The Kindness of Strangers

The kindness of strangers is something I’ve always found difficult to come by. I’m a bit (ok, very) gullible and too trusting right off the bat. I’ve been taught since I was a young girl that strangers are not to be trusted and sadly, as I’ve grown up I’ve found that to be generally true. People can truly be cruel for the one reason that they don’t know you, so it’s not their responsibility to care about you. It makes it really difficult to have any faith in the human race at all.

However, something happened to me this week that helped me think perhaps, all people, aren’t all bad, all the time.

My sister’s husband had been babysitting my kiddo for me while we went running. Recently he got a job out of the city so is only home two days a week. We either needed to find another sitter or purchase/borrow a jogging stroller. We thought getting a jogging stroller would be easiest. I started looking at Craigslist, which is not something I use on a regular basis. My problem with Craigslist is, I get too excited about the purchase. “Wow! Something I want for cheap! Awesome!” I forget to ask questions and to remember that people online are usually mean (so it’s funny that I have a blog, yes?). If something turns out to be crap the chances of the seller taking it back and giving you a refund are really slim.

So I started looking for a jogging stroller, trying to remember to have very little faith in people, and be untrusting. I found one that wasn’t too far away and a pretty decent price, since those suckers cost over $200 brand new. So I went out, with my cash to purchase a new to me stroller. The woman selling it was really nice; she showed me how to use it and fold it up. I thanked her, gave her the money and put the stroller in my trunk.

The following day my sis and I went to use the new stroller. To my dismay one of the back wheels was completely flat. I felt a little disappointed but thought maybe it would work out anyway. I put the kiddo in the seat to discover a sizable tear. Not just a little oppsy tear, a big rip at least five to six inches long. Now I was terribly dismayed. I felt taken advantage of, like a fool, because I didn’t ask enough questions and didn’t inspect in detail the whole stroller before I bought it. And while it was cheaper than if I had purchased a new one, I can’t really afford to let purchases over $10 slide.

We folded it back up and stowed it in my sister’s garage. I thought for awhile about whether or not to send the woman an email asking for my money back. I didn’t think she’d do it. I was convinced she’d turn into some kind of harpy and laugh in my face, saying it was my fault I hadn’t noticed the flaws. I had some fictional conversations in my head, so I could come back at her when she turned mean. Like I said, I had myself convinced that she’d turn me away and laugh at me, waving my money mockingly behind my back.

That night I nervously composed an email to the woman. I’d been thinking about it since that afternoon’s attempted jog. I decided that being mean wouldn’t be prudent. I’d give her the benefit of the doubt. I told myself she hadn’t been trying to hustle me and the worst thing she could say to my email asking for a refund was no.

So I wrote the email, hoping that she would at least tell me no kindly. She responded minutes later with apologies! She agreed to take the stroller back! And give me my money back! I was happy and thanked her for her kindness, but I’ll be honest; until I had that stroller back in her driveway and the money back in my wallet I wasn’t sure I would get a refund.

Upon reflection on these events I can’t help but feel a little sad. We expect so little from our fellow humans. We expect to be disliked, left out, pushed around and taken advantage of. Isn’t that a terrible thing? How can we be kind to each other without being taken advantage of? How can we be trusting of each other, but not be swindled? I am striving to be the change I want to see. I’m trying to be loving to everyone, but it such a challenge when at any moment I could be screwed by that.

What do you do to show kindness to strangers?

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2 responses to “The Kindness of Strangers

  1. I totally understand where you are coming from on this one. I have learned to just smile at folks when walking and just nod or acknowledge them when passing:) I also try to not assume the worst when someone is rude to me, because we all have bad days…

    I got my jogging stroller at the kids consignment store Kids On 45Th for $50, but have seen them for less at Value Village and Goodwill.

    Good job taking a chance and getting a refund!

  2. what an amazing post, staci … i think it went deep for me because i, like you, have been taken advantage of enough times that i’m a skeptic from the getgo in one half of my heart and an eternal idealist in the other half. it happened just last evening, actually. a young man in a direct selling business was referred to me, so i spent the first 10-15 minutes of our visit chatting with him about himself, his goals, and his family ~ he thought i was being friendly, which i was 🙂 but i was also looking for consistency and integrity in his answers. and honestly, i breathe a prayer for wisdom and discernment and i do that careful once-over at the beginning AND the end, telling myself what i hope is true ~ that if they’re honest people they’ll encourage me to be sure of my decision, too. 🙂 that’s what i do.

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