Independence Is Nice, But Being With Friends Is Better

, , , , , , , , | Friendly | July 4, 2020

I have moved into a small apartment in an old building in a “rough” part of town. As far as I can tell, my neighbors are very diverse, mostly immigrants, and all lovely.

The Fourth of July is coming up, and since money is tight, I’m not able to make it home for the holidays. I will be working a shift at the gas station I work at the night before, anyway, so I would be too tired to travel on the day.

I get home one day and see my neighbor’s door open; they’re an Iranian family. The mother is doing laundry and has the door and windows open to make a breeze on this hot and humid day. We get talking, and she asks me what I know about the Fourth of July, as she has heard it in conversation recently. I explain about Independence Day and what American families usually do — BBQ, fireworks, etc. She seems satisfied with the answer and goes back to doing laundry.

The next day another neighbor, this time a Chinese man, knocks on my door. He asks my help in translating a government form he has to complete, and he doesn’t understand certain words. We have spoken before so it didn’t come out of the blue, and I am happy to help. Funnily enough, afterward, he also asks about the Fourth of July and what it means. Again, I am happy to explain.

The day before the Fourth of July, I am heading out to my long night shift and bump into another neighbor coming into the building, a Ugandan woman. She doesn’t ask me about the Fourth of July, but asks if I am working all night, as I sometimes do. She is shocked, asking why I am not celebrating one of my holidays with my family, and I have to explain I have moved far away and money is tight. 

I go to my shift, which is 6:00 pm to 6:00 am, and it goes by without incident, just lots of people on the road traveling to see family and last-minute purchases of party supplies. I finish, head home, and get some sleep.

I wake up around midday on the Fourth of July and see a piece of paper at the bottom of my front door. Someone slid it under while I was sleeping.

It reads:

“Hi, [My Name]! We felt sorry that you couldn’t celebrate with your family today, so we’ve made some food for you. Come across whenever you’re hungry.”

It was sent by the Iranian mother across the hall. Very surprised, and more than a little touched, I freshen up and go over. I discover that their whole apartment has been turned into an international potluck! 

Their apartment is the only one with a terrace, and there I find most of my neighbors! Some are wearing tacky Fourth of July plastic glasses, some are drinking from red party cups, but all are having a good time. Without realizing, I had assisted or befriended most of my neighbors over the previous months, and I had been one of the few US citizens that had treated them nicely and with respect, so they wanted to say thank you.

That afternoon, I celebrate an All-American holiday with Iranians, Chinese, Ugandans, Filipinos, Uruguayans, and Vietnamese, who all contributed their cultural food for the occasion. It is the best Independence Day I have ever had! I miss living in that crappy old apartment!

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Sometimes A Little Pick-Me-Up Picks You Up A Lot

, , , , , | Friendly | June 20, 2020

I’ve had a less than calm-inducing day today, to say the least. Day-to-day, I am a single parent to my young daughter, but she usually visits her mother — my ex — for a night each weekend. My daughter usually looks forward to these visits, especially since Mummy takes her to [Fast Food Restaurant] for a [Kids’ Meal] most times.

However, late this afternoon, I was informed that my ex would not be able to collect our daughter after school for the visit as planned because she had been arrested. I now found myself in the position of rearranging my plans for my no-longer-child-free night, getting organized to collect my daughter, and figuring out how to tell her that she wouldn’t see Mummy this weekend without letting on the reason why.

Oh, and trying to get in touch with lawyers on a Friday afternoon to figure out how this affects future visits. Like I said, it’s been “interesting.”

[Daughter] was understandably disappointed when she found out she wouldn’t get to see Mum that night. After we got in the car, she asked me if she could please have [Fast Food], because Mummy always gets it for her. While I can’t afford to buy fast food all the time, I decided to say yes this time, partly because she still seemed sad and maybe it would help her feel a little better about it, and also because I wouldn’t mind something nice myself.

Is it still “comfort food” if it’s a drink? Sure, why not!

When we got to the drive-thru, the place was packed. We finally ordered her kids’ meal and a coffee for me, and we slowly inched our way forward to the payment window.

When we finally got there, the worker at the window asked, “Hi, did you have the [Kids’ Meal] and the coffee?”, in a tone of voice that immediately made me think they were going to tell me something was wrong. 

