Service of a Happy Surprise When a Stranger Takes a Minute to Help

November 27th, 2017

Categories: Dependability, Help, Service, Service Personality, Strangers

There’s plenty to gripe about but I want to write about two positive things because you don’t want to hear about my attempt to get to Brooklyn by subway on a recent weekend. Embarrassing how nonexistent were communications that day between the track repair, motorman and station staff for a city the size of NY. We’ve never lived in such a well-connected world and I’ve rarely seen an example of such incompetence as happened that Saturday. Even the relatively new electronic messaging machines were out of order in all stations, bad timing or bad planning? There are NYC neighborhoods, such as Red Hook Brooklyn, where people lose their jobs because city transport consistently prevents them from arriving on time. A disgrace.

This is why I especially appreciated what happened on a Metro-North train recently. The doors had closed at our upstate N.Y. station and the train was about to move south when over the loudspeaker the conductor said loud and clear, “We’ve got a runner!” That could have meant lots of things [had someone robbed a passenger and was the person running away? I watch too many “Blue Bloods” re-runs.] But in this case he’d observed a passenger racing from the parking area towards the steps to the train platform. Had he missed this one, the runner would have had two hours to wait for the next train. I trust everyone else appreciated, as I did, the one minute wait so he could travel with us.

In another instance, I was about to leave for the station to meet my husband when over the office loudspeaker we were told that all elevators were stopped until the fire department checked out a smoke condition on the roof. This meant that I was probably going to be late arriving at the gate for our train at Grand Central Terminal because I couldn’t drag my suitcase down 11 flights of stairs.

“Big deal,” say you, because all the people you know carry a mobile phone. Not my husband. I knew he was at the Oyster Bar and I called there. I described him and his suitcase and the approximate location I knew he’d be seated to the woman who picked up the phone and she found him and gave him the message. Wow.

We’re all in such a rush or so involved in our own world we often don’t stop to do something meaningful for a stranger. Do you have any good examples of strangers helping others?

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8 Responses to “Service of a Happy Surprise When a Stranger Takes a Minute to Help”

  1. Hank Goldman Said:

    Great idea!

    “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers” —T. Williams
    Happy holidays to all.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I shocked two women dragging far too many 30 gal. size bags of garbage from one door up a hill some 40 steps to another set of very heavy metal doors. I put down my packages to free my hands so as to hold open the door for them and they were astounded. It was such fun to do, took only a few seconds and was worth the time.

  3. Judith B Schuster Said:

    At the moment, I am recovering from knee surgery, so I use a cane, and I’ve been happily surprised by the large number of people (often young people) who have held a door for me or offered to carry a package or book (I am never without one, especially if I am headed to a doctor appt.) I think this not only says something about them as well as something about their parents. My son tells me that he does the same thing, especially for older people, and that he often gets a big thank you. I think the young people who do this deserve a big thank you .. as do their parents, although obviously, I can’t thank them. I know that my own grandchildren also do this and they, too, get a big thank yous. Even my granddaughter, who is at the most difficult age (12-14), does this and, she tells me that she usually gets thanked. That works as reinforcement for them and that’s important.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    When I sported a cane a few years ago right after I broke my foot I found that it made zero difference to most in midtown Manhattan. I learned to head for a bus stop and forget trying to get a cab if it was raining. Younger people would dash ahead of me –which wasn’t very hard to do–and jump in before I could get there. I hate to think who their parents are.

    However when anyone offers me a seat in a subway, even if I’m getting out at the next stop and don’t take them up on it, I thank profusely. You are right: Encourage such generous behavior. Imagine a job where you stand all day and how precious a seat is to you–my bet is that many of these people are the ones to offer to give up a seat.

  5. Lucan Said:

    As I tentatively navigate the streets of New York like a cross between the Deacon’s “One-hoss Shay” on the day before its centennial and the wreck of the Hesperus, dodging careening bicycles on one flank, bankers under full sail on the other, an increasing number of homeless everywhere, I’m astonished by the number of nameless New Yorkers (possibly even some tourists, domestic and foreign), who regularly seek to lend me a hand, pick me up, otherwise offer succor. It is heartwarming and reassuring evidence that all good things have not yet gone from this crazy, speed driven world.

    Speaking of crazy worlds, if we would go just a little slower, we would not, repeat, not, need those confounded little “Dick Tracy” talking machines everybody seems to like using. We’d have more time to talk without them.

    Go slow and live longer and happier!

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Your references are over my head as always but your advice to slow down is a good one. New Yorkers have been in a rush ever since I can remember but we didn’t have to tackle bicycles and irritating lumps of cement placed on avenues to protect them and cause havoc for traffic and pedestrians dodging all vehicles, including hoverboards.

    I was thrilled to read how you are helped by others–the opposite of my experience when sporting a cane, as I described it to Judy.

    I appreciate my “Dick Tracy” talking machine…it lets me stay in touch while out of the office that in so many ways is a relief. I was meeting a friend yesterday and told her I had arrived and where I was standing so I didn’t have to stay by the door in a freezing draft. When traffic or transportation glitches happen I can let the person waiting for me know what’s up which is also a benefit of enormous value.

  7. Martha Takayama Said:

    At the present any polite or considerate gesture whether holding a door open long enough for me to slip through with or with out bundles, or holding an elevator a moment longer so that I don’t miss my floor constitute pleasant surprises. A doctor’s administrative assistant just agreed to move up an appointment scheduled a year in advance, but longer than it seemed either necessary or comfortable to wait. She represents a new team that has essentially replaced the intimidating and completely unaccommodating previous one. That was a delightful surprise. The enormous thanks my husband and I received recently for helping an elderly and not very steady woman with bundles in a cart to the garage elevator and her apartment door all generated disproportionate thanks. Any kind and thoughtful gesture that simplifies more or less difficult moments seems more uplifting and more significant than when our prevailing national style was more pleasant and polite.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Like you I am grateful for the smallest positive gesture and your analysis–that we see increasingly fewer kindnesses–is no doubt the reason. I recently entered an elevator in a NYC apartment house with hands full and totes and a handbag on my shoulders and a father with two boys ages about 8 and 10 who got in ahead of me ignored me and didn’t ask to what floor I was going. Those children will also be help blind and so it goes.

    As for the doctor’s office, it’s scary enough to have to go to a doctor. I’m glad you no longer have to brace yourself to confront a nasty front room staff on top of it.

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