    I love the giving and recieving of kindness. Kinds words always blow me away. I think when you use kind wirds or apply acts of kindness your being kind to yourself to. It’s a win win situation.

    With kindness comes a gentleness and love. I ws being kind the other day in the post office. I picked a little boys jumper up and handed it to him with a smile and a quick chat.

    If looks could kill. My daughters face was like thunder. I said ‘ What’ ‘ Mum your encouraging him to talk to strangers’ aww! My daughter was being very kind to. Funny isin’t.

    It’s kindness all the way for me, just not when I’m sufferng with PMT.

    Smiles & Kindness
    Di

    Aw Sweet Di,
    I knew you would like this post because it is so you. Tell your daughter to lighten up. Play in the hay and get out of the bitter barn. πŸ˜‰
    Annie

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  13. I bloody love strangers me – get ya kids talking to em at an early age and they won’t go far wrong. Only joking, but many a true word comes from jest doesn’t it.

    OH !!

    What did I come back for ? Oh yer I just wanted to say thank you for being kind annie. Oh yer and I wanted to say I’ve never heard of that film or that line or that lady. Nup.

    You know, I think I go out of my way to be kind. I look for ways to be kind. One may say that thats not very natural, I don’t as kindness is one of the most beautifl natural states we have.

    I’m always looking for natural ways to feel nicer and more beautiful.

    Kindness is natural to me. Lets all stay kind everybody. Fuck everybody elese hehe!! Just us lot here.Laughing. I’ve just spoilt that comment. I never said I wasn’t naughty.

    Laughing and oozing with kindness & naughtiness
    Di.

    Hey Di,
    Sure, why not, let’s hog the kindness for a while. Maybe we need more than the others right now? πŸ˜‰ You’re very kind too – which is one of the lovely things about you, dear Di.

    Annie

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  14. Hi Annie,

    The front part of our house was constructed in 1841 and our parlor is furnished with furniture from that period, so you’ll have the perfect backdrop.

    the Grit

    Hi Grit,
    Perfect! I’ll get my taffeta skirts and petticoats ready. πŸ˜‰
    Annie

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