How a Passing Stranger Taught me a Life Lesson

This is a lengthier post than normal, so hunker down. I promise it’s worth the read. And I am a little nervous to put it all out there like this, but here I go…

I’m going to start this story by saying, I love my dog more than you can imagine and wouldn’t trade her for anything.

But she is scared of absolutely everything you can think of…things that move suddenly, tall things, people walking, inanimate objects, the slightest of noises, and…well, you get the picture. So as I am sure you can imagine, it can be tough to take her for walks and potty breaks near our busy apartment building (with plenty of foot traffic and a block’s worth of construction at the moment).

Now that you know that, you’ll better understand this story…

The other day, I took Luna out for a quick walk and the construction was pretty heavy that day. She was completely panicked the entire time, and I was trying to get through it as fast as possible so she would go to the bathroom and we could go back inside. She finished up her business and we started walking around the corner. Only there were 3 large construction signs blocking our path partially. Luna started going through, so I followed.

There was a group of people who walked past the opposite corner at the very same time and it freaked Luna out. She pulled on the leash; we knocked over one of the very heavy metal construction signs (onto my leg and foot); and she continued past the sidewalk into the street, as freaked out as I had ever seen her.

I almost fell over when the sign hit me but managed to keep on my feet when I saw that Luna was in the street. I quickly scooped her up, which is not an easy feat for my less-than-strong arms and a 50+ pound dog. As I picked her up, I felt like I was about to loose it. The fact that she had made her way onto a very busy street in seconds made my heart sink. It is one of my worst fears as a dog owner.

To make matters worse, the people who had (accidentally) startled Luna in the first place were just staring at me. No offer to help, in a city that is known for it’s friendliness. And as I put her down, I counted at least 3 or 4 more people just staring at me who walked right past, as I struggled to put the construction sign back up while still holding onto Luna.

Then a woman came up from behind me, who was carrying bags of groceries in each hand and asked if I needed any help. I gratefully said yes and she put all four of her bags down, along with her purse. She put the sign back up and said a few kind words before grabbing her belongings and continuing on. I was almost in tears as I said thank you several times, which may sound extreme, but it’s the truth.

A perfect stranger had just helped me get through a small, but difficult, moment while other passers-by just stood there and watched.

As I brought my dog back inside and went up the elevator, I cried.

I was so taken by what that woman had done for me – a simple gesture that made a huge difference in that moment – and from someone who (literally) had her hands full already. She stopped her day in it’s tracks to help me, a person whom she had never laid eyes on before.

The Lesson

We are all busy creatures. We have baggage, we have problems, we have a to-do list that never seems to end.

It is easy to get caught up in ourselves.

And when that happens, we stop seeing the bigger picture.

So here it is. There will always be someone who is busier, someone who is going through a more trying time, someone who has a more difficult path to blaze.

Which is why I am recommending that WE (yes, all of us) take 10 minutes out of our busy schedule, and occasionally troubled day, to help make another person’s morning / afternoon/ evening a little bit better than it started.

As creatives, we are naturally compassionate, but like I said before, it is easy to get caught up in your own stuff.

So let’s remember today, and everyday after, that we are all in this together and the slightest gesture of kindness can change the course of someone’s entire day.

It doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be done.

Thanks for reading this far. I hope it sparks something in you, as the stranger on the street sparked something in me.

35 comments | Click here to reply

RT @papernstitch: How a Passing Stranger Taught me a Life Lesson: This is a lengthier post than normal, so… http://t.co/tgH2SPyb

(@onesydneyroad) (@onesydneyroad)

I’m glad that someone was there to help you — finally! I’ll take your advice and try to take time out to show someone some kindness today.

Preemie Maboroshi

That’s a good idea – and not only does it feel good for the people who gets your help, but also for the helper.
I try to do this regularly – helping an elderly woman buy stamps at a vending machine, inviting a homeless person to coffee, listening to the lonely woman next to me talk (so she is a bit less lonely for 10 minutes). It does not take much, but it makes the world a far better place.

Ellen

Thanks Preemie.

