Hold A Door Open, And Another One Opens

, , , , | Hopeless | April 20, 2016

(I had major surgery as a child that has left me with fairly significant arthritis. I am in my early thirties, but during the winter, especially when we have damp weather, I am often left hobbling around like someone three times my age. On this particular day I badly need to do dishes and realize I am completely out of dish detergent. I live right next to a convenience store, and so I walk over to purchase some. It is December and there is ice on the ground, so I am not only stooped over and hobbling, but walking very slowly and cautiously. A young man of about 18 sees me crossing the parking lot and reaches the door before I do. He stands holding the door for nearly a full minute before I reach it.)

Me: *almost in tears because I was having such a crummy day and I can’t believe he has waited for me* “Thank you so much. That was unbelievably kind!”

Man: *smiles* “No problem! It looked like you have a little ‘hitch in your gettalong’ today and could use some help!”

(I smile in agreement and go to find my detergent. When I get to the cashier, I am behind the young man again. He is speaking to the cashier and sounds distressed.)

Man: “Are you sure? My paycheck was supposed to go in last night.”

Cashier: “I’m sorry; it’s saying it’s declined. Maybe you should call your bank?”

(I peek around and notice that he has a few cheap frozen pizzas and a few drinks. Being in a college town, I surmise that these are probably his meals for the week and having his card decline means he won’t be able to eat. I am fumbling for my credit card when he starts to walk away, shoulders slumped. I ask the cashier to put his items on my card. She asks if I’m sure, and when I nod vigorously, she calls out to the young man to stop him. He walks back, looking understandably suspicious.)

Me: “Please wait a moment. She’s running my card for your items and my detergent.”

Man: *now looking like HE might cry* “Are you serious? I’ll pay you back; I promise.”

Me: “Don’t worry about paying me back. You were so nice to hold the door for me, and you didn’t say a single thing about how I look all bent over. Please accept these as my ‘thank you!'”

(The cashier had finished bagging his things and handed them to him. He thanked me again and left, looking like a weight has been lifted. To be honest, I think it made me just as happy to do it as it made him.)

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A Good Sign(s) Of The Times

, , , , , , , , , | Working | April 19, 2016

(I am deaf, and so I communicate mostly by reading lips and using BSL (British Sign Language). I frequent a coffee shop every day on my way to work, but since the place is always busy and in a rush I usually have my order written down to speed things along. This time however, was different.)

Me: *hands barista my order on paper*

Barista: *looks down at the paper, and then up at me, and then beams a huge smile*

(All of a sudden, the barista starts talking to me in fluent BSL!)

Barista: *in BSL* “Hi, I was hoping I’d catch you today!”

Me: *replying in BSL* “You know BSL?”

Barista: “Just a little. Ever since you’ve been coming in and felt like you had to write your order down on paper, I didn’t feel comfortable with it. I think you should be able to order just like everyone else, so I started learning BSL. How am I doing?”

(At this point I start tearing up, and am so emotional I can barely sign.)

Me: “I think… that’s one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me.”

Barista: “It is absolutely my pleasure. Now, shall I get you your regular?”

(It has been years since that encounter, and every day the barista was there we would have a small chat in BSL. She has since left but we remain in touch and I always thank her for that day when someone learnt a whole language just to make me fit in.)

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Out Shopping For A New Friend

, , , , , , | Friendly | April 18, 2016

(I am a teenage Chinese male, but was born and raised in Scotland, so I have the local accent and cultural awareness. For as long as I can remember, a grumpy old woman has lived on the other side of the street. She would moan and scowl at most passersby, but is mostly harmless. I am leaving my house for football practice, when I notice the old lady get off the bus with what looks like heavy shopping bags.)

Me: “Excuse me, would you like me to help you with your shopping?”

(The old lady just stops and stares at me for a moment, like a deer in headlights.)

Me: “I know you only live down the road, but those look heavy.”

(The old lady is still staring, but wordlessly hands me her bags. I take them and we slowly walk towards her house.)

Me: “Wow, you seem to have a lot in here. Are you planning a feast?”

(My efforts of small talk don’t seem to get anywhere, so we walk slowly in silence until we get to her front door.)

Me: “If you’d like, I can take these to your kitchen for you?”

(At this point she finally speaks.)

Old Lady: “How long have you been able to speak English?”

Me: “Pardon?”

