The kindness of strangers may be

the greatest kindness of all;

we are automatically kind and patient

and accepting to those we know–friends

and family, coworkers and neighbors,

and those we encounter as we go along

in the course of our daily lives,

but it is the people whom we meet

or briefly encounter–the person who holds

open a door for you, or gives you their seat

in the doctor’s waiting room, the people who

reach out and perform an act of kindness–

these are the people we remember for the

rest of our lives;

I remember an older African-American woman

I encountered when I was perhaps five years old,

and my brother and I were riding a wagon down

a slope near the end of the streetcar line

where passengers were waiting for the

streetcar to arrive. The wagon had tipped over

and I fell out and had a bloody forehead. I

may have been crying.

This woman was waiting for the streetcar but

came over to us and gave her clean white

handkerchief to me to put on my head and

told me to lay down in the wagon, instructing

my brother to take me home. He took me to

our grandmothers house, which was just up

the street.  I don’t remember anything that

occurred after that–I only remember my

brother, the wagon and the African-American

woman who performed an act of kindness which

I never forgot. It was just a small thing, perhaps,

but it has dictated my entire life; we never heard

of “play it forward” back then but this was the

lesson that I learned that day and I have tried to

live by it.


Sandra Lee Smith

originally posted February 22, 2010

Updated July 30, 2018

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