Sometimes the best memories are with people we only encounter once. Read on to discover some great moments shared between perfect strangers.
Lost and found.
When I was about 10 years old and I had a pair of Heelys. I thought they were the coolest thing on the earth. I would roll everywhere in them.
One time, we were in China, spending a few weeks in Beijing. I was rolling around in Tiananmen Square, hit a crack and lost one of the wheels. I looked around for about an hour, but to no avail. I was upset beucase my Heelys were ruined.
The next morning, I was walking through the square on the way to meet my friends, and an older gentleman ran up to me and stopped me. He had found my wheel. He said that he had seen me rolling around and saw me looking for the wheel after I fell. He saw that I gave up, and stuck around for another hour to keep looking after I left. He came there the next morning with no expectation that I'd pass through, but wanted to be there just in case. I'm not sure who was happier, me becuase I got my wheel back, or him because he didn't think he'd see me in the world's busiest square. I said thank you and...that was about it. We both had places to be and that was that.
The road to Chinatown.
I was walking somewhere on the Westend in London on a weekend looking to buy a cap. It was almost summer and that day was really warm. A woman from behind called me and asked where Chinatown was. I know where it is but from where I was at that point I had no idea how to explain to her. She was with two children. So rather than tell her where to go, I asked them to follow me. They did.
I held the hand of the youngest and we all walked hand in hand in the direction of Chinatown. While we were walking, the mother and I started chatting.
They were from France, but of Asian descent. She worked for a French company in southern France. She was a single parent and the boys were on school break. The French father disappeared a long time ago.
I felt a pang of sadness. Here was a lovely family, but with no father.
It was a casual conversation, but me being very emotional I choked up a little. Finally we reached Chinatown. Before I could wish them a good day the mother invited me to join them for dinner. I was surprised. Here I was a total stranger, a male in his late thirties, being invited for a meal with this lovely family.
I am shy by nature, so I casually declined and wished them a good evening. She thanked me profusely and we bid our goodbyes and walked in opposite directions.
It must have been two or three minutes of walking when I realised how foolish I was. I went back and started looking for them. Then I spotted them. They were taking photos near the arch of Chinatown. I approached them and I said yes, I would like to join them for dinner. She seemed pleased and I started asking where they wanted to eat. After taking photos we headed for an eat-all-you-can restaurant.
We had dinner like we were a family. I could sense that they were happy. We chatted the entire time and she had to translate our conversation to the boys in French. For about an hour I was like a father to the two boys. I accompanied the youngest back and forth to get his food and showed the eldest to the washroom.
We finished the dinner and we paid the bill. It was already dark when we got out of the restaurant. It was around 10pm already. I asked them where they're headed and she said back to their hotel in Hammersmith. That's far from where we were.
She was clearly not familiar with London and she was frantically looking on her map. London is not that safe so I offered to accompany them to their hotel. We took the tube to Hammersmith. It took us maybe 30 minutes to get to the nearest station to their hotel. From the station we had to walk a good 10 to 15 minutes in semi-darkness back to the hotel. And finally we spotted the hotel. At that point I felt a bit sad. I enjoyed my time with them and it's time to say our goodbyes.
In front of the revolving door we thanked each other and hugged each one of them. We said our goodbyes and the boys shouted back, "merci Monsieur!" as they walked back to the building. I started walking back to the station. But before I turned the corner I looked back at them for the last time just to be sure that they're okay.
I usually don't stay too late when I'm out in London but that night was worth it. I will never forget that day for the rest of my life.
A dance with a stranger.
When I was at Disneyland a few years ago, a woman approached me out of the blue in the middle of Main St. and asked if I'd like to dance. I obliged her, and we spent the next few minutes chatting while her friends filmed us dancing.
It turns out it was her birthday and she was traversing the park on a birthday scavenger hunt, and one of the items on the list was to dance with a stranger. I wished her a happy birthday, we said our goodbyes, and went our separate ways.
I never even got her name, but it still makes me smile when I think about it.
The day my dad died I was holding it together pretty well. Late that night I went to Target to have a moment to just zone out, and buy a few groceries.
