The kindest thing I ever saw ...

In the age of hysteria, polarisation and antagonism, it’s a relief to know that simple acts of kindness are not a thing of the past.

The Guardian’s Upside series asked its readers to write in this summer with stories of the kindness of strangers. Here is the best from the mailbag.

Thanks a lot

I suspect most of us, distracted by whatever, have gone into a mall and paused in confusion upon leaving, trying in vain to remember where we parked in the relentless sea of cars the same colour as ours (in Arizona, white is popular for obvious reasons). That happened to my wife Mary yesterday.

She is 83 and moves a little slowly. Part way down the first aisle, she realised that “lost car syndrome” had struck her. It was 105 degrees out.

A young woman in a huge SUV stopped, lowered her window, and asked if she was having trouble locating the car. When Mary nodded, the woman said: “Happens to all of us. Get in. We’ll find it.”

Mary has a handicapped tag, but doesn’t always use it. She didn’t think she had this time, but it turned out she was wrong. After a few circuits around the parking lot, she spotted it — in a handicapped space.

The young lady let Mary out and with a wave and a smile, she drove off to her own parking challenge.

Oh, how I would like to give that gracious young lady a warm hug. She made my day, and I wasn’t even there!

Al Bell, Peoria, Arizona

You’ll never guess who I had in the front of my taxi

A few months ago, I travelled from London to Liverpool for an interview at National Museums Liverpool. After the interview I thought I would visit some of the museums. My train was just before 5pm. And I hadn’t clocked quite how late I had cut it.

Unfamiliar with the city, I thought getting a bus would take forever, so I jumped in a cab – with 12 minutes to spare before my very expensive ticketed train was leaving Liverpool Lime Street. Little did I know that some cabs in Liverpool don’t take cards. I had no cash on me. When the taxi driver dropped me off, I told him to wait and I would get cash out to give to him. He knew I was running late for the train, and waived the fee. Instead he said: “Don’t forget me if and when you get that job in Liverpool. Us Liverpudlians aren’t so bad.”

He was such a kind man. Four months later, I got the job and moved to Liverpool. And I have never forgotten that first taste of Liverpool and its people.

I made my train. And got the job. And just wanted to thank the taxi driver.

Sahar Beyad, Liverpool

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The gentle touch

My daughter and I were visiting my elderly mother at her nursing home. We went into the lounge where the residents were sitting in a semicircle facing the tv which was on but which nobody was watching.

As usual my mother beamed as she saw us draw up two chairs to sit in front of her. Conversation was difficult because my mother had no short-term memory but it didn’t seem to matter. About half way through our visit, the frail looking lady sitting next to my mother began to weep silently. Tears poured down her face and I’m ashamed to say I froze, not knowing what to say or do.

My mother, who has dementia, knew exactly what to do. She took hold of her neighbour’s hand and stroked it gently with her thumb all the time looking with great concern into her face until slowly the crying ended.

I was deeply moved, upset and worried about the reasons for the distress and put to shame by my mother whose immediate reaction was deeply humane. No words were exchanged between them, there was no need. I left feeling I’d been taught a valuable lesson.

Jan Forster, Cardiff

Birthday drinks

On my 29th birthday (I was in medical school then) I went to a restaurant/bar with some friends for drinks.

Friends partying in a bar.
Friends partying in a bar. Photograph: AzmanL/Getty Images

We had a bottle of wine and some other drinks and when we wanted to pay, the waiter said the wine had already been taken care of. The couple at the table next to ours had overheard us talking about our studies. They said they had once been students themselves without a lot of money and therefore wanted to do a nice thing for us. Oh and happy birthday. It completely made my night.

Nina Loretz, Zurich

Walk this way

I’d buggered my knee and was in a huge brace and on crutches, feeling wretched, miserable, afraid to go out in case I fell over and broke my arm, and in fairly constant pain.

One day I was crossing the road at one of those big intersections that has a diagonal crossing. The countdown started and I could tell that I wasn’t going to make it across before the lights changed. A guy crossing at the same time saw me shooting panicked looks at the flashing sign and slowed down to walk at the same speed as me so I wasn’t alone in the middle of a busy intersection when the traffic resumed.

Obviously the cars wouldn’t have run me over but it still made me feel much safer to not be the only one in the oncoming traffic.

Kate Alley, London

Dental health

When I was sixteen (in 1965) I ran away from home. I lived on the streets for months and got into a pretty dire state. A girl I knew looked at my decaying teeth and told me: “You must come to see my father.”

I was taken to a smart flat in Hampstead and was introduced to Dad, who was a Jewish refugee from the Nazis. Dr Frankel was a dentist with a private practice in Harley Street. He invited me to his surgery and, over several sessions, he gave me sixteen fillings – for free. Dear Dr Frankel, I still have all of my teeth (at seventy).

John McAllister, Bristol

Train champion

Last year my daughter and I were on the train from Carlisle to Manchester. There was a stag party, loud and pretty annoying, and getting cross looks from some passengers.

Then along comes an older lady, who couldn’t find her case. She was going from compartment to compartment, desperately searching. One of the lads stands up, puts a hand on her shoulder and says: “Don’t worry love, I’ll help you find it.”

