Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Kindness of Strangers

by KJ Howe

With all the challenges of our day to day life, we often lose sight of the bigger picture. Sometimes it takes an exceptional event to bring us out of our torpor, making us realize what is going on in the world. For example, the earthquake in Haiti has united countless nations. Funding, assistance, and an outpouring of compassion is being sent to the devastated island. No matter where I go, signs are posted asking people to contribute whatever they can to support the relief work, schoolchildren are running fundraisers, celebrities are giving generous donations, and others are making personal sacrifices so that they can assist in some way.

The incredible efforts people are making helped me realize how much the world relies on the kindness of strangers. Have you been the recipient of kindness from a stranger? Have you been the stranger who makes a difference? Let's share our stories of generosity of spirit today and celebrate the fact that there is a great deal of good in our world. Thanks for sharing!


jo robertson said...

Whoo hoo, is the chook coming to my house today????

My grandson's here raising havoc so I'd appreciate the help cleaning up the messes!

jo robertson said...

What a lovely sentiment expressed in your post, KJ. My husband and As we watched the Hope for Haiti celebrity fundraiser last night, my husband and I were just commenting on how generously people dig in and help and how willingly they help total strangers.

Once here in the States, we were pretty isolationist and I'm glad the spirit has moved toward a world community.

As John Donne said, "Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

Helen said...

He is coming to visit you it has been a while I think and you know how he loves to be with the kids.

What a lovely post I love the way people get together and help when there are disasters and with any thing really. I remember a long time ago Christmas Eve 1974 when cyclone Tracey wiped out Darwin here in Australia our whole street on Christmas morning was collecting clothes and adding some of our prestents to big boxes and took them to the Salvation Army for delivery to Darwin.
I have donated some money to Red Cross here in Australia for Hati they really do need all the help they can get at the moment.

Have Fun

Anna Sugden said...

What a lovely post, KJ, and how like you - a very generous person, yourself!

It is lovely to see how people respond positively to a crisis. Even here in England, during the recent snow, there were some great examples. Like, people offering their SUV's to help out Meals on Wheels to deliver food to the elderly. People taking blankets and campbeds to churches and village halls to help out stranded strangers.

I think the romance world is blessed with very generous people -and I'm not talking about the wonderful work of people like Brenda Novak with her fabulous auction, but those within romance writing itself - from the big names like Nora, to those still trying to get published. Almost everyone is willing to help everyone else, whether through advice or doing workshops or giving critiques or judging contests or just a cheer-you-up email when you've had yet another rejection. We all try to pay it forward in this business and I think it speaks volumes.

Deb said...

A few years ago, we had a penny drive at our school (325 students, PK-6) for donating supplies for a school in New Orleans affected by Hurricane Katrina. We expected to raise $100-$300 in one week. The kids donated $1000 worth of pennies!

Last year, we also had the kids bring school supplies for the Time Check neighborhood in Cedar Rapids that was devastated by the epic flood. The kids brought enough supplies for over 100 school bags to be filled.

So, I am certainly proud to teach in such a caring community.

Susan Sey said...

Good morning, KJ! You're right--it's so important to remember how blessed & lucky we are, and then to take it one step further and share our luck with others.

My example of kindness is a very small thing but I hate going to parties or conferences or anyplace really where I don't know anybody. It's an awful feeling to stand there all alone knowing you're going to have to man up & start making friends with strangers who may not be at all interested in you.

So whenever I'm 'established' somewhere, whenever I feel really comfortable I make it a point to engage somebody who looks alone. I try to draw them into the group, into the conversation. Introduce them to a few people, or just take them under my wing a little. It's something I wish so desperately for when I'm in that position, so I'm very conscious of giving it to others when I can.

Kim Howe said...

Jo, I agree with you that it's wonderful the world is becoming a closer community. Although there is plenty of strife, it gives me hope to see the outpouring of support.

Kim Howe said...

Helen, thanks for being part of the giving community. I'm sure the people in Haiti really appreciate your support.

Janga said...

I teach a Bible study class made up of women in their 70s and 80s. I am constantly touched by their kindness and generosity. Most of them are widows, and many lived on a fixed income; but they are the first to open their hearts and their purses when there is a great need like the one in Haiti now or a much smaller one like sending to summer camp a child in the church family whose parents can't afford the cost.

Kim Howe said...

Anna, love your comments about paying kindness forward. You are an excellent example of that sentiment!!!

We'll always have NY. LOL

Kim Howe said...

Deb, some of the most heartwarming acts of kindness are coming from children and I think that sets such a great model to follow through life. Thanks for sharing.

Kim Howe said...

Susan, great idea to take someone under your wing. I also do that because growing up I was always the new kid (I moved from country to country with my dad's work). I still remember people who were kind to me when I stood in the middle of the room alone!!!

Kim Howe said...

Janga, sounds like your group is inspirational in many ways. There is so much to learn from people who have spent many decades on earth. Their knowledge is invaluable.

Marnee said...

