What's the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?
November 1, 2021 8:16 PM   Subscribe

Big or small!

I'm thinking of how, on my 20th birthday nearly 20 years ago, I was living in a small town in Germany and had no local friends -- yet! A Deutsch-als-Zweitsprache uni classmate of mine from Russia found out it was my birthday and insisted on buying me some Lindt chocolates at Lidl and writing me a birthday card in German. It was a little thing that had -- and still has -- a huge significance.*

*Of course, people have done much bigger things for me since -- and vice versa -- but I'll always remember that with a special fondness and gratitude.

Also, I've had a rough few days and hearing your happy stories would be an extra nice pick-me-up!
posted by smorgasbord to Human Relations (64 answers total) 113 users marked this as a favorite
I love the idea of this thread and will be following it closely!

My contribution:
A close friend travelled from Milan to my wedding in small town Saskatchewan. She had to take a train, three planes, and a taxi to get there. It took a day and a half.

I still tear up, sometimes, thinking about how grateful and happy I am to have her in my memories from that day. ♥️
posted by oywiththepoodles at 8:49 PM on November 1 [17 favorites]

When I unexpectedly found myself being admitted to the hospital, my friend (over 100 miles away) left her client, drove to her house to pack an emergency kit, canceled date-night with her husband, drove to my city and sat with me until late into the night so that I wouldn't be alone, took notes while the nurse-educator overwhelmed me with information on how to give myself an injection, and then drove back to her city in the middle of the night so she could be at an essential client meeting in the morning.

I called her on the way to the hospital, in the hospital elevator, and when I finally got to the ER, and then was stuck for hours in a cellular dead zone. Two minutes after the nurses finally got me settled into an actual room, I looked up and saw my friend standing in the doorway, and it was a huge relief and a comfort, not only to me, but my mom, who was 800 miles away, to know I had someone by my side.

Being there for people when they need you is a magical thing.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 10:46 PM on November 1 [47 favorites]

I was going through a divorce, and moving back to my home city from overseas.

No job, no apartment, homesick and overwhelmed. I'd even forgotten what root beer tasted like after my years as an expat.

A dear friend took off work to pick me up at the airport, and stashed a cooler of root beer in the car.

He passed away last year, and I think of this small kindness often.
posted by champers at 3:50 AM on November 2 [20 favorites]

The amount of people who did anything other than "let me know if you need anything" during my recent bereavement was shockingly low. I'm especially disappointed in the people who I did request something small from and they still dropped the ball.

But the couple of people who seriously stepped up to my ridiculously low bar? Priceless
posted by Jacen at 5:42 AM on November 2 [13 favorites]

When my mom passed away, my coworkers took up a collection to send me flowers. One of the colleagues volunteered to order the flowers.

They made sure every single bud and leaf in that bouquet was safe for cats. So the kitties got to enjoy the flowers along with the rest of us. I'll never forget the kindness of that extra step.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 5:46 AM on November 2 [22 favorites]

Loving this thread. It might be chat but it's the kind of chat I need in my life.

I used to work the opening shift when I waited tables. I liked breakfast and lunch better than dinner. Dinner meant bigger bills which meant bigger tips, but it also meant I had to do more theater for people.

The only trouble with opening was the mornings when I came in and everything was a mess. That wasn't supposed to happen but it happened because restaurants. So often that I started to feel really thankful on the mornings when I came in and everything was tidy.

So anyway it's a very small thing but one of the nicest things anyone's ever done for me was the morning when I came in and found a blown-up rubber glove with "Good Morning :)" written on it artfully displayed on the pristine countertop in front of the sparkling clean coffee maker. I was overcome because that's the type of person I am. Like OMG I got a happy glove!!! Someone really cares!!! They see me!!

I brought my glove buddy home with me that day and cherished it until it deflated.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 6:00 AM on November 2 [27 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you for everyone who has contributed so far. These are so heartwarming and exactly what I need in my life right now. I can't wait to read more!

Mods, I support whatever location you think is best, of course: AskMeFi or Chat. Thank you to those of you who kindly suggested it best be moved. For those of you who were less kind, please remember the spirit of my question and MetaFilter in general and not be a jerk to those of us who are newer to the community and/or don't understand it as well as you may.
posted by smorgasbord at 6:17 AM on November 2 [29 favorites]

My friends really showed up for me in the period between the end of my marriage and my ability to move out (about 7 weeks). They invited me places, hung out with me at cafes, made me dinner, got me drunk. But the best one and I'm sure I've told this before, was when my ex and I were talking about the everyday kitchen items - small appliances, dishes, etc. - and he said, "take whatever you want, I'll replace it with my next paycheque", four of my friends came over and helped me pack EVERYTHING IN THAT KITCHEN. We had drinks and pizza and FUN.
posted by wellred at 6:21 AM on November 2 [15 favorites]

When I was 15 my high school boyfriend broke up with me in his car in the school parking lot. He was my first love, and I was heartbroken in only the way a teenager can be heartbroken. It was our lunch period, and I was too distraught to make it to my next class on time. One of our hall monitors, a middle aged man, caught me walking back into school. He wrote me a detention slip for being in the halls during class time, gave me a copy and kept one for himself. Noticing how upset I looked, he asked if I was okay. Through tears I told him it had been a really bad day, and ran off to French class.