Great, I thought. Now there’s a problem with this, as well?

Out loud, I just said, “Uh, yeah, that’s ours.”

I definitely did not expect her response: “Yeah, so, the lady a few cars ahead paid for your order and said to tell you to have a happy Friday.”

I was in a mild state of shock as I pulled up to the next window to collect our food, though I was quickly brought back to earth by having to explain to my daughter why someone we don’t know would pay for our food.

I guess sometimes, people just want to do a random act of kindness… and I don’t know why, but sometimes what seems like almost nothing can really make a big difference to how you’re feeling. Thanks, random stranger lady!

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Bringing About Positive Change

, , , , , | Right | June 8, 2020

I work at a fairly busy fast food restaurant, and I have been trying to quickly process orders all day. A customer comes up and starts to order.

Customer: “I would like a [Combo #1], please, large size.”

Me: “Okay, sir, that was a large [Combo #1], so your total will be $7.67.”

The customer pulls out a handful of change, plunks it on the counter, and looks at me expectantly. Just looking at it, I know it’s not enough for his meal.

Me: *Unsure* “Would you like me to count that, sir?”

Customer: “Yes, please!”

I count out the amount of change, and the total amount is $0.83.

Me: “Sir, you are $6.84 short.”

The customer nods emphatically.

Me: “I can’t give you the meal for $0.83.”

The customer frowns and pushes the money towards me.

Me: “I’m sorry, sir. Unfortunately, nothing on the menu can be bought for $0.83. Do you maybe have more change or anything that you didn’t place on the counter?”

The customer’s eyes widen and he starts searching through his pockets.

Me: “Sir, would it be possible for me to help the other customers in line while you look?” 

He nods, so I move onto the next customer, hoping to whittle down the long line. After finishing with the next customer, I check back in with him.

Customer: “Okay, I want a [Combo #3], large size, please.”

I look at the pile of change, which has only grown by a couple of pennies, and sigh internally. This combo is even more than the first. I want to help this man, who seems slightly confused but very hungry, but such a large discrepancy would get me in trouble with my manager.

Me: “Sir, unfortunately, that is not enough to cover the amount.”

The next customer in line has been watching the entire exchange, and comes up to the counter.

Next Customer: “Here, I want to help this gentleman out, but I don’t have a lot to spare.”

He hands me a $5 bill. The customer sees the $5 now on his stack of change and gets excited, looking up at me hopefully.

Me: “Well, sir, I can’t give you a large combo, but how about a regular-sized [Combo #1]?”

The customer nods vigorously and I punch in the order, including a small family/friends discount, so that he will still get some of his change back. He happily takes his cup and goes to sit in the dining room. I turn to the next customer who helped him.

Me: “Thank you so much. I was really torn about what to do! I didn’t want to have to make him leave without food, but I can’t give away free food!”

Next Customer: “It wasn’t a problem; I enjoy helping people out when I can!”

I processed her order — also adding the family/friends discount — and she smiled at me and headed off with a wink. Faith in the general public restored!

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This Day Went From Zero To One Hundred Just Like That

, , , , , , , | Right | June 6, 2020

I work at a hardware store during the current health crisis. I’m ringing up an older gentleman one morning. At the end of his transaction, he tosses a bill on the counter and starts to walk away.

Me: “Um, sir, you dropped something.”

Customer: “It’s a tip!”

He gave me $100.00! Thank you!

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Kind Strangers Pull More Than Their Own Weight

, , , , , | Friendly | June 5, 2020

I am changing trains at a country station. As I am traveling away for work for three months, I have two big suitcases and an overnight bag. I am struggling when I realise that, because the train I had just gotten off was running late, the train I need to transfer to is about to leave on the other side of the station. The station only has a foot bridge with stairs and no lift.

Me: “S***.”

Random Guy: “You okay?”

I point to the train I need.

Me: “I need to get on that but it’s leaving really soon and there’s no lift.”

Random Guy: “Come on; I’ll help you.”

He grabs both my suitcases.

Random Guy: “Let’s go.”

We run over the bridge and onto the train with just enough time for him to put my suitcases on for me before the whistle sounds. I manage to say thank-you before he gets off.

To the random guy that took the time to help a stranger out, thank you. You saved me an eight-hour wait for the next train.

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