This post is wonderful. I agree, that out of horrible events can come some of the most beautiful acts of kindness.

What I find incredibly moving about Haiti is the stories I hear/read about people who are hurting in their own lives doing what they can. Donating gently worn shoes or clothes, sending old crutches. There are so many in our country who are without work yet those same people still try to help where they can. It's humbling.

Thanks for the post, KJ!

Nancy said...

Jo, congrats on the rooster. I'm glad you have plans to keep him busy!

Nancy said...

KJ, nothing is coming to mind about the kindness of strangers in my own life. That doesn't mean it's not there, only that I can't call it up.

When I think about that, though, I remember all those people on the flight that ditched in the Hudson. They helped each other out of the plane and helped each other stay on the wing while they waited for rescue. I think of all the people on the ferries, the captains who headed for the plane without being asked and the ferry passengers who pulled people from the water, then gave them coats and socks off their own bodies to keep warm and let them use their cell phones to call loved ones.

I saw a study recently that said children as young as 18 months will attempt to help if they see someone struggling with something. I didn't read far enough to see if that's considered nature or nurture, but it was interesting.

Nancy said...

Continuing but not wanting to go way long in one comment, KJ--

In Anna Campbell's fabulous Captive of Sin, the inciting incident has the hero, a stranger, stepping up to help the heroine, and the story launches from there.

In one of my favorite memoirs, Marcus Luttrell's Lone Survivor (which drops and on off the top 15 list of the NYT and is back on this week), a Navy SEAL whose team has been killed by Taliban survives because Pashtun villagers take him in at risk to all their lives.

In Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson is inspired to build a school in the mountains of Pakistan because villagers took care of him after he wandered into their community dazed, disoriented, and lost after a mountaineering expedition.

The kindness of strangers . . .

Kim Howe said...

Marnee, it always amazes me how appreciative people are for the smallest things. I give a lot of the clothes I don't wear any more to two lovely ladies from the Philippines. They send a box of clothes home twice a year and it is like Christmas when it arrives. It warms my heart that someone across the world is enjoying what I can no longer use.

Kim Howe said...

Nancy, thanks for sharing your insightful thoughts. I'm quite intrigued about children at eighteen months wanting to help. I'd love to learn more about that.

As for those books recommendations, they are all on my TRB pile!!!

Kate Carlisle said...

Thanks for your beautiful post, KJ. I would like to think I've been that kind stranger at least a few times in my life, but I can think of more instances when I was the one depending on others.

Our house burned down when my brothers and I were young. We didn't even have a toothbrush, let alone clothing or food. Our community found us a place to stay and gave us everything we needed to get by until we got back on our feet.

Of course, that was nothing compared to what the people in Haiti are going through right now, but it was amazing and wonderful, nonetheless.

Jo, hope the chook can keep up with your grandson!

Louisa Cornell said...

The GR is a great babysitter, Jo ! But the cleanup after is a bit of a chore. Good Luck !

What a great post, KJ ! People in this country are often seen as selfish and greedy. Yet more often than not we are the ones who step up when there is a crisis and people are in need. I am always proud of our country when we prove once again that it isn't the money or what we have that makes America great. It is that spirit of caring for our fellow man that makes this a great country.

I know when I was a child and we moved into a tiny English village the kindness of strangers was evident every day. My Mom had never traveled outside of the States. She didn't drive when we lived in England. She was a young woman with three small kids alone 40 miles from the base with a husband who went away for six weeks at a time on deployment. People in the village watched out for us. If something in the house broke there was always someone's husband dropping by to fix it. The neighbors kept our sidewalks shoveled. If there was a power outage they always checked on us. They started out as strangers, but to this day, 40 years later they are still family to us.

When I worked as a vet tech at the animal ER I can't tell you how many times people brought animals in that had been hit by cars or hurt in some way that didn't belong to them, but they couldn't stand to see them suffer. And if the animal couldn't be saved these people stayed and held the animal while it was set free from pain. And those animals knew. You could see the gratitude in their eyes. And the vets I worked for were real suckers. They would treat these animals and split the costs with the strangers and then find homes for the survivors among their own clients.

Caren Crane said...

What the...? How did Jo get the GR? *scratches head* Ah, West Coaster! That explains everything. *g*

KJ, what a wonderful post and a great reminder. I heard on the radio yesterday that the Haitian government was calling an end to its efforts to rescue people from the debris, since it had already been 11 days. That made me wonder and pray even harder for those who might still be alive. So many are still missing!

We have sponsored a child who lives in the town of Ft. Liberte, Haiti for several years now. There is a group called Friends of Ft. Liberte who arrange mission trips to the town to work on the orphanage, the church and who have built and help staff a medical clinic for the people there. They are so incredibly poor and yet have such tremendous faith in God. It is very humbling.

Another organization we donate to each month is ZOE (Zimbabwe Orphan Endeavor). This group was founded by a pastor in a small local church near Raleigh and they have grown tremendously. They not only feed the orphans in Zimbabwe, but they have helped build and run schools and, most importantly, establish Working Groups.