About fifteen minutes into the lesson, the hall monitor came into my class and pulled me outside. He held up his copy of my late slip and tore it in half. He said he hoped that made my day a little better.

I realized later that he hadn’t seen what classroom I’d gone into, so he must have looked up my schedule to find me. I was a high achieving student who put a lot of pressure on myself and never got detention. That he would take my teenage distress seriously and do what was in his power to make it better for me is still incredibly touching to me, over 15 years later.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 7:16 AM on November 2 [32 favorites]

My father became seriously ill and, after a few days in the ICU, died on Christmas morning. Around noon it occurred to me that I was the person who was going to have to figure out how to feed the eight of us; there was not much food in the house as we’d all been keeping vigil and subsisting on take-out and hospital cafeteria meals. Just then there was a knock at the door. It was one of Dad’s coworkers and his wife, both very observant Jews. They had made us an entire traditional Christmas dinner with all the fixings: roast turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, mashed potatoes, yams, green beans, pumpkin pie, and a few bottles of wine. It was such a wonderful mitzvah and has inspired me ever since. I still don’t know how they pulled it off.
posted by carmicha at 7:16 AM on November 2 [95 favorites]

I still think of the French professor I had during my freshman year in college who called me one morning to check on me because I didn't show up on time for an exam. I was one of her better students. Having taken honors and AP classes in high school, I got placed in her 300-level literature course, for which I'd already read much of the syllabus. Somehow, I must have forgotten to set my alarm earlier the night before, and I had overslept. She could sense I was a little stressed out to learn all this news, so she encouraged me not to freak out. I got dressed, splashed some water on my face and ran across campus to the classroom to find a blueberry muffin and a coffee at my seat, next to my exam.
posted by emelenjr at 7:22 AM on November 2 [30 favorites]

In university I had summer jobs that required me to be there before the transit systems were running or would take me hours to get to from my house and my friends/their parents would let me sleep over as needed and I always felt welcomed.

When I had my son at a time when my friends were focused on their careers and nowhere ready to have babies, they still put together a lovely little surprise baby shower for me.

When my dad passed away they sent me a care package and several people I know donated to the church he volunteered at, agreed that those actions are the kind you never forget.

I'll also always remember the people who helped make sure I had good food after having each of my babies.

This reminds me of this quote from the Sopranos (that hopefully is not misattributed):

“Sometimes I go about in pity for myself, and all the while, a great wind carries me across the sky.”

— Ojibwe saying
posted by lafemma at 7:25 AM on November 2 [13 favorites]

My 15 year old grandson, suffering from severe depression, took his own life several years ago. I notified my clients that I would be off the job while dealing with this. At the memorial service, in walked one of my clients. Without advance notice he got on an airplane that morning and flew over. He spent the entire afternoon with us. Kind and gracious. I get teary just typing this.
posted by charris5005 at 7:29 AM on November 2 [31 favorites]

I'm a Yankees fan. A coworker who was diehard Red Sox made me a Christmas ornament that was a snowman's head wearing a Yankees cap. If you live in New England and like baseball you will understand what a wonderful gesture that was.
posted by JanetLand at 7:34 AM on November 2 [13 favorites]

Twenty years in, I am still grateful for that dark afternoon when a colleague snuck out in the snow to clean off my car for me so I could just drive home after a 12-hour workday.
posted by picopebbles at 8:00 AM on November 2 [20 favorites]

When I was in my early thirties a good friend sold me a house and owner-financed it. I was a working single mother of three kids making very little money, I would not have qualified for a mortgage. My friend sold me a rundown house on ten acres five miles outside of Ithaca for 10 grand. It made an enormous difference in our lives. My youngest son, age 46, now owns it.
posted by mareli at 8:00 AM on November 2 [34 favorites]

I moved to the US from Australia, the first winter here a huge blizzard hit while my husband was at work, he was stuck at work the next town over I was stuck at home and realising I was out of a medication I needed I couldn't just stop without tapering off I panicked and started trying to dig my car out to drive in a blizzard to the drug store, having never driven in snow before. My FIL rang for another matter, found out what I was doing, drove across town in a blizzard to get my prescription and get it to me. This was only a few weeks after I moved here and it was the most wonderful feeling and made me feel part of the family.
posted by wwax at 8:06 AM on November 2 [18 favorites]

One thing that comes to mind is from my time as an office manager/assistant. I was expected to provide cards for birthdays, flowers for sad occasions, etc, but was never recognized myself. One day I crashed my bike and ended up in the ER. The next day I got home and flowers had been delivered from my colleagues. I was surprised anyone had remembered. When reviewing expenses back at the office, I found that a new employee who was maybe a week into her position had ordered the flowers. It was so thoughtful, especially from someone who hardly knew me.
posted by Emmy Rae at 8:08 AM on November 2 [21 favorites]

When I had to sprint to the airport and catch a flight because my dad had a stroke on vacation, my best friend and his wife looked after my two cats. I came back a week later because I had to drive my sobbing mother home from South Carolina to the midwest very slowly, and I found that my entire apartment had been cleaned top to bottom and there was a small bowl of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in my cabinet.

I think about that a lot.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:09 AM on November 2 [24 favorites]

This thread is wonderful, wherever it is posted and wherever it ends up. Thanks for asking.

