> Tiny kindnesses

From Everything Changes, the Awl’s newsletter. Subscribe here.

You had a mission this week: to notice people doing tiny kindnesses for each other.

Here’s what some of you saw:

My toddler and I were waiting in a long line at Russ and Daughters this morning, and a guy gave me a much earlier number. He’d somehow ended up with an extra number right after his, and waited until he saw someone he thought needed it. I gave my number to the last couple in line, and if they did the same, it might still be going. — Annie

A guy let me and my friend pet his two corgis and instructed the shy one to “please be a gentleman.” — C.

Driving to work one morning I saw some cars stopped ahead in the road. An older gentleman in a big truck had stopped to move tree branches out of the road so folks could drive through. He got back in his car and pulled away. As he pulled away a smaller car stopped and a much younger man got out to keep clearing the smaller debris. After seeing these two guys one younger who looked like he was coming or going from a job where he was painting houses and an older retired gentleman in a big car both stop I stopped too. Either of these cars could have driven around or over the branches that were there when they stopped but they didn’t. The truck could have manged the big stuff that was there when he stopped. The sedan could have managed the small debris. But they stopped thinking that the next car coming through that might not be able to. — Megan M.

First of all, here is the sign outside my local Tube station today (below). Secondly: as I was waking to this same Tube station I saw a woman duck into a Pret, buy a croissant, duck back out and hand it to the elderly homeless man and his dog sitting in the shade beside the station. That was all — she just gave him a croissant, told him to have a nice day, and walked on. — Anne

About a week ago I was taking the bus home after a long day of working my two jobs. My stop is the very last one and all other patrons except for me exited, leaving just me and the bus driver. The driver called me up to the front and said that this was his final route of the day and offered to drive me a little closer to my final destination. It was only a few blocks — but in those few minutes we shared about our days and talked a little about yoga (I was wearing the iconic stretchy pants as I had just left the studio that I work at). I thanked him for his kindness and we wished each other good weekends. — Carol

Just yesterday, a stranger found my ID in the park near my office and actually took the time to rescue it, call my number, and offer to mail it to me. It’s my court ID (I’m a lawyer), and I would have been screwed next week without it. She turned out to work on the next block, so I picked it up in person, and when I met her she seemed bemused by how grateful I was. But, especially given this week, it was such a gift, not just to get my ID back, but to be reminded that people are sometimes pretty great. — Sarah

oh man, in brooklyn boro hall on the sidewalk, saw a homeless elder beardy standing and trying to light a cigarette with thumbs only and then a young guy passing by brings out his lighter and lights the thing as he walks by without breaking stride even. — Lola

I was in the parking lot of a mall and saw a big, white expensive car hit and run a parked vehicle. No one really noticed (not even security!) except this young couple (early to mid 20’s) that was waiting to park in the spot that was being vacated by the offending car. (Keep in mind that this is a very, very popular shopping center and parking spots come at a premium as you usually have to wait 30-to-40 minutes for one). So, they change their plans, ignore the newly opened spot and go on a brief chase of the white car to try to get its registration. After a small circuit, they pull up behind the car and seemingly take a photo. The white car’s driver didn’t even notice this. Then, they went around, left the car at the curb, took out pen & paper, wrote down the color, model and registration of the white car and left the note on the hit car’s windshield. I bet it was anonymous, too! — CRM

My friend is moving and selling a lot of her furniture and appliances. She’s been lowballing the prices a lot just to move the process along, like selling her pretty new washer and dryer on Craigslist for $50 total. The family that bought the washer and dryer hugged her they were so happy. My friend could have sold those appliances for hundreds of dollars, and she would have made more money. But, I don’t know, maybe that family wouldn’t have been able to afford that? This might seem like a longshot example, but it’s made me reflect on what tiny kindnesses can be. People often assume that “doing good” has be a difficult or profound choice, like you have to “sacrifice” something. Really, it’s just about being mindful of what our priorities are and, when and to the extent we can, prioritizing general greater good over personal profit in your everyday decisions.

Perhaps a bit more than opening the door. Two members of the United States Air Force take part of their Saturday to honor the memory and service of one of the Greatest Generation, a total stranger to them but one very near and dear to our family and my father. — Rona

Climbing out of the subway I saw two women ahead of me. They did not seem to know each other. The woman ahead on the stairs tripped and her shoe twisted off. The other woman behind her caught the shoe and with both hands perfectly slipped it back on the stranger’s foot. This happened as if choreographed, and under 4 seconds.

