College is tough. Not only are you expected to keep up with a rigorous academic schedule, but you also might have internships, jobs, sports, a social life or all of the above to balance. Add a bad situation ― a car accident, financial troubles ― to the mix, and it can seem the world is crumbling down.
But thankfully, sometimes there are strangers who go out of their way to lend a hand when a student needs it the most.
In honor of graduation season (congrats, class of 2018!), we rounded up a few stories about random acts of kindness people experienced when they were in college. The article aims to highlight unexpected kindness that people have received from someone they didn’t know. These stories range from simple acts that brightened a person’s day to grand gestures that changed a person’s life.
Take a look at a few of the submissions below:
“I was the first person in my family to go away to college, and I was considering dropping out, so this woman made more of a difference in my life than she could have imagined …”
When I was a poor freshman flying some budget airline back to college after Christmas break, the airline canceled my flight into Spokane and left me stranded overnight in Seattle. As I stood at the customer service counter fighting back tears because I didn’t have money for a hotel or cab and was thousands of miles from home, a woman noticed me and said she’d like me to come home with her family overnight and she’d get me to the airport in the morning. She had her own two kids to worry about, having just gotten off the same long flight as me, but she refused to leave me alone to spend the night in the airport. She took me to her home and had her own kids double up in one bedroom so she could put me in her daughter’s room (after she gave me all her contact info and told me to call my mom and let her know where I would be.) Now that I have kids of my own and a crazy busy life, I appreciate even more the fact that a stranger was willing to inconvenience herself to not only take me in but to get up early the next morning to drive me all the way back to the airport and make sure I made it back to college on time. I was the first person in my family to go away to college and I was considering dropping out, so this woman made more of a difference in my life than she could have imagined.
“My heart and spirit returned in that instant …”
There was a time in my life when everything went wrong. Someone had closed my registration to college, and I would have wait another semester before the paperwork could be resubmitted. On the same day, my apartment was cleaned out. The landlord said he didn’t know I was leaving. He said a moving van parked outside and two men took everything. Everything from my baby book to clothes and college books. The bed and sheets were gone. I felt estranged from the world. I went to a bookstore for peace and quiet and was kneeling at the lowest shelf with head hanging down and crying. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a 3-year-old girl walking toward me with her mother watching at a distance. The child patted my hair, leaned over and hugged me so tight for what seemed like a minute. “Don’t be sad,” she said. “It will be all right.” My heart and spirit returned in that instant. I thanked her and her mother. “You’ve raised a beautiful girl,” I said. The mother, ever smiling, said that when her daughter came out of her womb, she wore a smile. That little girl with a big heart saved me. That was 40 years ago. I think of her when times get tough. “It will be all right.” ―Annette Zumba, Palo Alto, California
“The thing I remember the most is she told me that the pain would subside and I would be OK …”
It was 21 years ago. I was on a commuter flight from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. The woman next to me and I struck up a conversation. She asked if I was returning to school. She could tell I was college student. I explained I was visiting my boyfriend and that I had taken time off school because my older brother passed away four months earlier. She asked me how he passed. I don’t know why I told her it was suicide, but I did. Probably because I was in such an immense amount of pain and grief. She said, “I’m so sorry. I lost my sister to suicide 17 years ago.” She offered me a ride to my boyfriend’s campus. She happened to be going to the neighborhood just past it. I accepted, maybe unwise for an 18-year-old girl to get in the car of a stranger. But in that 20 minute ride, I got to ask her all the questions I needed to ask someone 17 years down the line from where I was. The thing I remember the most is she told me that the pain would subside and I would be OK. I got out of the car in tears saying, “Thank you for the talk — I mean the ride.” I will never forget that act of kindness. It helped save my own life. ―Abigail Seligsohn, Philadelphia
“They were only a $20 pair of shoes, but it meant a lot to a broke college kid …”
I was 20, and I had just been hired at my first job while I was in school and in a new city. The uniform required black dress shoes, so I was at Payless struggling to find shoes that would be comfortable enough to stand in all day but also close enough to fashionable. I’m normally too introverted to do so, but I turned to a woman shopping next to me and asked her opinion on two pairs of shoes. She could probably tell that I was stressing too much about the shoes, and I told her it was my first job here. So she picked a pair and told me that the shoes were her treat. They were only a $20 pair of shoes, but it meant a lot to a broke college kid. I think about that woman sometimes and hope that she’s doing well. ―Lauren Blake, Chicago
“Soiling his clothes, working on a hot September Sunday afternoon, this man saved a college coed from disaster …”
