A Tiny Anthology of Five Acts of Kindness

by people I’ve known for 10 minutes or less.

1.

Stadiums are a dreaded staple of high school lacrosse conditioning. As I slog up another seemingly vertical incline, the slow torture of each stair taunts me with its smug insurmountability, and my hamstrings feel liable to snap.

To make matters worse, the boy’s lacrosse team is conditioning next to us. One of the players strikes up a conversation with me in spite of the pain, manages to keep pace with me while bunny-hopping each step that I run, and encourages me to keep going.

He beats me to the top, winks, then steps aside to let me go first.


2.

I’m at a public library in Milan, and I’ve forgotten to bring my headphones.

Unable to work in paralyzing silence, I go up to the front desk and — with my limited Italian and my unhelpful gesticulations — ask if I could borrow a pair of headphones. Alas, they have none to lend.

An Italian boy overhears me and asks, “you needa headphones?” He was on his way out, but lends me his black mp3 earbuds anyway.

He then goes outside and smokes half a pack of cigarettes so that I have more time to use them.


3.

I’m playing violin on the street.

A beautiful stranger walks by and drops $10 into my case.

I’m smiling for the rest of the day.


4.

It’s 4 a.m. in the Science Center.

I’m up late reading Descartes’ meditations.

I’m alone / delirious / sick.

Since no one else is around, I blast songs that alternate between Tinashe’s “All Hands on Deck” and Beethoven’s 9th. I’m yawning between measures, struggling to stay awake.

A man walks in a few minutes later. He is African American / in his 40’s / wearing a plaid beret.

He says hello, smiles, then compliments my music taste on both style and variety. I hadn’t realized how eclectic my playlist was until he’d pointed it out. I am impressed by his perceptiveness.

A few minutes later, he asks if I’m doing okay. I hadn’t realized I was coughing so hard until he’d offered to buy me cough drops from CVS — he was “heading there anyway,” he explains. I am touched by his concern.

I leave shortly afterwards to catch a few hours of sleep, amazed that a complete stranger has noticed more about me in 10 minutes than anyone has noticed about me all semester.


5.

It’s the last day of the Tour de France and we’re standing on the Champs-Élysées. It’s raining, and we’re crowding against the railings, watching the blur of cyclists race by.

I’m looking to purchase a gift set of macarons before leaving the boulevard, so I ask the friendly Parisian standing next to me for directions to the French sweetshop, Ladurée.

He escorts me to the shop underneath his umbrella because I have a terrible sense of direction, and because he doesn’t get want me to get wet. As I’m waiting in line to buy the macarons I’ve picked out, he swipes his card for me before I can pay the cashier.

He insisted that it was a common courtesy, that any Parisian would have done the same. But I wondered how many Parisians would go out of their way to buy 17 Euro’s worth of macarons for a lost tourist on a rainy day.

It astonishes me sometimes, that strangers can be so sweet.