These stories of strangers helping strangers are so inspiring!
BY MEGHAN COLLIE
It was a dark and horrific moment our city will never forget. In April, a man rammed a van into dozens of lunch-going pedestrians on the sidewalk at Yonge and Finch in North York, killing 10 people. The attack left residents of the GTA in a haze, scared and worried for the future of their communities.
But a few days later, North York resident Darlene Saks saw a glimmer of light when she read a story about the nearby business owners who offered to help in any way they could as the situation unfolded. The local Pizza Nova franchisee, for example, gave free pizza to the first responders.
“I decided to do a ‘thank you crawl’ around Yonge and Finch by purchasing items at those businesses and personally thanking them,” Saks said. “I felt it was important to show my support to those businesses after their kind gestures.”
Recent studies show that helping others is a surefire way to be happier. Saks might not have known it, but by donating money or volunteering one’s time, investing in the happiness of others is an easy way to cheer yourself up—especially in times of tragedy and mourning. And that’s exactly how Saks felt following her “thank you crawl.”
“Afterwards, I realized it helped me to recover from the shock of the event. Even though I was not directly affected by the van attack, the acts helped me to become comfortable walking on Yonge Street again.”
We loved Darlene’s story—and we were hungry for tales of people doing good for no other reason than, well, to do good. We call them “random acts of kindness.” So, we asked people from across the GTA to share their stories about shining their light on others, and being the recipient of a good deed from a stranger. We’ll be honest: we’re inspired. We hope you will be too.
I didn’t know how much I needed to be reminded that there is goodness in the world. – Jennifer, 43, Toronto
More than just a cup o’ Joe
“My husband, daughter and I live near Pape and Danforth, the site of the recent mass shooting in Toronto. The day after the shooting, I was horribly unsettled by the violence that occurred so close to our home. My husband had to persuade me to leave the house—I wanted to hole up in our safe space—but I agreed to go get a coffee. We went to our local Starbucks but, when we tried to pay for our order, the barista told us that a man had put $100 on a gift card to use for others until it ran out. I wept. I didn’t know how much I needed to be reminded that there is goodness in the world. We were so moved that we also bought a gift card to be used for strangers. I tweeted about the kindness and received over 5,000 likes and numerous messages of thanks. Some of them also bought gift cards at their coffee shops. I thank that man from the bottom of my heart. The world needs more of this.” — Jennifer, 43, Toronto
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“Last winter, I was commuting during an ice storm and my car was covered with ice. When I arrived at the GO station, I started scraping the driver’s side of the car, and then I realized the woman who was parked next to me on the passenger side was scraping that side of my car for me. I thanked her and said that she totally didn’t need to do that, and she said, ‘We commuters need to stick together.’ If you’ve ever been in a GO station parking lot during the evening rush hour, you know that people just want to get the hell out of there. Especially on a cold, rainy night. It can really get you down, which is what that woman’s act of kindness was all the more meaningful. It was a small gesture, but also one I won’t forget.” — Maureen, 41, Hamilton
A reverse hitchhiker on a mission
“I was driving […] on some back road in a rural area of Markham and I saw an older lady standing at a bus stop with a ton of bags, looking super tired. I decided to pull over and offer her a ride. After speaking with her, I discovered that she’s originally from Hong Kong and now she works at a nearby warehouse, usually from 7 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. She commutes by bus, which takes two hours each way, and she often has to wait around 45 minutes for the bus to arrive. The detour added ten minutes to my drive but she was so grateful to have a ride, it put a lot of things into perspective for me. I drive that route every day to get to work and I always see people waiting for buses that take so long to show up. It was something I’ve always thought about doing, so I did it.” — Adrian, 23, Markham
It’s amazing how much such a small gesture can brighten your day. — Tenyka, 25, Toronto
Strangers meet over street meat
“I was buying a hotdog from a hotdog stand outside of my apartment. When the vendor told me [he accepted] cash only, I started shuffling through my bag to find my wallet. A stranger was walking by with his wife—not even buying a hot dog for himself—when he stopped and gave the vendor five dollars, saying ‘Hers is on me’ before walking away. It’s amazing how much such a small gesture can brighten your day. I paid it forward by buying a hot dog for the man behind me in line. If you’re reading this, go buy a stranger a hot dog and make their day!” — Tenyka, 25, Toronto
Sometimes, all you need is a hug
“My entire family was at the hospital with my father, who was going in for some pretty heavy-duty surgery. My dad was horrified, I’m sure—sitting in the waiting room in his paper-thin hospital gown, trying to be strong. My mom, in turn, was trying to be strong for my dad and their kids, even though we were in our thirties and forties. The room was your typical antiseptic waiting room, crammed full of patients and their worried families. One woman sat by herself and cried silently. Suddenly, my mother stood and walked over to the stranger, sat down beside her and hugged her. Then, as quickly as my mom went over she was back beside me. At first, I was a bit embarrassed. But then I realized how lovely the act was. There was no harm done, no fear of reprisal—just a simple acknowledgement of a terrible, lonely situation.” — Laura, 50, Markham
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