The pair of them set about searching. Her station comes, and goes, and still the case isn’t found. She starts to cry. He takes her in his arms, gives her a soft hug and tells her that he’s not leaving her. He’ll stay with her till the case is found and until she’s gets to where she is going, even if it takes all day. She asks him about his plans and says that she can’t ruin his day. He says that it doesn’t matter. He won’t leave her. He tells his mates that he’ll see them tomorrow and then the pair of them go off to find the conductor.

Over the next hour or so we watched as the case was found, and the two worked out a plan for how to get her back to her station. The lad had found a double seat in front of us and they spent the rest of their journey having the loveliest chat about her family, his family and the silly things they had both done in their lives.

It was the sweetest thing I have ever experienced. And I wished it had been me who had jumped up to help. That lad sacrificed a stag night to help someone who could have been his Nan, and I think everyone in that compartment wished we were him, and we all had a smile on our face and a tear in our eye.

Judith Raddatz

Wedding belles

My husband is English and I’m Indian. In 2018, we decided to have a small register marriage ceremony in England to get a head start on the visa application process.

As everything was done on a really short notice, none of my friends could make it to the wedding, so there I was at the hotel getting ready all by myself on the big day, wishing at least one friend was there with me to share my excitement, anticipation, happiness and everything associated with a wedding day.

At this point I was interrupted by a knock on the door. I opened the door to a girl from the downstairs bar holding a small bottle of prosecco in one hand and a glass in other. She hugged me, handed me the prosecco and said she was sorry my friends couldn’t make it, but no bride should be getting ready by herself without a little bridal party.

I barely knew her, but she made me a little less homesick for my friends and I felt a little less alone. Her kindness and thoughtfulness is one of my fondest memories of my wedding day.

Surya Vishnu, Winchester

Surprise prosecco party
Surprise prosecco party Photograph: Perry van Munster / Alamy Stock/Alamy Stock Photo

Checkout chum

Today an unknown friend came to my rescue in the supermarket when I had put three items through the self-checkout and found I had left my debit card at home. Next in the queue, she stepped forward and put her card on the machine and paid my small bill, saying it was just her good deed for the day.

I hope she has had the same warm glow that I have had for the rest of the day! Also that I see her again to repay her random act of kindness!

Elise Forbes

Dinner lady

I had grabbed a coffee and was lingering outside Kings Cross station waiting for a train. Amidst the busy lunchtime throng I spotted a young lady walking towards the station’s entrance with a takeaway bag of food. It was fairly large and I presumed she was doing the lunchtime run for her colleagues.

But to my surprise she casually approached a nearby homeless man and gave the bag to him. She said a few words and quietly returned the way she came. A heartwarming moment.

Tim Bechervaise, Wiltshire

And then she said I’ll give you shelter from the storm

Today I was walking to the shops with my ten month old in a sling, when it started absolutely pouring down. I tried huddling under a tree with an umbrella and a waterproof coat around us both, but the rain was too heavy and we were both still getting wet.

I looked up and there were people hurrying out of the park. A lady seemed to be headed towards us purposefully, but I didn’t think much of it. As she approached she said “I live just up here – would you like to come in and take shelter from the rain?” She let us wait inside for the rain to pass before we set off again for the shops.

This is just one of several random acts of kindness I have been the lucky recipient of since having a baby. It has really restored my faith in humanity in these testing political times.

Lizzie Thomson, Sheffield

Lost in Amsterdam

In the days before we all had mobile phones, I’d been invited to give an address at a conference held at a Dutch university. My contact person there seemed a classic absent-minded professor when it came to travel arrangements and was forgetful about answering emails requesting clarification. The result was that I got off the train from Amsterdam at the station he’d instructed, but it was tiny, apparently out in the middle of nowhere and seemed all but deserted.

As I looked around baffled, a Dutch man who’d got off the same train asked if I needed help. I explained I was going to the university and was supposed to take a taxi from the station. He told me I was a long way from the university and there were no taxis, but he’d be happy to drive me.

It must have been a 20-minute drive and it was, I ascertained, out of his way. When he dropped me at the university reception, I thanked him profusely and asked if I could pay him, but he just waved me on with a smile. I don’t know what I would have done without him!

Anne Marie Karlson

Night bus

When I was in university in Dublin I was working late one night and ran to get the last bus home. I was the only person left on the bus when the driver shouted back to me asking me where I was going. I said I was going home and told him where I lived, the bus driver then changed his route and dropped me at my door!

Miriam Phelan, London

Night bus In Temple District of Dublin, Ireland
Night bus In Temple District of Dublin, Ireland Photograph: Design Pics Inc/REX/Shutterstock

Room at the top

At our academy, I gave up my office space for an additional student entrance and lobby space at school and was going to move my stuff into a new, unfurnished space over the summer holidays.

When I came back after the first week of the holidays, our site manager had moved everything out of my office, hung all of my posters, pictures and display boards and set the new office up better than I ever could have, and even included a USA feature wall to remind me of home. After such a long school year and all the challenges of maintaining our site I was completely knocked out that he would think to do that, take the time and make such a kind effort.

Stephen Steinhaus, Solihull

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