My wife has long COVID and lots and lots of people did super nice things for us when she was actively sick last year. After 15 months of chronic illness during a stressful time in history most people have (very reasonably) moved on. But she's still sick: on her best days she's at maybe 80% and on her worst she's in bed all day.

Our around-the-corner neighbor, who we have known before this only on basic friendly terms, has made our family of six a dinner EVERY SINGLE WEEK for a year. It is a monumentally generous gift and it helps us so much to have a home cooked meal that we can just heat up. I don't think anything can ever top it. It has been a true lifeline.
posted by AgentRocket at 8:47 AM on November 2 [56 favorites]

In college we all always hung out at a particular bar walking distance from campus, about three doors down from one of the most popular pizza places, Leo's. One night (in an adolescent fit of passion), long story short, I had a misunderstanding with a security guard there who was probably joking with me about whether I'd have to wait in line to get back into a limited capacity room I'd left for a second. I took umbrage and stormed out in angry tears (a total overreaction). I was crying in the pizza joint's parking lot and the owner, Leo, came out and comforted me - not in a weird man hugging me and being creepy kind of way, but in an avuncular, encouraging kind of way that was very kind. That was more than 30 years ago and I still remember the incident.
posted by Occula at 9:00 AM on November 2 [7 favorites]

My boyfriend drove my mother (and me, natch) six hours each way to visit family he'd never even met before. My mother is elderly and unwell, and NOT an easy traveler, and he never even flinched. He just hugged her and made her laugh and helped me get her comfortable when we arrived at each end. She and I could have made it on our own with a great deal of difficulty and logistics but he just cut right through all of it, and insisted it was his pleasure.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:28 AM on November 2 [15 favorites]

I had a parent of one of the infants I taught at work tell me how much she appreciated me as her son's teacher. I had another parent tell my boss that she wasn't ready to let her son go to the toddler room because he was doing so well with me.

When my first kitty (and my first pet) had to be put to sleep, I got flowers and a sympathy card from the vet's office the next day.
posted by kathrynm at 9:51 AM on November 2 [9 favorites]

I was living several hundred miles from my dad when he needed to have open heart surgery. I flew out intending to stay there for a few days, but he ended up having a stroke during surgery so I stayed for a few weeks. When I got home, I found that my best friend (who had been coming by to take care of my cats) had left a homemade lasagna in the fridge and stocked my cabinets with all my favorite foods.

Four of my best friends dropped everything and drove from Chicago to Pittsburgh to be with me for my mom's funeral.
posted by anotheraccount at 9:56 AM on November 2 [10 favorites]

At the end of class, my Russian professor asked me something about why I hadn't been in class the day before, and (because I hadn't been expecting to be asked about this and consequently hadn't come up with a plausible lie) I kinda mumbled something like ohIwassortofhavingasuicidalcrisisI'msorry. (It had been a whole thing; my RA got involved, and I eventually had to talk to multiple university psychiatrists about it on multiple occasions. The whole thing was miserable, exhausting, and also vaguely dehumanizing, somehow.) She asked if I had to go to my next class immediately, and I said no, and she was like, okay, let me finish up here and then I want to talk to you, if that's all right?

So the other students left and she took me to a teachers' lounge sort of thing, and someone in the department was having a birthday that day so they had cake, so she went and got me a piece of the cake and sat with me and we talked for a while. I couldn't actually talk about what had prompted the crisis very well, because we were in a Baptist school and the problem was partly related to me being gay; I have no idea what she wound up thinking the problem had been.

I don't remember much of what she said either, beyond a general it's never *that* bad, don't kill yourself, please don't kill yourself gist. As far as I can remember, we never talked about it again in any way, shape or form, and when things got bad again, it's not like I thought to myself, No, you can't kill yourself, because remember Dr. ____ told you not to back in April? But she gave a shit. She gave enough of a shit to put her plans on hold for half an hour and talk to me.

I've retained only random, not particularly useful, bits and pieces of Russian vocabulary ("lizard," "to dance," "bad," "I have a headache"), and almost nothing about the mechanics. But that piece of cake was a white sheet cake with light green buttercream frosting (in the neighborhood of #8AFFAA) and a white jellybean on top, squarely in the center, and I think about it several times a year.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 10:13 AM on November 2 [40 favorites]

Mod note: We know this is a bit chatty, but it’s nice so we’re running with it!
posted by travelingthyme (staff) at 10:29 AM on November 2 [77 favorites]

I am still brought to tears thinking of the kindness my cleaning person of all people showed me in the wake of an 11-week miscarriage. Everyone else, all my family and friends and every medical professional I encountered, got it utterly and completely wrong, but she said all the right things and then just quietly held me while I cried into her shoulder.

My son was born via crash C-section and then stopped breathing overnight and was transferred to the NICU for the next eight days. The next morning I was sitting in my hospital room and the doctor making rounds came in. We chatted for a minute and then she looked me in the eyes and said, "How are you really doing, though? You've been through an awful lot." I burst into tears because she was the first (and only) person to acknowledge during that entire ordeal that what I'd just been through really had been a lot.

The first winter after I got divorced and was a solo parent with a five-year-old and a 16-month old, every single time it snowed overnight my neighbors quietly snowblowed my sidewalk and shoveled out my steps before I even got up in the morning. It was such an incredible gift, every single time.

