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 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.

  2. 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.

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

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