They’re Never Above Your Station

, , , , , | Hopeless | July 24, 2017

(This happens a week or two after I have just arrived to Japan for a student exchange program. I have yet to have my phone connected to the Internet at this point, so I have to rely on memory to get around. This, coupled with my liking to walk rather than go by transport, results in me getting lost a lot. This time I’m trying to walk home from university, but end up in a different part of the town altogether, and it’s getting late so I decide to just find the nearest subway station. Luckily, I at least speak some Japanese.)

Me: *walks into a convenience shop* “Excuse me, could you tell me what the nearest train station is and how to get there?”

Clerk: “Well, it’s a 20-minute walk from here and it’s a little complicated… Hey, [Coworker #1], there is a foreign customer asking how to get to the train station. Can you explain to her?”

(Coworker #1, an extremely nice middle-aged lady, calls Coworker #2, a young man, and together they try to explain the way to me in half-English, half-Japanese. Unfortunately, I am not yet familiar with local landmarks and find my Japanese vocabulary significantly lacking for words such as “highway” and “T-crossing”. Eventually they draw me crude map and, having thanked them, I walk out with it. They had even offered to walk part of the way with me, but that seemed like an obnoxious thing to accept, so I refused. As I am trying to follow the hand-drawn map, I hear footsteps behind me, and see a young man dressed like a typical office worker trying to catch up.)

Young Man: “Excuse me! I heard you talking to the clerk in that convenience store, and was wondering if I could help you find the way? Where do you want to get?”

Me: “[Neighbourhood where my dorm is], but I’m fine with just finding the train station.”

Young Man: “Well, if you keep walking like this, you’ll end up in Nara!” *a town over 20 miles away in the opposite direction from where I need to get*

(He then walks with me to the train station, making polite conversation as we go. I assume he just needs to go in the same direction anyway. As we get to the station:)

Young Man: “Do you know which station you have to get off at? I can look up on my phone.”

Me: “Oh, thank you, but I know. It’s [Station].”

Young Man: “Than you just need to board the next train from [Platform]. Here, use my train pass.”

Me: “Oh, no, thank you. I have the money.”

Young Man: “Are you sure? It’s [fare]. My pass is unlimited, so it’s okay if you use it. My company pays for it anyway.”

Me: “No, no, but thank you. Thank you very much.”

(As I head to the ticket gate, I see him waving and turning to walk off.)

Me: “Aren’t you going?”

Young Man: “Me? Oh, no. I actually live in an opposite direction; this isn’t even the station I have to board from. I just wanted to make sure you were all right!”

(Young man, thank you so much for helping me get home that night! This encounter meant so much to me back then, especially since I was in the middle of adapting to the new country!)

A Neurologically Atypical Display Of Understanding

, , , , , | Hopeless | July 22, 2017

My boys are three and eight and both have autism. My eight-year-old has ADHD and my three-year-old has ADD and severe speech delays.

After checking out at the meat counter of a small meat shop near our house I try to move to the main check out section. My eight-year-old is trying to run around the shop with our groceries and is struggling to stay next to me. My three-year-old launches himself out of the stroller and tries to race around the shop while screaming. I manage to get them both under control for a few minutes but our stroller gets stuck and the groceries spill all over.

A kind worker comes around from the meat counter and starts to chat with the boys while helping me pick up everything. Once the stroller is unstuck he asks if we want help to our car or the door. He manages to help keep my boys occupied and doesn’t bat an eye when they are acting out from what is deemed normal. He made us feel normal and welcomed. We always go there once a week for our meat and many small things we need because we are welcomed, and it’s a shop that my boys are careful in without me needing to hold them tightly against me.

It’s a wonderful feeling when people treat non-neurotypical kids the way they would treat neurotypical kids.