When I was the victim of an attempted robbery and carjacking at my front door late on a Sunday night, these same neighbors were the first to respond, brought me into their home and called the police for me, gave me wine and chocolate, charged my phone, distracted me with stories until the officer arrived, and when I couldn't reach anyone to come stay with me, they set me up in their guest room for the night so I wouldn't have to be alone.
posted by anderjen at 10:46 AM on November 2 [25 favorites]

My mother was diagnosed with very late-stage cancer and wanted to return to her home (out of our town) to die there. In a day, we all got there (her kids, grandkids, her siblings) and cared for her together during her last 10 days. One of my close friends, put his baby and toddler in his car, drove 3 hours and brought us dozens of our favorite donuts. He handed out hugs and left us to continue on our care. That he took the time to drive with young kids and thought to bring us donuts we loved just to show how much he cared filled my heart.
posted by maxg94 at 10:54 AM on November 2 [17 favorites]

In college, we barely had money. And I was at self checkout at the grocery store near the college - so a lot of student customers and workers. I had a bag worth about $20 and it was declined. So I had to put stuff on hold and run to the ATM to check my balance. I had like $10.

I was getting paid in a day or two. So I had to go to the self check out cashier, a young college age man, and ask to put some things back. He opened my bag to see bread, tuna, and a box of tampons. I was embarrassed and like “I get paid tomorrow, and…”

He said, “we aren’t supposed to do this but…” and pulled out his wallet and swiped his own debit card before I could protest. I was fighting back tears and thanking him and saying I would come pay him back. He said don’t worry about it. And I sobbed the whole way home.

About a week later, I saw him working. And I had been carrying a thank you card with $20 in it. I was able to pay him back.

It was a really small thing. But it was honestly the most caring thing a stranger did.
posted by Crystalinne at 10:57 AM on November 2 [36 favorites]

A second. I had a terrible breakup in college. A 2 year, dramatic, toxic, and later understood to be an abusive relationship that at the time was a somewhat engagement, though he never introduced me as such. It was a couple weeks before school was out for summer. And less than a week after the breakup. I was feeling free. I was starting to remember what my life was like without all of that frustration.

I was walking on campus with some friends from my dorm. And there he was. Holding hands with a new girl and walking toward his own friend group.

It was like the sidewalk dropped from under me and I felt the whole world spin. Everything I thought I knew about the relationship suddenly came into question. I started shaking and tears stared rolling down my cheek.

My friend said “hey, that’s so not cool.” And quickly invited me as a tag-along to their Friday plans. Everyone was so nice. And for a few hours I completely forgot all my worries. We got tacos, my friend got her navel pierced, and we galavanted around downtown for a few hours.

It was a wonderful distraction and break before I had to go back to realty and start to re-process everything that happened.
posted by Crystalinne at 11:15 AM on November 2 [7 favorites]

This is just the latest couple of wonderful kindnesses. My brother in law noticed one of my large trees had leaned over and was resting on the roof. He called several tree trimmers, got estimates and negotiated a price, and after a couple of no shows, made sure that a crew came and cut it down the day before another big storm was coming. The day after the storm, I came out to find that another tree had split and fallen right between the fence and my car. I felt lucky that it just missed my car since some of the tree trunk was about 10" diameter. But it had fallen in front of my gate and I couldn't get out. Without being asked, my BIL came back into town that same day and brought a chain saw and chopped it up and hauled it away. He really is the best!
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:15 AM on November 2 [12 favorites]

After my twin sister died, my dad and I had to go back down to Southern California to clear out her house and put it up for sale. It was about three weeks or so after she'd died; I'd been commuting back and forth from the PNW to take care of her. It was exhausting and dispiriting and horrible beyond belief, but some of her friends there and a few who'd flown in from other places came to help us. I told Dad I wanted us to take them out to dinner to thank them, and we went to her favorite restaurant. The manager came over to us a few times, talked to us because he knew her local friends since they'd been there with my sister, and he showed me a picture of her on the wall where they'd hung photos of regular customers.

Before we really got going on the dinner, I sort of took the diffident, almost annoyed-seeming waiter aside and told him that some of the people at the table were likely to try to arrange for the tab to be brought to them, but he was in no way to do that and bring the final bill to me. Just as I expected, my sister's best friend, and her husband, both tried to intercept the bill or the bar tab or whatnot, but in the end I paid for the dinner and left an enormous tip, even though the waiter had been kind of...unfriendly and seemed like he was irritated by this large group of mostly women. I couldn't figure out what his deal was, honestly, especially since the manager had clearly liked my sister a lot and was super friendly and caring.

While we were waiting for our cars at the valet, suddenly the waiter appeared next to me, and I thought, "oh shit, did something happen? Did I not sign something or do something right with my grief-brain? Was my card declined??" and then I noticed there were tears in his eyes and he threw his arms around me and told me he hadn't known that I was her sister, and he was so sorry that he hadn't realized we were all friends or relatives and that she'd passed away. He told me about a few times he'd served her when she'd been in, and how sweet she was. It wasn't this material thing, and there were a lot of sweet things people did for me during the course of those events, but I will probably never forget what a dramatic change in his demeanor that was, how I shared this moment with a stranger I'd assumed was cold, and what an impact my sister had had on the various people she came in contact with. She was still bringing people together even after her death. He asked if there was a place to make a donation in her memory, and I got a note later from an organization that the restaurant had made a gift in her name.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 11:26 AM on November 2 [20 favorites]

I've forgotten my wallet in an NYC taxi-- TWICE.