As I got to the checkstand with my arm full of stuff I dropped a container of sour cream and it exploded everywhere. I completely lost control of myself and started to cry. The ugly cry. I was instantly surrounded by a group of women who just took charge of the whole situation. They helped me get everything paid for, cleaned up, and one lady even got a new sour cream.
No words were spoken, but their compassion and take charge attitude has stayed with me since.
Side by side.
I had about a two-hour drive from Columbus to the Cleveland area. I tend to drive on the faster side, and therefore pass a lot of people. I noticed about 20 minutes into the drive that the car behind me was still the same one that got onto the highway right behind me. We ended up driving the entire two-hours right next to each other. We created space in lanes to help the other pass the slower cars and made sure the other wouldn’t fall behind. As I was getting off the highway, he honked his horn, gave me a big smile, and waved. It has been my favorite driving experience so far.
I was leaving the gym and walked down a long hallway, and didn't remember having any money on me.
As soon as I stepped outside, I heard a coin drop, and looked down and $2 seemed to have fallen from somewhere on me. It was strange because I wass sure I didn't have any money on me. The coin rolled and I picked it up.
I look up and there's a homeless man in a wheel chair playing harmonica who I otherwise would have passed by. I gave the $2 to him. He said thank you, I said no problem. I began to walk away and he said 'Good, and you?'. I played along and said, 'oh, good! Where did you learn to play harmonica?' He proceeded to tell me that he used to play all sorts of instruments until he had his stroke, and showed me that one of his arms didn't work anymore.
He was a nice guy, and it made my day a bit better. It was a nice and humbling moment.
A long ride.
I was on a long late night bus ride. It was express so it made very few stops. The bus had maybe ten people on it in total. Half way through the trip it made a stop at a small town station so people could grab a snack or use a public restroom and maybe stretch their legs.
I went up to the counter to buy what at that point was my dinner even though it was after 10 pm and when the cashier rang it up I passed a $50 bill to her and she told me that she couldn't make change. Defeated I went back to my seat on the bus.
As everyone piled on and the bus drove away I lovely middle aged lady walked up from her seat near the back and politely asked if I minded if she sat with me. I told her she was more than welcome. She sits and proceeds to unpack a small lunch bag.
She then split the entirety of her meal with me. She said she had been waiting for the washroom to clear out and had overheard what happened. She said: "I've gone hungry in my life and it sucks. I wouldn't wish it on anyone, so you can share with me."
When we were done I jokingly asked if she could break a $50 and we had a good laugh. She stuck with me for the remainder of the trip and was a very interesting lady besides being incredibly generous.
I hope she is well.
A shared umbrella.
I was 13 and waiting for a taxi. It was raining and I had no umbrella, so I got soaked. This guy next to me sheltered me from the rain with his umbrella. We talked while waiting for the taxi and he was so easy and fun to talk to! (Note: I was a shy kid with few friends so this was a unique event). After about 15 minutes another guy came up on his scooter. My guy told him that I was a friend of his and asked if he could drop me to my destination. So yeah, I just climbed on this stranger's scooter and took the lift home. Perhaps that was dumb looking back on it... Anyway I still think of this guy and the kindness he showed me to this day even though I don't even know his name or remember his face.
I met a well dressed older gentleman at a train station in London. He struck up a conversation about the departures board, and being a 20yr old woman I was hesitant to talk back, but I like chatting to people and decided to keep the convo going.
He ended up being extremely easy to talk to, I ended up telling him I was waiting for a train to take me to the airport so I could see my boyfriend in Hong Kong whom I hadn’t seen for months, and he ended up telling me all about his life and his amazing family, and just be all round charming.
He was in London for the day to pick up a passport so he could whisk his wife away on holiday, and he just made me smile the way he was so smitten with her.
He ended up leaving after about half an hour, and when he left he took my hand and kissed it, telling me it’s so beautiful to see a young woman in love.
I never caught his name, but I’ll always remember him.
Some things really are free.
A stranger gave me 300 dollars , no strings attached.
I met him and his wife in Oklahoma City, while on a road trip across the country alone. I was seated near them at a restaurant bar.
I didn't ask for any money and didn't even know his name.
The fly away balloon.