And Ellen- so glad to hear that you already do this! I love the examples you gave.

-Brittni

papernstitch

In our household we call that ‘taking an extra minute’. It’s amazing how much of a difference you can make in someone’s day (and your own) by regularly steping outside your routine to do something nice for another.

Something I try to remember daily: “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle.”

lowlow

So true lowlow! Thanks for coming by!
-Brittni

papernstitch

So true…..I have had times when I sure needed that kind word or bit of help and I’ve been, sad to say, the one too busy to help.

I used to be a cranky driver but now I am purposing to be much more compassionate about being cut off, etc. or other less than stellar driving I encounter. I just tell myself that I really don’t know what that other person may be going through right now. Maybe that’s why they are distracted while in the car.

I find too that as we get older/more grown up, we all have more “life stuffs”. Parents ill, sandwich generation, career challenges, kids with learning issues, etc. Everybody has some real life challenges to handle and none of us can scoot through our days being perfect.

Sandra

Hi Sandra! Thanks for stopping by! I think this a great rule to live by “I just tell myself that I really don’t know what that other person may be going through right now”. I do that too! And you know what? It makes me feel better about annoying situations because I don’t let things like that get to me as much anymore. When you put yourself in another person’s shoes and/ or give them the benefit of the doubt, it just makes everything better. At least for me.
-Brittni

papernstitch

Great story, and a great reminder. The “stuff” is always there but we have to take a step back and be humans. Humans who are generous with our time and our attention. I totally hear you on feeling so emotional about her gestures that you cried. I’ve been the beneficiary random acts of kindness and have felt the same way. But you know what? It feels just as amazing when you’re on the other end and offering yourself up. People can be so caught off guard by a helping hand, or an extra dollar when they’re short at the cash register, or whatever it is. Their graciousness is such a great payback!

Robin

So true Robin. It feels just as good to be the giver of a random act of kindness. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!
-Brittni

papernstitch

Aw, I love this! My dog is afraid of EVERYTHING too! Taking him on walks is a nightmare for me because he is startled by everything too. I could only imagine his reaction when all of this happened to you, and what HE would have been like. (Not far from Luna’s reaction) It’s hard enough to compose yourself, but you are also worried about your pup’s safety and health. Knowing they are stressed and freaking out isn’t good for them, or for you, so it just adds to the stress! I’m glad the stranger was there for you, even if it was a simple act of just picking something up.

Rachael TreeTalker

How a Passing Stranger Taught me a Life Lesson http://t.co/i9B6rGOz via @sharethis

@artbynaomi

Hi Rachael! I totally feel for you having a dog so similar to mine. It can be tough, especially because Luna is such an amazing dog (and I am sure yours is too). Luna is a rescue, so its fairly common for dogs who were taken from abusive situations to have minor issues throughout their life. It’s amazing what sticks with them when they are puppies. Is yours a rescue too?

Anyway, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

-Brittni

papernstitch

This was good to read, so important to remember, thank you for sharing it. I walk two dogs and can totally relate.

naomi

oh Brittni, I’m sorry! I feel for you! My dog is the same kind of scaredy cat – your story reads like one of my nightmares. I’m so glad that there was a kind woman to help you out. It really is amazing what a difference that small gesture can make. I hope all those people who just sat by and watched noticed her kindness. thank you for passing along this story, and reminding us all to take that extra second to help.

erinkathleen

Brittni,
I teared up as I read this post! I’m so sorry about that experience! A few months ago I was in a similar situation – walking my dog (also named Luna 🙂 ) in the downtown part of my city. I didn’t have a good enough hold on her leash at one point and she got away, and I chased after her as fast as I could (she’s a Husky and is pretty darn fast). The fact that I was chasing her didn’t help, but I was afraid that if I stopped to call her that she would get too far ahead of me. She looked panicked and the fur on her back was standing straight up. I saw her running toward the busy streets, panicked, and tripped down concrete stairs and cut my feet pretty badly (although I didn’t notice the cuts at the time). I remember having to actually yell, “PLEASE, STOP HER!” because people were just staring at me across the street, even as I fell. Thankfully, an elderly couple ended up saving the day by grabbing her leash for me! I was so grateful for that couple. They asked if I was okay and actually noticed my cuts before I did. I limped back with Luna and just cried in my car. Gosh, this takes me back to that terrifying experience. I’m still super paranoid taking her out in busy areas now.