The first time it was mailed back to me, everything intact.

The second time the finder kept it from the cabbie, hunted my number down online and called me in my hotel room (thank pizza, since I had to fly the next day) everything intact including the cash. Wouldn't let me give her anything for her help.

NYC people are the BEST.
posted by travertina at 11:29 AM on November 2 [13 favorites]

Oh, marvelous brothers-in-law! I was traveling to see my folks for Thanksgiving, and I had a 7-month-old baby, and I was in that stage of parenting where I just never had enough hands and was super anxious and the idea of traveling on a plane alone with a baby just freaked me the hell out and seemed completely impossible. So my sister's husband mentions that he'll be traveling for work right before the holiday - they live near my parents, so he was heading that direction - and that he can just arrange to return home from my local airport.

People, his work trip took place THREE HUNDRED MILES AWAY, and he just nonchalantly spent half a day driving to my house so he could ride a plane with me and hold my purse while I nursed my infant and tried not to panic.
posted by catesbie at 11:31 AM on November 2 [11 favorites]

My sister organized her & 5 of my friends to come deep clean my apartment (with my permission) when I was going through some really deep depression. For a bunch of them it was a 1-2 hour or more drive one way.
posted by augustimagination at 12:49 PM on November 2 [8 favorites]

2020 passover: we had a 2 month old baby and were completely isolated due to the shut down. We had a helpful meal train that friends had organized and someone we knew but weren't close to was signed up for first night of passover. We figured we'd get another typical meal train dinner. We received an entire seder and traditional Ashkenazi feast. Parsley, hard boiled eggs, matzo, horseradish. The best brisket I've ever eaten, tzimmes, potato kugel, the works. Flowers, too. I get all teary anytime I think of it. I couldn't even manage to hard boil an egg, let alone buy groceries or make a full meal. We thought we'd be watching a Zoom seder we couldn't participate in and the whole thing comes right to our door.
posted by carrioncomfort at 12:53 PM on November 2 [12 favorites]

When I was 21 years old, I was backpacking through Europe (as one does), when my wallet and passport were stolen while I waited for a Friday evening train out of Marseilles. And so I found myself without any money, lodging, or anyone I knew, in the gathering dusk in a foreign country. One of the train station police was an Irish fellow who kindly offered to lend me some money and let me sleep that night on a train station bench, which seemed preferable to a sidewalk. I've certainly benefitted from greater kindnesses, but this one sticks with me because it came from a total stranger who probably didn't have much expectation of being paid back.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:55 PM on November 2 [7 favorites]

A few years ago I was hit by a car while cycling and knocked unconscious briefly. The driver (totally at fault) was horrified and drove me home, as I insisted I was fine. Once I got home I realised I wasn't fine, but I don't drive and my partner had to stay at home with our small children. It was 8pm on a rainy Tuesday night. I called my best friend and she drove over immediately, took me to A&E then sat and waited with me for like 5 hours. At one point she produced a box of fancy cakes and an ipad with one of my favourite films pre-loaded onto it. I had a broken eye socket (ow) but I think of that evening with such gratitude and love on many occasions.
posted by Lluvia at 1:05 PM on November 2 [7 favorites]

When my mother was diagnosed with cancer and I flew to outback NSW for her last weeks, my sister's friend, who I had never met, gave me her spare room in her beautiful house near the hospital.

Jane had two small twin sons in elementary school, a husband working on his doctoral dissertation while managing a sheep station, and a large deerhound named Chicken. She made me coffee in the morning and had gin and tonic and a shoulder to cry on waiting for me when I came home from visiting Mum. And after Mum died.

I squatted in her home for over a month. I can't even fathom what a burden I was, and how lightly she carried it. Friends for life.
posted by rdc at 1:24 PM on November 2 [20 favorites]

On the evening of mother's day several years ago, my husband and three children and I went out to dinner. Returning home, we noticed a strange orange glow coming from our house and realized....it was on fire! Lots of firetrucks came and lots of neighbors gathered to watch. The firefighters rescued one of our cats, and across-the-street neighbors rushed her to the emergency vet. Next door neighbors brought us water and a bench where we could sit at a safe distance to watch. Others kept an eye on our children, invited us in to use their bathrooms and offered us a place to stay for the night. But one act of kindness sticks in my mind because it was so unexpected. When we returned to the house the morning after the fire, there were two big bags of homemade cookies on our front porch from a neighbor who lived several blocks away and was barely an acquaintance. I was so surprised that she had done anything at all for us! One bag of cookies had our names on it, and the other bag's tag said "for the Insurance Adjuster."
posted by MelissaSimon at 2:56 PM on November 2 [21 favorites]

in undergrad, depressive episode, apt a total (total) shithole. i was doing homework when my friend phil had stopped over. without a word, he just walked into my kitchen and did my dishes. it meant everything. compassion without judgement, displayed as action taken. this was 30 years ago.

to this day, i never miss a chance to do a few dishes at a friend's place.
posted by j_curiouser at 3:32 PM on November 2 [18 favorites]

The one for me that comes to mind is how a kindess gets you a kindness.

