10 Women On Their Most Wholesome Interaction With A Stranger

Photographed by Renell Medrano.
I once got off the tube in a hurry as I was running late. I had music in my ears and could just make out the faint noise of someone shouting behind me. I turned around and saw a man holding my purse, which had my cards and ID in, and he was waving. The doors started to shut and I was too far to get back onto the train, so he threw it towards me on the platform. I was so grateful, as without that I don’t know how I’d have got through the day without a penny on me. Not to mention the hassle of getting a new ID. 
Just a few weeks before, I’d found a strangers’ wallet on the pavement near my home and managed to track down the owner. She bought me flowers when she came to pick it up as she was so relieved. It felt like karma when it was my turn to be helped out.
It can often feel like kind strangers are few and far between, what with scary phenomena like bystander theory (the idea that people in cities stand by and watch things happen to others, rather than stepping in to help) and the sense of disconnect you might feel rushing from place to place without engaging with people. However, those small interactions with passing strangers happen, and when they do, they can carry plenty of meaning and make the world feel like a slightly better place. One study in a Sage medical journal from last year even found that having conversations with strangers can lead to “greater life satisfaction.” When loneliness is so rampant across generations, it stacks up that brief moments of connection with random people can be a mood booster.
We spoke to R29 readers to find out the most memorable interactions they’ve had with strangers. Do you have a similar encounter that sticks out? 

Monica Marriott-Mills, 29, Suffolk

While in Ontario, Canada, I was in a thrift shop which didn’t take cards. I wanted to buy something, so I ran to the car to get cash. When I got back, the lady behind me had already paid for my T-shirt and wouldn’t let me pay her back. She told me to pass on the gift to someone else, so a couple of days later I did the same to someone in another shop. It was worth about £5 (which may not seem a huge amount) but it made such a difference to my day and outlook on kindness to strangers.

Ada Enechi, 30, London

My phone had frozen at night and I was lost on the streets of Bethnal Green, in east London. I didn’t recognize anything, so I went into a corner shop frazzled asking for directions and if I could use the shop owner’s phone to google how to unfreeze mine. He made me a cup of tea and told me to sit down while he ordered me an Uber because, in his words “women shouldn’t walk the streets at night, it’s too dangerous”, and he put me in a car home. 

Blair Phillips, 30, London

I went to visit my dad when he was in hospital recovering from major heart surgery. I realized on the drive there that I was cutting it pretty fine to make it in time for visiting hours. Traffic kept mounting up and the arrival time on the sat navigation was creeping up, and I was getting more and more stressed. 
I finally made it and parked, ran over to the parking machine and found that the only way to pay was with coins — which I didn’t have. I burst into tears at the machine knowing I’d never make it in time to see my dad now. A man came up to me, said “I’ve got it,” and proceeded to pay for my parking. I’ve never forgotten it.

Hannah Randall, 29, Vancouver

I often think about the time I got the warmest hug from a stranger when I was going through a difficult time. In 2018, I got off the tube crying in Peckham. Someone came up to me wearing a furry leopard print coat, and they were covered in glitter. They asked if I was okay, and when I gave the “I’m just tired...” response, they said, “I’m not sure you are just tired.” It has genuinely stuck in my head and helped me not gloss over my feelings all these years later.

Penny, 29, London

I went to collect an order from [department store] John Lewis over Christmas, and they were giving out free toys with orders as a surprise. I didn’t need it, so on the train journey home I saw a young girl with her dad opposite me. I wasn’t sure how to approach them and felt nervous about just going up to them, so I thought if they get off at the same stop as me then it’s meant to be. Lo and behold they did get off at the same stop, so I tapped the dad on the shoulder and explained how I got the toy. The girl was so happy and held the toy tightly. It was such a cute little exchange and it made my day.

Rachel Moss, 32, Buckinghamshire

I was commuting home from London last week, my last shift prior to maternity leave starting, and I’d planned to get a taxi home from the station. My husband was working late and I knew at eight months pregnant, with a heavy bag and increasing pelvic pain, I’d struggle with the 20-minute uphill walk. There’s no Uber where I live, but taxis have never been an issue in the past. On this occasion, though, I called four companies and all were fully booked! 
Reluctantly, I accepted defeat and started to make the very slow waddle home when a woman came to the rescue. “Without being creepy, can I offer you a lift?” she asked. “I heard you trying to book a taxi. I’ve got a six-year-old and I’ve been there.” Honestly, I could have cried with relief! We had the nicest chat as she drove me home about the perils of balancing pregnancy, childcare, and a career you’re passionate about — but how it’s all worth it in the end.
As she dropped me off, she said: “One thing you’ll learn about mums is that we stick together.” It really made my week.

Sonya Barlow, 31, London

Last week, I was in New York. It was very late, and I had bought a cheesecake to take back to my hotel. At the hotel, another British woman wanted to head out for dessert, but it was pretty late. I halved my cheesecake with her over a cup of tea. I can appreciate how daunting it would have been for her to go out, especially as a solo female traveler. We literally halved the cheesecake, ate, connected and parted ways. She said it was very kind.

Jamie Andrea, 29, New York

I was at Six Flags with my friends and went on one particular ride a number of times as it was our favorite. The last time I was on the rollercoaster, I must have put my phone in my back pocket without realizing because I went to grab it following the ride and it was no longer there. There was a group of kids on the ride with us and saw me freaking out and they ran over with my phone saying they caught it while we were on the ride. It must have flown out of my pocket and they grabbed it before it fell a number of feet to the concrete below. I was so grateful.

Eloise Skinner, 32, London

I was living in New York a couple years back, and one day I was walking home from work in Lower Manhattan when it started pouring with rain. I didn’t have an umbrella or hood so I was just trudging through. A man walking on the opposite side of the street with an umbrella crossed over to offer it to me! He was so kind, and said I could take it from him (which of course I refused), and walked me a couple of blocks until I found a covered pathway. I always remember it as such an unexpected moment of kindness!

Aiva Strelca, 27, Riga, Latvia

A few months ago, I was attending a singing lesson in a nearby town and waiting for public transport to return home. A woman I didn’t know came to me and asked if I needed a ticket. At first, I thought that she was trying to scam me, but it turned out she was just a very kind person. 
She had one of those tickets that was valid for a specific time period, but as she had just returned from work, she wouldn’t need the ticket anymore while it was still good to use. Instead of throwing it into the trash, she gave it to me, and I got a free ride. Simple and sweet as that. Those small things are the ones that have the most significant effect.

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