Breaking Bread Is Better Than Breaking Bonds

, , , , | Hopeless | July 20, 2017

In the late 90s, a couple from Iran moves in next door to my parents. They’re very friendly people, although a bit shy and the wife initially didn’t speak much English. While they both wear traditional Western clothes, they are practicing Muslims. Most of the neighborhood is white and at least nominally Christian, and none of the other neighbors are Middle Eastern or Muslim. But no one cares and the couple settles right in, and the other families in the neighborhood are happy to throw a baby shower for them when the wife is pregnant. She is so touched she cries happy tears, explaining that she felt so accepted and loved.

In the days following September 11, 2001, several of the neighbors were standing out on the sidewalk talking, trying to process the terror attacks. My dad notices that he hasn’t seen the next-door neighbors. He walks to their door and knocks. The husband answers. (The husband is about five-foot three and the wife even smaller. My dad is six-foot two; only one other man in the neighborhood is taller.) The neighbor looks a little nervous.

Dad greets the neighbor and explains that a bunch of people just felt like talking, and he and his wife were welcome to join if they want. The neighbor declines, and Dad reassures him that no one is mad at him or his wife or thought they are terrorist or sympathizers. He says, “If you don’t blame me for Timothy McVeigh, I won’t blame you for the terrorists.” The neighbor still stays home, but is relieved.

They’re still my parents’ next-door neighbors, and still very nice people. I have kids myself now, and the neighbors have given them carte blanche to pick any of the flowers in their front yard (and the flowers are incredible; the most gorgeous roses I’ve ever seen) and often give them Christmas presents. I’m going to visit my parents tomorrow, and since Ramadan is over, I have a loaf of (Halal-friendly) bread baking in the oven to bring the neighbors.

Kindness Is Just A Stoner’s Throw Away

, , , , , | Hopeless | July 18, 2017

(On my day off, I decide to head to the local pot dispensary to take advantage of their Fourth of July sale. When I pull into their parking lot, I see a group of four people — two men, a woman, and a child — standing around a car with the hood up. Note: it’s hovering around 100 degrees, a rarity in Oregon.)

Me: “Y’all need a jump?”

Older Man: “Nah, the car just overheated. We’re waiting for it to cool down a bit so we can open the radiator cap.”

Me: “Y’all got water?”

Older Man: “Yeah, we have some to put in there.”

Me: “Y’all got water for yourselves? It’s really hot out here.”

Woman: “No, we don’t.”

Me: “I always keep a six pack of bottled water in my trunk, for times like this.”

(I pop my trunk while the younger man, the woman, and the kid follow me over. The older man stays by their car. I pull three water bottles out of the pack, one for each of the three who seemed interested in the offer. They thank me, and I head into the dispensary.)

Woman: *overheard as I walk away* “See, Dad? I told you. Stoners are the nicest people!”

Begging For A Happy Ending

, , , | Hopeless | July 16, 2017

Story takes place outside of a deli type store, during a heat wave in the middle of the summer. In 2012 I find myself homeless due to enormous medical bills that leave me bankrupt. I don’t have a bed in a shelter yet and I am not proud but have been begging outside the store for some spare change, to get a bottle of water. I feel ashamed for begging but I haven’t had any water since the day before and feel so hot and weak. I have only had 35 cents so far.

An ambulance stops by for what I assume is snacks. The woman crew member apologizes and says she doesn’t have any spare change when I ask. I thank her anyway and resume standing outside.

The woman comes back out after about 5-10 minutes in the store. She approaches me and hands me a bag. Inside the bag is two large bottles of water and a sandwich. I break down crying from her generosity.

She then asks if I have someplace to stay and I tell her no. She asks if it would be okay if she makes a phone call on my behalf. What happens next is a miracle for me. She calls a homeless outreach program and tells them I have nowhere to go. Within an hour, a program counselor comes to pick me up and I have a shelter bed and access to food and water.

The shelter helped me find a new job and eventually helped me transition into my own place three months later. I never did catch the woman’s name, but she truly saved my life. I can only hope that she realizes how much of an impact she had on turning my situation around. I still call her my angel.

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