I was in the US Navy at the time and we pulled into port in Norway. We had a couple days to explore and I went to the closest city, Bergen. In the main square area of town, just down the road from their fish market, there was a small boy, maybe 3 years old, and his father. The boy had a large red balloon but it was windy and it got away from him. His father made a grab for it and missed but obviously couldn't run after it and leave his kid. It was blowing generally in my direction and I made a quick dash for it and managed to catch it out of the air before it blew away. I then crouched down and held it out for the boy. He looked like he was about to start crying but immediately brightened up with the kind of happiness only a child can have. He took the balloon and his father just gave me a small smile and a nod. I returned the smile and nod and we went on our way. This moment always sticks out to me.
It was the night before Christmas Eve, about 8:30 pm. My mom was trying to sell our place, we’d moved in a few blocks away with my new step dad. The driveway needed to be clear and there was about a foot and a half of snow to shovel. I was still pretty young and it was going to be a big job.
I trudged over there with my shovel, and just started the first row, when a random guy in a snowplow turned in and cleared the whole driveway in two minutes easy. He was wearing the red plaid jacket and toque combo - classic Canadian look.
I was worried as we hadn’t hired a snow removal guy, but he just waved and said Merry Christmas and drove off. Thanks Snowplow Guy, you taught me a thing or two about Christmas spirit.
A warm gift.
When I was studying abroad in Lithuania I volunteered at a soup kitchen and every now and again there would be an older lady helping out who dropped off supplies. We would smile at each other and say hello even through the language barrier.
One night I went to Easter mass in the town. I was volunteering. The day had been warm so I didn’t think about bringing a jacket. I’m sitting through mass and I’m getting colder and starting to shiver pretty noticeably, when all of a sudden I feel someone drape a scarf over my shoulders. I turn around and it’s the lady who would drop off supplies at the soup kitchen! Once mass was over I tried to return the scarf but she refused to take it back. I did my best to extend my gratitude through the language barrier, but I’m sure she knew.
It was the most beautiful and kindest thing that has ever happened to me. The was the last time I saw her and I will never forget her kindness towards me. It still tears me up thinking about it.
The house visit.
One day an older gentleman knocked on my door and asked if he could possibly come inside and revisit the home where he had lived over 55 years ago.
It was a pleasure to show him around and to hear his recollection of things that had happened within those walls many years ago - some of which were eye-openers.
I never saw him again because he was visiting from the other coast, where he now lives. Still, he told me tales of the house and neighborhood I won't forget.
The gift of a child.
My son was in a pretty serious accident. I was a wreck in the ICU waiting room. A little girl maybe about 9 or 10-years-old was with her family saying goodbye to her great grandmother . She waltzed right up to me and said , " Sir, why are you crying? " I explained that my son was very sick. She handed me a miniature puppy doll and told me it was lucky and my son would get better. She was right. He did. And I still keep that little puppy on my dresser and think of that sweet child.
For the love of plants.
I was a horticulture student on a botanical tour of Europe in 1979. I was at a flower market in Munich and saw a plant I didn't recognize. The lady working it didn't speak English and I didn't know any German. I saw a plant I did know and I touched its leaf and said its Latin name. She nodded and smiled. I then named another plant that I knew. Her smile got bigger. I then pointed to a plant that I did not know then name of and gestured it was her turn. She told me its Latin name. We didn't speak each other's language but we could communicate in a language that has been dead for over a thousand years. Cool.
Not so sad goodbye.
My boyfriend and I broke up in airport as I was getting ready to go home (it was a long distance relationship). He didn't see me cry. I went through security and then to the bathroom. THAT'S when I started to cry. A lady in there hugged me (she'd apparently seen the goodbye) and said it was going to be okay, she promised. She was the sweetest lady. I just felt like she was right...What I didn't know what that my boyfriend was sitting in his car crying. We're married now.
The train ride.
I was on a train ride from NYC to DC to visit my uncle. I sat next to an old-timer on the train. We didn't really talk much since I was so young and kind of shy. Eventually another guy on the train started bothering everyone. Eventually, the old-timer told him to leave us alone. After that we started talking. We reached his stop first, and before he left he gave me a little pin and told me to keep it. It was a pin from the US Army 1st Cavalry Division. I figure he must have been a Vietnam vet and wanted to pass it down to someone. I still have that pin.