Old Lady: “Your English. It’s almost like you’re a local.”

Me: “That’s because I am. I was born in Dundee.”

Old Lady: “All this time, I thought you couldn’t speak English.”

Me: “Well, I guess we just never spoke to each other until now.”

Old Lady: “No, I suppose we didn’t.”

(She then opens her front door, and gestures for me to take her bags inside. Straight away, I can tell that this old lady might not be able to take care of herself very well, as the house is a bit of a mess, and the kitchen surfaces are dirty and sticky. The old lady seems a little embarrassed so I don’t make anything of it.)

Me: “Right, let me know where you want me to put your shopping.”

(I put the things away for her, making small talk. She says she’s seen me grow up over the years but just assumed because we are Chinese we don’t speak English and don’t associate with ‘locals.’ I am able to correct a few of her misconceptions, too. I finally put the last of her shopping away.)

Me: “Okay, that should be everything.”

Old Lady: “Would you like to stay for a cup of tea?”

(I’m about to mention that I will be late for my football practice, but the look in her eyes and the tone of her voice indicates that she probably hasn’t shared a cup of tea with anyone for a long time.)

Me: “You know what? A cup of tea sounds fantastic.”

(And for the first time in my entire life of knowing this grumpy old woman on my street, I see her smile.)

Old Lady: “Oh, lovely! I’ll get out the good biscuits!”

(For the next hour we chatted some more and got to know each other. She was a widow in her seventies who had lived alone for the last sixteen years, and didn’t make friends easily. From this one hour chat, we established an ongoing plan where I would go to the local supermarket with her once a week to help with the shopping and come back for a cup of tea, and I helped out around the house to keep it clean and tidy. We invited her over to our house for every birthday, Christmas, and even Chinese New Year, which she found very interesting, although the food may have been a little too spicy for her! We remained friends for ten years until her death, where my entire family attended her funeral, much to the surprise of her family, who hadn’t visited her once in the last decade. She will always be a close friend I will remember for the rest of my life.)

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When Life Gives You Lemon Chickens…

, , , | Hopeless | April 13, 2016

(I work as the front desk attendant at a hotel. I work the evening shift, and have forgotten to pack my dinner. As I’m checking in a middle-aged woman, my stomach practically roars in hunger. Embarrassed, I apologize to the lady. She only smiles and I continue checking her in.)

Me: “All right! You’re all set! Is there anything else I can help you with this evening?”

Woman: “Actually, hun, you did remind me that I’m fairly hungry myself. Do any Chinese restaurants deliver here?”

Me: “We have one, here.”

Woman: *takes the menu and gives it a brief glance* “Anything you can recommend?”

Me: “Most of the food is pretty good, but I really like the lemon chicken.

(She thanks me and goes up to her room. An hour later I see the delivery man pass through the lobby, and the smell set my stomach off again. Five minutes later the woman is back at my desk asking for a plate. After receiving one, she proceeds to place her take-out bag on the counter and open a huge assortment of boxes.)

Woman: “The restaurant had a minimum order price, and I was really craving Chinese. I can’t possibly eat all of this before my flight tomorrow, so I thought I would share.”

(She then proceeded to divvy up half of every dish, including the lemon chicken! It was so much food I ended up being able save half of what she gave me for my next shift. She couldn’t have known how those free meals made my day, and even my week!)

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Homeless Is Where The Heart Is

, , , , , | Hopeless | April 13, 2016

(I have had a sudden allergic reaction, but since my partner is at work and we only have one car, I have to take the train to go to my regular doctor. I look like I’ve been stung or punched, I feel feverish, and I can’t stop itching. I start to cry slightly out of frustration and pain. A clearly homeless man gets on.)

Man: “Miss? Miss? Are you all right?”

(I shake my head, still crying. The man pulls out a bag of stuff that shelters commonly give out, including tissues and wipes.)

Man: “Are you sick, miss? Do you need a tissue? Don’t cry!”

Me: *sniffling* “Thanks… I’m on my way to the doctor’s, actually. I’m having an allergic reaction plus a bad fever.” *the man hands me a small pack of tissues*

Man: “Do you know how to get there? I could get off and help you.”

Me: “No, it’s okay. I know the way.”

Man: “Are you sure?”

(I thanked him and got off at the next stop. No one else even noticed me, but he had!)

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