I was halfway across Indiana headed home to Kentucky, in the era of pay phones and landlines, when my car died. I managed to navigate to a gas station on an anonymous off-ramp, but it was Sunday in the early fall, and there was no mechanic on duty. I was working my way through nursing school at university and had little money for maintaining the car. I sat alongside my car for a couple of hours trying to beat the heat and silently bemoaning my bad luck when an older gentleman stopped to fuel his car. He asked about my car, and I explained my predicament. To my stunned surprise, the gentleman told me that he had a daughter my age, opened his trunk and pulled out a tool set. Right then and there, this total stranger did a tune-up on my car, explaining as he worked that my spark plugs hadn’t been changed in so long that they had closed up and were unable to spark. After about an hour and a half, he slammed the hood closed and pronounced my car safe to finish the trip. Kindness ― and my personal miracle ― came at the hands of a stranger. Soiling his clothes, working on a hot September Sunday afternoon, this man saved a college coed from disaster, simply because she could have been his daughter. ―Valary Johnson, Greenwood, Indiana
“It has been 35 years since that day, but I still remember how her kindness brightened our day and lightened our load …”
As young married college students many years ago trying to juggle tuition, books, rent and the cost of caring for a new baby, our funds were severely limited. That meant luxuries like ice cream were few and far between, and most often funded by the tediously slow accumulation of spare change dropped into jars or fished out of couch cushions. One day we found ourselves with just enough pennies, nickels and dimes to pay for a small carton of deliciousness. Because the opportunity presented itself so rarely, selecting just the right flavor was a huge decision. As we debated the merits of one flavor over another, an older woman struck up a conversation. She said that she regularly bought several cartons at a time to share with neighborhood children, who would often stop by her home to visit and play in the yard. After picking out her selections, she left. We eventually made our own decision, and headed toward the register, where we discovered that the woman we spoke to had quietly paid for our treat. It has been 35 years, but I still remember how her kindness brightened our day and lightened our load.
“He was so nice to stand and wait with three terrified, freezing girls experiencing their first bad car accident …”
During my freshman year of college, two of my friends and I were driving back from Chicago in January. It was dark and sleeting, and we were driving cautiously slow in my mom’s old Volvo that had been passed down to me. We took a big turn in the highway and hit black ice and immediately started spinning. We ended up on on the opposite side of the road, facing the wrong way, and the only thing keeping us from rolling into the valley dividing the highway was a massive boulder made of ice and snow that my car hit. Before we’d barely had time to assess if we were all OK, a man was tapping on my driver’s side window. This guy had been a ways behind us, saw what happened and pulled over. He stood on the side of the road in the freezing cold, offered us his car to sit in to stay warm (we were too paranoid of being abducted to take up his offer) and waited until the highway patrol showed up. He then shook our hands, wished us luck and drove away. He was so nice to stand and wait with three terrified, freezing girls experiencing their first bad car accident. He got us smiling and laughing and reminded us to be thankful we were all OK.
“The first lesson I learned was to be sure to check the bus schedule before venturing too far, but the second lesson, that there are kind people in the world, was even better …”
Here is a story that took place long ago, when I was a freshman in college. I lived in the dorm, which was several miles from downtown. I had taken the bus downtown to vote for the very first time in my life, but I didn’t realize that the bus did not run as late as usual on that particular night, so I was stranded, having missed the last bus. I had no money for a taxi and no friends with a car who could pick me up. As I prepared myself for a long walk home in the dark, I was looking through the change in my pocket to see if I had enough to buy a snack to give me energy for the long walk. A man came up to me and said I looked like someone who might need some help, and was there anything he could do? I was a bit worried about taking a ride with a total stranger, but I decided that was no more dangerous than walking for perhaps an hour and a half in the dark. I told him my predicament, and he took me all the way home to the dorm, behaving as a perfect gentleman the whole time. I could hardly find words enough to tell him how grateful I was. The first lesson I learned was to be sure to check the bus schedule before venturing too far, but the second lesson, that there are kind people in the world, was even better.
“He told me to get on the bus anyway because he couldn’t imagine the weather stopping anytime soon and he didn’t want me to be stranded there …”
My first year in university, I was walking from downtown Montreal to my aunt’s apartment, which takes around 40 minutes by foot. What I didn’t think to do was check the weather before walking out my door. Fifteen minutes into the walk, it was pouring rain and hailing; very soon I was soaking wet. I stood under a bus shelter, hoping it would subside. One of the buses stopped, and the driver asked if I was getting on. I informed him that I had forgotten my bus pass because I had every intention of walking. He told me to get on the bus anyway because he couldn’t imagine the weather stopping anytime soon and he didn’t want me to be stranded there. I always tell this story as part of my first-year experiences because it was something that reminds me that there are still good people in the world.