For the past few months, we’ve been asking listeners to tell us their stories of kindness, and we’ve been blown away by the variety of meaningful moments, big and small, that they’ve shared. This week’s episode features a few of our favorites:
Meghan Gunn, from St. Louis, Mo., called to tell us about how the kindness of a coworker helped her get through a challenging time in her life. Back in 2016, Meghan Gunn was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a chronic condition that affects the digestive system.
Meghan’s doctor recommended practicing hot yoga to ease the symptoms, so she got a job at a local studio. That’s where she met Dale, an older man who came to clean the studio at night, when Meghan usually finished her shifts.
Dale had fascinating stories, and he was also a great listener. Before she knew it, Meghan started staying late to chat with him and they became friends. When Dale found out about Meghan’s diagnosis, he started reading up on Crohn’s disease and bringing her fresh juices that he made himself to help her feel better.
"The smallest things can mean the most in the hardest times."Meghan Gunn
“During such a hard [and] very confusing time in my life where I was relearning my body and health, Dale's small act of kindness meant everything to me,” Meghan said. “I've been thinking about him a lot now during the pandemic, because I just don't want to forget how the smallest things can mean the most in the hardest times.”
Meghan isn’t the only listener who found meaning in small acts of kindness. Robin Coomer called from Illinois to tell us about an incredibly simple thing her uncle did that ended up meaning the world to her.
Robin’s father died when she was 4 years old, and six years ago, her mother died, too. Shortly after her mother’s death, Robin received a cassette tape in the mail from her uncle Bill.
Back in the 1980s, when Robin’s mother was pregnant with her, Bill was in the Army and stationed overseas, so her parents recorded a long “letter” on tape and sent it to him. The tape spans from the end of the pregnancy to Robin’s first days at home after being born, when Robin’s parents gush about their new daughter.
“We'll send you a picture of her,” Robin’s mom said on the tape. “She's a living doll.”
“It was just a real sweet gesture that one, [Bill] still had that tape, and two, he was thinking of me in a still pretty weird time after my mother's passing,” Robin said.
Another voicemail came to us from Jess Thompson, in California. She told us about what happened after a family friend duped her mother out of her life savings and fled the country.
Jess’s mom was raising four children alone, and with the loss of her savings, she worried she would lose her house. But one day, a man named Harry showed up at their door.
“He just basically gave my mom a blank check and said, ‘Do whatever. Fill it out however you want and do whatever you need to do to keep your family happy and healthy and safe,’” Jess said. Harry was one of many other people who had also been affected by the scam, but instead of focusing on his own losses, he decided to double down and help Jess and her family.
“Because of that man,” Jess said, “I’m here today, and we were able to keep a roof over our heads.”
Our last story comes to us from listener Kamilah Mirza, in Oregon. Kamilah was homeless for much of her late teens, after family and mental health issues drove her away from home. She remembers that during that time, she never felt safe and never got a good night’s sleep.
One early winter morning, Kamilah woke up freezing cold after sleeping in a soaking-wet sleeping bag all night. She decided to go into a nearby laundromat to try to get warm.
With only 10 cents on her, Kamilah couldn’t afford to run the dryer, but she put her sleeping bag in anyway in an attempt to look like she belonged there. One woman noticed Kamilah’s predicament and approached her.
“She gave me a loving look,” Kamilah told us, “and pulled out a $20 bill and said, ‘Here you go, sweetheart, get whatever you need to today.’”
Kamilah was overwhelmed with joy. She rushed next door to get a cup of coffee and some change to run the dryer, and when she came back, every single person in the laundromat came up to her and gave her something to help her get by.
"It was acts of kindness that got me out of homelessness."Kamilah Mirza
Kamilah said she lived through a lot of scary things during her three years of homelessness, but what really stayed with her were the hundreds of kind people she met along the way.
That morning at the laundromat, she said it was like something finally clicked. The shame she felt about her situation had made it hard to reach out, but the kindness these strangers showed her helped her shift her perspective.
“It was acts of kindness that got me out of homelessness,” Kamilah said. “I started realizing it is OK to get help and to ask for help.”
And she did get help. Within five days, a chain of strangers and acquaintances all worked to get Kamilah on a flight back to her hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah, where friends put her up while she got back on her feet.
It’s been eight years since that day. Now, Kamilah has a 5-year-old daughter, a fiancé and a much better relationship with her family. She also finished her first year of college with a 4.0 GPA, and she just got elected student body president. Her plan is to become a therapist and help patients work through trauma.
“I really love people, and I want to help them in their lives the way that I've been helped,” Kamilah said. “I think everybody has a story. Everybody has value.”
If you are, or know, a young person experiencing homelessness, you can call the National Runaway Safeline for free at 1-800-RUNAWAY (1-800-786-2929) or visit their website.