When I was sixteen, I had to go to the hospital. I don't remember how it happened, but I started talking to a guy in a wheelchair. His name was Harvey, he looked a bit like Jerry Lewis. He was in his forties and told me he has brain cancer and only had a few months to live. We talked for about an hour and at the end he gave me some advice. He said don't whine about anything, whining gets you nowhere. Either do something about it and if you can't, then try to accept it. I never forgot that. That was almost 30 years ago. Harvey, sometimes I whine, but I try to keep it short. Thanks for that nice conversation.
A few years ago I sat next to this younger girl who was maybe 18, on a five hour flight. I’m a big guy so I already feel uncomfortable on flights. I try to keep in my personal space, knees closed, etc. I guess she could tell I was uncomfortable because she laughed and said, “our knees can touch, it’s okay, I won’t bite you.”
For the next 5 hours we sat there and talked, shared music, magazines, even split some food. Just like we had known each other for years. We had a good time. When we got off the plane, we high-fived and went our separate ways. The experience kind of restored my faith in humanity.
Saved by the music.
Last year my wife and I went on a vacation to Hawaii.
During our last day there, we went to a restaurant right across the street from our hotel and sat outside and enjoyed some drinks and some really great live music from a great musician who's name I cannot remember.
The musician sounded like Jack Johnson, but looked like Jason Momoa, no joke he was talented too.
Anyway, right before our drinks arrived, the musician comes back from a short break and sits down to play some more. Seconds after sitting down this huge tree branch falls right where he had been standing during his break.
The musician and I locked eyes and then we both started laughing. Not sure sure if anyone else saw what happened because no one moved or said anything other than the musician and me.
He said something like, "and that's the second time music saved my life ladies and gentlemen."
An ear to listen.
I was waiting for the subway when a woman who was in her forties approached me and asked if she could talk to me. I am a female and was in my twenties at the time. I thought it might be a scam or she might be crazy, but it turned out she was just really upset and needed someone to talk to as she was having a really tough time.
Her kids had been taken away and I forget all the details now, but she basically just poured out her story to me while we waited and while we rode into town. I held one of her hands in both of mine. I asked a few questions, but mostly I just listened, because there was simply no resolution to her situation. It was just awful. I probably listened for a total of 20-30 minutes.
When we got to the center of town, she thanked me for listening and got off the train. Some of the other riders made eye contact with me, but none of us spoke. It was a silent and a profound experience for me and for the few others who overheard. Whenever I think of her, I hope she's doing well. But I'll never know.
Taking the time.
I was in a car accident when I was in my early twenties. I was living in a town where I didn't know many people and didn't have any family. The ambulance officer who attended checked me out and I told him I was fine, but he said he would wait a while to be sure.
Once the initial adrenaline started to wear off, I started getting terrible neck pain. The ambulance officer gave me this goofy grin and told me "I told you so."
It was a small town and the hospital was understaffed, so he came in with me, stayed and assisted the nurses while they examined me. He joked around and kept me distracted through the whole experience so I didn't stress.
A small gift.
I went to a sumo match in Japan and sat next to this super cute older couple. We had some small talk before the match and shared some snacks we brought from another region in Japan. When halftime came around, he and his wife came back with a commemorative mug to gift me! He also had a matching one so we could all remember the moment. We shared beers and stories for the rest of the day. I'll never see the couple again, but I'll never forget such a delightful moment. That mug is my favorite mug. Crazy that a 10 minute small talk session turned into a lifetime memory! Reminds you that life is amazing.
A helping hand.
I was in the line to checkout at a small Walmart around 10:30 at night, one that closed at 11, in a small town where everything closes at 7. The store was completely empty except me, the person in front of me, and a small handful of employees. I was buying some packing tape since I was in the process of moving.
In front of me was a guy who about 20 years old, muscular and covered in piercings and tattoos. He was buying some diapers. His first credit card was declined, and his second card was also declined. He had this look of complete and utter defeat on his face, completely the opposite of his physical appearance, and looked like he had no idea what to do.
I said I’d pay for him, and he just broke down. He teared up and shook my hand, thanked me, and then looked around and hurried out of the store.