My flight was late and I missed my connecting flight so I had to go to the airline desk to get placed on standby for the next flight. Judging from how long the waitng list already was, I knew I was hosed and would likely spend the night in the airport. When I got to the desk I was nice to the lady who took my name and we had a pleasant, friendly interaction. During our interaction another person walked up in the same situation as me, going to the same destination but from a different originating flight. She was a complete jerk to the staff. She did the usually self important stuff about how precious her time was, she was busy and inconvenienced and demanded an upgrade. Saying all this louldy so everyone nearby could hear. I felt awful for the airline staff who were doing their best to accomodate this nasty person.

When I got back to the terminal I noticed that the lady I had been nice to had moved me to the top of the waiting list for the next flight and I got home much less late than I would have otherwise. That may not have taught me a lesson but affirmed what I already knew. It's obviously something I still think about many years later.
posted by zzazazz at 3:49 PM on November 2 [6 favorites]

Someone's post above reminded me of this. I was college and had just gotten out of my first psych hospitalization. I was taking a class called Jesus and the Gospels. We had to write a paper on a gospel passage. I chose the one about the vine and the branches and how a song we had sung in my church choir had kept me going through that hospitalization. The professor (a pastor at a local church) wrote a note in the margin of the paper saying that he and his congregation were praying for me. I kept the copy of that paper for a long time and when things were getting rough (as they did again and again during grad school) I would read that comment.

Is it dusty in here or is it just me?
posted by kathrynm at 4:18 PM on November 2 [10 favorites]

I was out of town visiting a friend from middle school when my boyfriend passed away. I had just flown to SF so I could visit her and few other people before bussing down to join my family for my brother's graduation from UC Santa Cruz. I got the call around midnight the day I flew in. She took care of me while I was in shock and the next day, knowing I had no return flight and no family to receive me, she dropped everything. She quit her job that she had been contemplating quitting, called her parents, public transportation-ed us to her parent's house an hour away, borrowed their car, and drove me the 8+ hours back home. She told me that if I was crying, I had to be drinking water or eating something. She drove me to visit with my boyfriend's family every day. She took me to the store and told me to get whatever sounded good plus this peach jam and this marinated mozzarella because they're really good. And she stayed with me until my family returned from the graduation.

I love rdc's line: "I can't even fathom what a burden I was, and how lightly she carried it."
posted by meemzi at 4:24 PM on November 2 [20 favorites]

I was in a car accident by myself taking a public minivan in the mountains of rural Kyrgyzstan (before cellphones were really a thing). I woke up from unconsciousness the next morning by the border of Tajikistan in the cab of a truck. Someone had put me there (I don’t remember). I had no local money or language but the truck driver drove me about 7 hours, all the way to the edge of the closest “big town.” He got out and found a guy with a pickup to take me closer in. That guy flagged down a public minibus (the kind that don’t really come to complete stops) to take me and that driver stopped his route to get me a cab the rest of the way. The cabbie called the hostel number I had written on a small piece of paper for directions, drove me as close as possible, then carried all of my bags through a market and up to hostel’s 2nd or 3rd floor entrance.

Nobody I encountered would accept my money even when I offered US bills. The driver fed me at a rest stop restaurant. Everyone watched out for me and went out of their way to make sure I was safe even though they couldn’t communicate with me. I arrived with my passport, travelers checks, cash, MacBook, SLR, external hard drives, etc. all in tact. When people say they can’t believe I would travel to some of the places I do I explain that most people in the world are inherently good.
posted by Bunglegirl at 5:09 PM on November 2 [40 favorites]

Many, many, many moons ago, on my 16th birthday, a friend gave me such a heartfelt gift. He gathered a huge bouquet of bright yellow forsythia boughs and brought them to me in a sage green vase that once belonged to his late grandmother. To be entrusted with this treasured keepsake for as long as the blossoms lasted was such a lovely gesture, and it makes my heart glad to remember it.
posted by ReginaHart at 6:57 PM on November 2 [9 favorites]

I was traveling with a former partner out of state, near the upper peninsula or maybe northern Minnesota.

My then-partner (probably 21?) helped find a ride and space to stay. I was on board, then taken aback when the person hosting had been covered in tattoos, 6'2ish, and had, "just been released from prison." This was normally not my style, and I often checked with my then-partner a little meticulously on accomodations.

We accepted the stay anyway, and the host made all three of us breakfast-for-dinner (including our dog.. he prepped a plate of sharp cheddar, scrambled eggs, and hash browns as if it were for a person, and just set it on the floor), then wished us very well the next morning. It was a good start to a cross country trip.

Probably not the* nicest,* but it's in the spectrum!
posted by firstdaffodils at 7:35 PM on November 2 [4 favorites]

In 1996 I was young and traveling by myself in Seattle. It was very early in the morning and I was trying to find the bus to the airport. I asked the only person I saw on the street where the correct bus stop was. A man dressed in a suit and obviously on his way to work pointed down the street at a bus about to pull away. He then picked my suitcase and started running after the bus! I ran after him and caught the bus. This total stranger helped me catch this bus - and ran carrying my heavy suitcase down the street. Had I missed it I honestly don't know what would have happened because I was young, broke, and not very good at problem solving. I think about this all the time when I need to remind myself of the kindness of our fellow humans.
posted by donovangirl at 6:18 AM on November 3 [15 favorites]

When in graduate school, a group of friends road tripped seven hours to come see me. Upon their arrival, my one friend gave hugs all around and glanced at my apartment.