A man was sitting on the subway with his daughter in his lap, a water bottle full of coffee at their feet. A woman handed him a plastic bag, saying “it’s going to spill.” He said, “You’re right, it is!” And he tied the bag around his coffee. — Ella

A lady was walking the opposite direction of me and [a man who kept blocking the path on the sidewalk] as he stopped completely, in my direct path again, so I had to stop right behind him so that I didn’t walk into him. He started walking again, and I just stood there for a second, to give him a chance to get several steps ahead, with what I thought was an exasperated look on my face. As the lady walking toward me and this gentleman passed, she said to me in a low voice, without even making eye contact with me, “Are you okay?” At that moment, I just replied, “Oh, yes, thank you,” but as I walked on, it occurred to me that she may have thought that this man and I were together, and that the look I had on my face was me trying to signal her that something was wrong/I needed help. I thought it was wonderful that she saw a stranger she thought might need help, that she actually made the effort to ask if things were okay, and that she did it in a way where no one else would notice her asking in case it really was a situation where things were not okay. It made me think that I need to pick up that habit in the future.

a bagel shop cashier abandoned his post and ran across the store to help a woman with a stroller with the heavy door.

Today I was sitting on a ledge waiting to go to a meeting. I laid my umbrella next to me. After reading something I stood up and walked away leaving my umbrella behind. A man yelled out “Hey,” and I turned he pointed to the umbrella and asked if it was mine. I said yes and walked back and he walked over and handed it me. I thanked him and continued on. This is the second time I’ve forgotten this umbrella and the first that someone has noticed and returned it to me. — Linda

My husband and I were having lunch together at a deli. A woman two tables over from us was eating by herself and received a phone call on her bluetooth. She began crying from what appears to have been bad news. She was fairly quiet about it and kept it to herself, but she was obviously crying. Another patron in the restaurant stopped, patted her shoulder and mouthed “Are you OK?”. She nodded through her tears and continued with her phone call. He and a few other patrons continued to monitor her out of the corner of their eyes, but gave her her privacy. It seemed a small gesture — but I felt all of us in the restaurant sending her strength through the man’s small pat on the shoulder. — LG

This week I saw a struggling small business owner take the time to send a personal note of thanks, encouragement, and acknowledgment to each of her minimum wage-earning seasonal employees when she etransferred them this week’s pay. — Kate S.

I was on a very early flight with a lot of people who should have been cranky and impossible to deal with, but instead waited their turn, apologized when they needed to, complimented shoes, shared outlets, and were respectful of others’ space. A lot of tiny kindnesses turned a potentially shitty situation into an altogether pleasant one. — Maggie C.

I was about to cross a side street in Brooklyn when a concerned-looking man crossing in the opposite direction stood in the middle of the street and began frantically waving a tshirt in front of the cars that were about to get a green light. I quickly realized that he was stopping traffic so that a blocked ambulance with its sirens on could make it through further down. It worked — the traffic cleared and the ambulance moved. When I got a few blocks down in the direction he’d been coming from, EMTs were on the scene, attending to an unconscious, apparently homeless person on the sidewalk. I think most people would call 911, but this guy went the extra mile. He did what a family member would do.

My family moved into a new home in a new neighborhood and FOUR neighbors all dropped by to welcome us with baked goods.

I had a small solstice dinner and invited two friends. They’d never met before, it just so happened that their husbands were both overseas. We were chatting over pasta and I asked my friend how her mother-in-law was doing. She explained to our other guest that her mother-in-law had been recently widowed. He apologized and put his fork down right away and turned his face and body towards her to give her his full attention and empathy. It was subtle and simple and beautiful to witness. — Sonya G.

My boyfriend and I were delayed for 5 miserable hours (until 4am) on our way home from a lovely rare holiday. We were sat on the cold stone floor trying to get comfortable and wait it out. We must have looked as hungry and tired as we felt, as two cleaning ladies who had been busy around us cleaning the empty first class lounge nearby brought us out leftover sandwiches and chocolates. It felt like they were angels! Their kindness brightened our spirits and even now I’m home I’m still feeling that brightness. — Maki

That’s all for this week. Scully says thanks.

From Everything Changes, the Awl’s newsletter. Subscribe here.