Anyway… 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story and the lessons you learned from it. So glad that you & your Luna are okay.
-Meghan

PS Love your blog 🙂

Meghan

Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m sorry you had the experience of people not helping you but very glad for the woman who did. It’s an important lesson for everyone. -g

Georgianna

Thank you so much for sharing your experience. It’s not easy to share your vulnerabilities because we all want to appear to have everything under control. But often it’s situations like these that are beyond our control, when our vulnerabilities are laid bare for everyone to see, that we are fortunate to experience some genuine (and unexpected) kindness. So glad the kind lady was there to help you. Thanks again for sharing.
Danielle x

Danielle

Great post! A good reminder about slowing down and seeing ways we can help others. Thank you!

Annette

I’m glad that stranger helped you – and I feel sad for those who just stared. It’s not difficult to help someone. I bet you that stranger didn’t even think about it again, it was just natural. Thanks for posting because I think this is something that people need to hear (including myself). Someone once told me that the opposite of love is not hate, it’s apathy.

Jessica T.

I couldn’t agree with this more! Even though it sound trite to say it, people need people. Our lives would be empty vessels without the connections we share. Showing one’s humanity helps up to all feel connected. It’s also feel a bit trite to share a current internet meme that’s going around, but these images and the simple stories behind them instantly reminded me of your experience on the sidewalk. http://www.buzzfeed.com/expresident/pictures-that-will-restore-your-faith-in-humanity

Elisabeth

Beautiful post. Makes you think. I’m 100% for paying it forward!

Susan Driskell

I love when we all share these stories with each other. It makes us remember. Love and kindness is truly the way.

allison carmen

How a Passing Stranger Taught me a Life Lesson http://t.co/n9V6L7AP via @sharethis

sue bulmer (@sooziebee71)

Thank you for sharing this 🙂 It seems that not many people remember this and it´s so sad. I´m a littlebit shy and also clumsy because I´m nervous around strange people and when something like this happens usually people just stare like “what is this stupid girl doing” look on their face.

Nina

It’s very touching and indeed a lesson to all of us. Thanks for sharing 🙂

Ana

How a Passing Stranger Taught me a Life Lesson http://t.co/QgimqL5H

Ana (@MysteriousCats)

The kindness of strangers is one of the most rewarding. So glad she was there to help. What a wonderful story to learn from.

Laura Trevey

i am reminded of a story i heard on oprah. some woman had decided to kill herself on a certain day. on that day, she walked by a stranger, an attractive woman, who gave her a smile. she could not believe that someone so lovely could think enough of HER to smile. she reasoned, i must not be so worthless. she did not kill herself, just because of that stranger’s gesture.

we have the power to make others’ lives better and we should look for ways to do it. i tell my daughters always to compliment people, friends and foes, when they deserve it. it can make a huge difference to that person, and it makes you a better human, too.

donna

Brittni, this is a great story! It’s easy to walk around the city (and life) with my face buried in my iPhone.Thanks for the reminder. xo

Melanie

Great reminder from @papernstitch: How a Passing Stranger Taught me a Life Lesson http://t.co/tB5H6i4v via @sharethis.

(@melaniebiehle) (@melaniebiehle)

“It doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be done.” Really like this sentence, it hits the nail on the head!

Polin

Great story by brittni @papernstitch http://t.co/DnjavTLv via @sharethis

Vanessa (@six0sixdesign)

On the Papernstitch Blog: How a Passing Stranger Taught me a Life Lesson http://t.co/Rn4cjmUE

(@neawear) (@neawear)

@papernstitch This post why I try to smile and say a kind word to everyone I come in contact with. http://t.co/voqYvKK7 via @sharethis

Shin Lee (@thisisshin28)
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