As only kids can.
A kid around the same age as myself came up to me in the airport and asked if I was also playing pokemon. After confirming that I was, he asked if I needed a Golem, and said that he needed an Alakazam.
We traded pokemons and then traded back, said thank you and went our own ways.
Lights and candy.
A few summers ago, some friends and I were driving home after a usual late-night grocery store run to get some sour patch kids. We pulled up to a red light with our windows down, snacking on some sour patches when another car pulled up next to us. The driver looks over at us, checks out the candy situation in our car and gives me a nod. We both know what’s up. I lean out the window and toss a single sour patch kid across a lane of traffic right into this dude’s open mouth. No celebration. No hoopla. Nothing. Just one more nod before the light turns green and we go our separate ways.
Pharmaceuticals and planes.
I was finally getting to go on a vacation after graduating nursing school. I was on my way to see my best friend. I had my pharmacology book with me trying to study for my license exam a couple of days after I got back from my trip and the lady that happened to sit next to me on the plane worked for a pharmaceutical research company. We had the best conversation and she was excited to explain some of the more difficult medicines I was studying and gave me some little tricks to remember side effects and onset and peak times. It was by far the best flight i'd ever been on and she wished me luck on my exam...which I passed.
A shared shoulder.
I fell asleep on a strangers shoulder.
I slept for 7 hours and she just took it. When I woke I was quite embarrassed, but she didn’t seem to mind at all, and we chatted over the in-flight breakfast. She said she fell asleep as well and had leaned on me too.
What a cool person. Or just too shy to tell me off.
From one parent to another.
I was in the emergency room with my very young son. As we were arriving, an ambulance brought in a victim of a motorcycle wreck. The ambulance had been followed closely by a suburban. The victim's mother got out of the suburban in the emergency bay and ran in with her son while her husband parked.
About an hour later, the victim's parents walked by the room where my son and I were. The mother stopped and looked in and gave me a smile that broke my heart. Her son had just died. It’s been 20 years and I’ll never forget that moment.
The silent concert.
Caught the bus home from university and noticed the cute guy sitting across from me was lip syncing to the radio. I joined in and we had us a silent jam sesh on our ride home. Caught that same bus home for the rest of semester but never saw him again and didn’t get his number.
The worst part was that after he got off the bus, the next song to play was All Star, it would have been epic!
Staying at a hotel on the outskirts of Beijing I hit the sauna to relax after a long journey. A Russian man entered the sauna and we ended up chatting for about an hour. It was one of the deepest and most meaningful conversations about politics and the philosophy of happiness I’ve ever had. That was in 2004 and to this day I still think of some things that he said to challenge my perceptions of happiness.
All in a last name.
The summer after I graduated high school, I walked the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain. You meet tons of people walking the Camino and one day, near the end of the trail, I met a boy my age named Julius. He was from Germany and had taken a gap year to live in Spain and had been walking the Camino for a couple of months already. It turns out we were staying in the same hostel that night, an ancient monastery that was run by some monks.
Julius and I got to talking and ventured into the enormous stone cathedral on the monastery grounds. There was moss growing on the stone walls and pigeons flying around and he and I stayed and talked there for about two hours. We talked about everything under the sun, from why we were walking the Camino to philosophy to our futures. It was getting late and we had to get to bed to wake up early to keep on walking, but we were both stopping in the same town the next night so we thought we'd surely see each other. Unfortunately, it was in that small town that various different paths converged so there were about ten different hostels and I couldn't find Julius in any one of them. I still think about him from time to time and wonder what great friends we could have been if we'd run into each other again or even shared our last names. So it goes!
A view needs no words.
While I was in Japan on the Shinkansen bullet train, I sat next to a grandmother who was in a kimono. She kept trying to talk to me, but I'm American and don't speak any Japanese. I fell asleep for an hour and woke up when she tapped me on my shoulder and pointed out the window saying "Mt Fuji" as we passed by the mountain with the sun setting behind it. Was truly breathtaking and beautiful. I smiled and thanked her for showing me that. She went back to reading her book and my stop was the next one so I grabbed my bag and walked off the train. One of my fondest memories of the trip.