the kindness of a stranger


Today was a real­ly bad day.

It’s not real­ly about one thing in par­tic­u­lar. It could be an accu­mu­la­tion of dif­fer­ent things. Either way, I just felt so pro­found­ly sad for no par­tic­u­lar rea­son, so much so that I had to leave in the mid­dle of a class and broke down in the bath­room sobbing.

So, as I locked myself in a stall sob­bing, I heard some­one else entered the next stall. I con­tin­ued to sob.

Then, I felt that I was ready to leave and as I was leav­ing, a voice came out from the next stall:

“What­ev­er it is, it’s going to be okay. Be strong.”

I thanked the voice, feel­ing ever, ever so grate­ful, and start­ed sob­bing again.


I then found a pot­ted plant to sit next to in the hall­way and let its branch­es fall over my one arm, breath­ing in deeply its scent of dirt and basil (but I don’t think it was a basil, it was too big to be a basil), wait­ing for the class to end so I could get my backpack.

The woman came out from the bath­room, “give me a hug,” she said, “you’re going to be okay.” I don’t know who she is, she did­n’t ask for my name and I did­n’t ask for hers. 

A young woman from my class whom I’ve hard­ly spo­ken with came out of the class­room to microwave her lunch. She asked if I were okay and if I want­ed her to sit with me. I said it was up to her.

She sat down and said, “we’ll sit in silence.”

And we did, as I sobbed intermittently.

She did­n’t ask me why I could­n’t stop cry­ing. And even if she did I would­n’t know how to answer her. It was just one of those days.


One of those days where I did­n’t want to be alone but I don’t real­ly want to be talk­ing with peo­ple about why I’m sad.

One of those days where I like to sit with plants, hug trees, because they don’t judge.

And that, to me, is kindness.

The two women today gave me great gifts of kind­ness. They did­n’t ask what I cry­ing about to judge whether I was deserv­ing of their kind words and ges­tures. They just offered it to me with­out even know­ing me.

These are the moments that I will store up in my mem­o­ry to keep me going on days like today. 


A great quote I saw the oth­er day:

Look at the sea. What does it care about offens­es?
— James Joyce


I was speak­ing with a very wise woman about Nia­gara Falls. I told her that the falls is cer­tain­ly full of ener­gy, but the water that flows over the table rock just before it falls, I could stare at it all day because to me, it feels like kindness.

“What is it about the water that reminds you of kind­ness?” she asked, smiling.

I could­n’t quite think of the rea­sons then. I could only think of the way it caress­es the rocks and gen­tly sways the under­wa­ter plants at the bot­tom. But I think I’ve fig­ured it out today.

Because it does­n’t judge.


Late­ly Mike and I have start­ed going swim­ming at the pool in our build­ing. I can’t swim, but I like the feel­ing of being sur­round­ed by water. Feels like I’m being hugged. And the muf­fled sound one hears under­wa­ter, it makes me think that maybe that’s what it sounds like inside the womb. (An idea I prob­a­bly got from watch­ing TV shows, and it makes sense, does­n’t it?)


And so, the women who offered kind­ness to me, a stranger, today showed me that it is pos­si­ble to be com­pas­sion­ate and non­judg­men­tal with­out hav­ing to be a plant, a tree, or the sea. They showed me how to show kind­ness as a human being to some­one who real­ly need­ed it.


And I think of you, my friends whom I’ve nev­er met in per­son but vis­it me reg­u­lar­ly or once in a while or for the first time, being inter­est­ed and read­ing what I have to say, even leav­ing mes­sages that are so encour­ag­ing and kind and make my day over and over again — I’m so very grate­ful for you.




8 thoughts on “the kindness of a stranger

  1. I’m sor­ry it was one of those days, and I hope every­thing goes bet­ter soon!

  2. I vis­it you often, enjoy­ing your cre­ativ­i­ty. This posts helps me enjoy the cre­ativ­i­ty of the per­son who offered that you two sit in silence. It was ‘warm­ing’ to me. Thank you for tak­ing courage to share your feel­ings. Be well.

  3. I just dis­cov­ered your blog and I love it. I’m a for­mer Toron­ton­ian liv­ing in Hal­i­fax now and it seems we like a lot of the same things.

    Your essay on kind­ness real­ly touched me. Those two women real­ly seemed to know what you need­ed right then.

    I have a small sil­ver ring which I wear every day, a wire twist­ed into a tiny knot. When I look at it, it reminds me of the promise I have made, to always be kind to myself, even on my worst days.

    I hope things are bet­ter with you and that you too are kind to yourself.

  4. ah, i would love to move to hal­i­fax one day…
    that’s a real­ly good reminder, being kind to myself. thank you! :D

Comments are closed.