While we talked, he went to the kitchen, dampened a paper towel, and dusted my living room ceiling fan blades, while effortlessly participating in the conversation.

I am 5'2".

It has stuck in my mind as the most loving gesture of our friendship.
posted by House of Leaves of Grass at 10:28 AM on November 3 [12 favorites]

Oh gosh I completely forgot -- we held my dad's memorial service at the bar where he was working when he got sick. It was his favorite of a long long string of bartending gigs and we're not religious or anything and well... it just sort of made sense. And at the end of the night, when my brothers and I went to pay for the food and the drinks and the Everything, they would not take a single dime.

We were all very young and very broke--I remember overdrafting my checking account to pay for an obituary notice--and it just...we could not begin to believe it.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:09 AM on November 3 [9 favorites]

I mean, technically this didn't happen to me, but still...
My parents and I had gone to Europe, traveling through several countries. When we returned, we discovered that my father didn't have the zippered bag in which he carried all his credit cards. He had no idea which of the seven countries it might've been lost in (there had been no need to use them since we carried cash). I sighed and made a list of all the places I'd have to call to block and replace them (my dad is in his seventies and this isn't the first time this has happened. Or even the second time)
On the same day by some weird coincidence, I taught my dad how to check and clear the 'other messages' folder in Facebook. There was a message left by a woman a couple of days prior, asking if he had lost something in a store in Prague. Yes, yes he had. She was a customer at the store who had found that bag, left it with the store manager, and then tracked down my dad on FB. I spoke to the store manager. In about a fortnight's time, the bag was delivered home.
I live in India. They didn't even ask us to cover postage.
I did tell my dad to not expect such incredible good luck always, though.
posted by Nieshka at 2:30 PM on November 3 [9 favorites]

This is what Metafilter is best for.
posted by Baeria at 2:38 PM on November 3 [11 favorites]

My deeply, profoundly dental-phobic best friend came to pick me up at the oral surgeon’s office after I’d had a procedure involving anesthesia and couldn’t drive myself home. I can’t even imagine how traumatizing it was for her but she offered to do it as soon as she heard I’d need a ride.
posted by jesourie at 5:20 PM on November 3 [4 favorites]

I've been in the hospital a long time. My husband has no time to deal with the yard as he is by my side when not at work.

Someone in our small town has been keeping our lawn up and keeping it hidden from us who it is. It's such a huge blessing to have one less thing to worry about.
posted by SuzySmith at 10:54 PM on November 3 [17 favorites]

My father was a university professor. Six years after he retired, he passed unexpectedly. The memorial service was attended by a number of faculty and former students from his days at the university. I was unbelievably touched that people would make an effort to travel about an hour and a half out of town to attend a service for someone they may not have been in touch with for years. I now make an effort to attend memorial services for other people I may not have interacted with in awhile because of this kindness to me.
posted by eleslie at 7:45 AM on November 4 [10 favorites]

This might not be the nicest thing anyone's ever done for me but it's still something I'll never forget. When I was living in Paris, in a kinda rough neighborhood, I was walking home from the supermarket and my super-full shopping bag ripped apart right in the middle of the road as I was crossing it. Everything scattered on the road, oranges and stuff rolling in all directions. And before I knew it two little Arab boys came running to me and quickly started helping me pick everything up. A few seconds later a man (apparently the boys' father) ran up to me and handed me a new shopping bag which he'd just fetched from a nearby shop. So in a matter of literally a few seconds I went from dropping my whole shopping in the middle of a busy road to having everything packed in a new bag. It might seem like a small thing but I'll always be grateful to those kids and their father who didn't hesitate to help a random stranger in need.
posted by U.N.Owen at 9:12 AM on November 4 [13 favorites]

I had finally gotten my drivers license a few months prior, at age 26. I needed to learn how to drive stick so a really new friend from work (we'd known each other for like 2 months) let me borrow her very old car while she was out of town to practice on. The transmission literally fell out of the car while I was (very poorly) driving it. Not only was she really nice about it, she proceeded to drive me to work almost every day for the next six months, once she'd bought a new car.

17 years later, I still can't drive stick but she's still my best friend.
posted by lunasol at 9:32 AM on November 4 [7 favorites]

Once upon a time, I was traveling with a baby less than a year old. We were in economy, way way at the back of the plane, and as I was struggling with all the baby gear etc, a man got up from his first class seat and helped me haul it all to the back of the plane and got us settled.

That was amazingly nice.

And then, when we got to our destination, he waited until the plane had emptied out, came back and fetched us, took us into the first-class lounge, got me something to eat and drink, and then excused himself. So we spent our long layover in a quiet and comfortable place.

I travelled a lot with that baby, and always had good experiences with patient neighbors on the planes—at one point, for instance, I realized the baby had been patting the head of the man seated in front of me. I apologized, and he said it was no problem, he had a bunch of grandkids and was used to it. But this nice man from first class going out of his way to make things a little easier has really stayed with me.