They put kids who are now heads of household together in support groups. They give them microloans and job training so they can make a living and support their siblings (and sometimes cousins and other orphans). The kids support each other, share lessons learned and help one another. It's amazing how mature these youngsters, who are mostly aged 12 - 18, can be. They are dedicated to the education of their families. Each of them does this an act of love and sacrifice that breaks my heart.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Congrats on the GR, Jo!

If ever there was a bird who depended on the kindness of strangers, it's our chook! And he never seems to face rejection... hmmm, would that we could all be so lucky!


Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

GREAT post, KJ!

I can hardly stand to watch the news coverage of Haiti, it's sooo heart-breaking.

I agree with Louisa. We Americans are often seen as greedy and self-serving, but we are always there to jump in and lend a helping hand.


Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Jo, the chook doesn't visit you very often! I hope you bring him back into line. He's always so hyped up on sugar after he's been to Helen's!

Kim, what a great post. I love the way the world rallies for these disasters. I still remember with enormous gratitude how the international romance community rallied to help the victims of the Victorian bushfires early last year. Made me proud to be a romance writer!

Anna Campbell said...

Ooh, Nancy, I'm so flattered that you mentioned Captive in connection with this post. Actually that's when you know Gideon's a good guy - he's willing to step up to the plate and help someone in trouble.

Actually your mention of those memoirs make me think of Sir Edmund Hillary who devoted his life after his Everest climb to trying to improve the conditions for the Sherpas in the Himalayas. They'd kept him alive in the most dangerous of conditions so he tried to repay their kindness and bravery.

Anna Campbell said...

Kate, what a traumatic event about your house burning down. That must have been terrifying. Perhaps because we have bushfires every summer here, but fire just scares the willies out of me. So glad your community rallied to help you.

Louisa, your post was really moving. I think animals do know!

Anna Campbell said...

Actually, I must say my experience of Americans is that the vast majority of you are enormously generous. I've always received an amazingly warm welcome when I've visited your country and the hospitality has been mind-blowing. And whenever there's a crisis, the Americans are always first in to help. And I've noticed even in a small group like the Banditas that we all rally to each other in times of need. It's wonderful!

Joan said...

I have a wonderful example of an act of kindness toward strangers.

When I was about 10, my father and I were sitting on our front porch when a sudden downpour started.

We noticed a girl about my age riding slowing on her bike crying her eyes out.

My father called her up to the porch and asked what was wrong. She was lost and didn't know how to get back to the house of a relative that she and her family were visiting.

My Daddy put her bike in the trunk of the car and he and I drove her around to see if she recognized anything. After a little bit, she called out excited. about 5 convoluted streets over...there was the house!

I don't remember the family a) being concerned that she'd been lost or b) thanking my father.

But it was a wonderful example for me!

Nancy said...

Kate, I didn't know that about your house. That must have been very distressing for your family. Yes, there are worse things going on in the world, but that doesn't make any one thing less awful for the people going through it.

Looking forward to If Books Could Kill!

Nancy said...

Deb, that's so wonderful about your kids' donations. You just never know about little ones, do you?

Nancy said...

Anna C., you mention one of the things about the US that makes me proudest--we do step up when something awful happens. Our military personnel are always among the first on the scene of any disaster, trying to help.

I saw in the paper that George Clooney was working the tables at the Golden Globes to get people for the Haiti telethon.

What always touches me most, though, are stories like the ones people have shared here today about simple, honest compassion.

PJ said...

Wonderful blog, KJ. I see so many examples of giving every day: the volunteers at the hospital and local schools, the animal rescue groups, people who step up to help families in need. The teens at my church feed the homeless every Sunday evening ~ not those living at our nice new homeless shelter (which was built through donated money and time) ~ but those camping out near the railroad tracks. They turn out in droves every summer to mentor mentally and physically challenged kids during a one week day camp at our church. It warms my heart to see how much this next generation gives of themselves to help others.

Kim Howe said...

Kate, I'm so sorry you had to go through such a rough experience, especially when you were so young. I'm relieved that the people in your town took good care of you.

Kim Howe said...

Louisa, thanks for sharing your experiences. What a great example you had in your childhood of kindness and you've definitely emulated that in your life now!

Kim Howe said...

Caren, wow on your support of children in undeveloped countries. I used to live in Kenya, so I'm a big supporter of AMREF (the Flying Doctors in Africa who transport patients to and from outlying areas). The work they do is incredible and I love visiting Africa to see the results!

Kim Howe said...

I echo Anna C's comments about Americans. I've been the recipient of countless acts of kindness from Americans (and Aussies!!!) and I will always be grateful for that.

Kim Howe said...

Joan, that poor little girl not being missed. Ouch, that hurts. I'm just glad you and your dad helped her get back home.

Kim Howe said...

PJ, what amazes the most is that giving is the greatest gift to the giver rather than the recipient. Nothing makes me happier than lending a helping hand. I admire the work you and your church does!