Once, before ordering online was a thing, I was home with my kids, without a car, and I mentioned to a friend who lived a couple thousand miles away that I really, really wished I had a coke or a way to get one. Half an hour later, a pizza delivery person knocked on my door. She had called a place local to me and gotten a pizza delivered just so she could also have them bring me a coke.
posted by Orlop at 12:49 PM on November 4 [8 favorites]

I just thought of another one. Once while on vacation, I arranged for a house cleaner to come while I was out of town and she texted me to say that my basement had a bunch of water in it. I panicked since I wasn't going to be home for several more days and while I was flailing around trying to figure out what to do, she had already isolated the cause (the spigot to the outside was leaking), sucked up all the water with her wet vac, washed the floor, found and set up a fan, wedged a pan under the tap in case of further drips, and even came back to the house the next day to check that all was still well.

I thanked her profusely and paid her above and beyond for the time she spent, of course, but I was so beyond grateful that she simply went ahead and took care of the problem when she totally didn't have to, all so I wouldn't have a big messy home situation to deal with immediately upon reentry.
posted by anderjen at 2:46 PM on November 4 [4 favorites]

After I graduated from college, the next fall I traveled back to the area to visit friends who hadn't graduated yet or had stayed there. The night of my birthday that year, a band that I was friends with played me a special song that they had to relearn to play for me.

It's a complicated story, but they had been in a band, Storm King, and played and recorded, and a central band member left and denied permission for them to use either the name or the recorded material. They became a three piece, changed their name to New Radiant Storm King, and played great music. But there was one song from the original Storm King demos that had really really worked its way into my soul. Without asking me or telling me, the three of them relearned the song when they heard it was my birthday, and played it for me at the show they were doing.

None of them were my close friends, but they all understood that the heart wants what it wants in terms of music, and this was a gift they could give me. The gift, of course, was not just the song, but calling me out from stage and saying they'd relearned the song to play to me. I'm certain it's never been played since. I've not always thought of it as much as I should, but it still stands as one of the most kind things anyone (in this case three people) has done for me. It was a real act of empathic attunement, and I needed something like that desperately just then.
posted by OmieWise at 4:53 PM on November 4 [5 favorites]

This is a small thing compared to some of these stories, but after my first child was born and a short NICU stay, on the second day that we were finally at home, I was utterly drained and overwhelmed. My husband had gone back to work and I was alone with the baby. There was a soft knock at the door in the middle of the afternoon, and it was two of my husband's cousins who had driven over an hour on winter roads to drop off food at our house. They just showed up on our doorstep with two big enormous disposable containers of noodles with meat and sauce and cheese, and insisted they weren't going to impose on a new parent by inviting themselves inside unannounced. They just passed me the food and cheerfully clomped through the snow back to their car to drive home again. It was such an act of kindness when I needed it, and it made me feel so cared for and seen. We ate that pasta every day for a week and felt loved with every bite.

It's been a lot of years since then but those two ladies still hold a special place in my heart.
posted by beandip at 8:56 PM on November 4 [7 favorites]

Started a fire while cooking, I panicked, ran to a neighbors', and called the fire department. The kitchen was trashed and my parents were pissed.

The next day at school, word had gotten out and I felt like I was the topic of hallway whispers. I felt terrible for causing the fire and felt like walking in front of a truck.

A vague aquaintance said hi, asked how I was doing, took me aside, and congratulated me. "For what?" "For not trying to be a hero and getting out of there alive. You did the right thing by escaping and calling the fire department."

I still think back to that day and think of the kindness and sensibility of someone who was just a teenager a year or two older than me. I didn't keep in touch but hope he has lived a full, rewarding life.
posted by benzenedream at 2:34 AM on November 5 [7 favorites]

I was once in a bad relationship. Angry guy who blamed me for everything, but I couldn’t figure out how to leave. For like a year, I was stuck in this limbo of knowing it needed to end but not being able to. Finally things hit a breaking point, where I’d been getting more unwilling to put up with things and in response he was getting angrier at me (and acting in even worse ways). Right as some fight was wrapping up, this one person — no idea how this class acquaintance ended up being the person I called, quite possibly she called me coincidentally? — put me up that night. And another the next night. And another person let me housesit the next few days. And another person had a roommate out of town for a week while I waited for him to move out.

If I think of the nice things people have done for me, there are times when people expended more effort and I really appreciated it. But these people changed my life — if I’d had to stay home, I probably would’ve got back together with him. It was 15 years ago and I’m still so grateful.
posted by slidell at 9:36 AM on November 5 [4 favorites]

My husband got in a mountain biking accident last week while my kids were at school. I was with him in the ER, and he had a severe concussion/total amnesia/massive confusion. So I couldn't leave him, and I have no family around. I texted my friend about his accident. Without my even asking, she asked what time she should pick my kids up from school. She brought them to her house, had a pizza/movie night and ice cream party with them, got them fully ready for bed, and brought them to my house late at night when I finally got home from the hospital. The next day she texted me about what a joy they were to watch, including some fun anecdotes. The day after that she brought a pot of vegetarian chili to my house. Her help means so, so much to me. I will never forget it.
posted by sickinthehead at 8:31 AM on November 19 [5 favorites]

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