Sharing Unexpected Acts of Kindness

Ahead of Valentine’s Day, we asked readers to share moments when they stumbled upon acts of affection. Here are some of their stories.

Has this happened to you? You’re going about your day, minding your business. Then you suddenly spot a caring interaction that lifts your spirits, like a couple embracing or a stranger lending a hand to another.

These days, the world could use a pick-me-up. Ahead of Valentine’s Day, we asked readers to share when they unexpectedly witnessed an act of love or kindness. More than 100 readers wrote in with stories of affection, from years ago or just recently. Here are a select few, edited and condensed for clarity.

I’ve been walking in my local park more often. My heart has been moved by two friends who meet every morning. They are male and likely in their mid-80s. They arrive separately, each with coffee and a Dunkin’ Donuts bag. They sit on adjoining benches, six feet apart. One doesn’t start his coffee until the other is there. They aren’t particularly talkative with others in the park — I’ve tried. Their focus is on one another.

— Grace E. Curley, Boston

My 90-pound Bernese mountain dog, Lilly, has a neurological problem that makes her fall down. This causes her great distress. My golden retriever, Katie, came over to Lilly this morning after she had fallen, and licked her on the lips. Then she took a nap and snuggled against her canine sister.

— Penny Nemzer, Greenwich, Conn.

After months of staying at home, my 2-year-old son was not excited to be around strangers. That changed when he started day care. One of the first friends he made was Dennis, a construction worker who works near his school. Dennis often gives a high-five and a fist bump before my son lists all the new words he’s learned. He looks forward to this interaction every day, and Dennis never disappoints: He is always there with a big, welcoming smile.

— Smita Jayaram, Jersey City, N.J.

As the morning bell rings, one of my Grade 3 students would enter the school lobby holding his younger brother’s hand. My student would carefully help his brother remove his mittens and unzip his jacket. Then he would tenderly kiss the top of his head before they split up for their own classrooms. Such a loving and responsible gesture.

— Sheila Bean, Calgary, Alberta

Riding the bus years ago, I noticed a young man suddenly stiffen and slide sideways from his seat, stricken with a seizure. The passengers grew silent. We were concerned, flustered. The driver radioed for help and pulled over. Then a woman sat on the floor beside the young man. Humming quietly, she began stroking his hands. We all got off the bus, but the woman and boy stayed together. Her hum became a quiet song as they waited for his spasms to end.

— Tracy Huddleson, Garden Valley, Calif.

I have a balance problem after an operation on a brain aneurysm affected my ability to do certain things like bending or looking sideways. One day while walking with a stick through the city, I realized that my shoelace was undone. I just kept walking. Suddenly a young woman stopped. “Hey,” she said, “your shoelace is undone. Here, let me do it up in case you trip.” She tied the shoelace, smiled and walked on.

— Carol Lange, Oxford, England

I was 6 years old and spending the night at my grandparents’. While I was sitting on the porch, a couple walked past. The man reached down and plucked one of my grandmother’s tulips out of the garden and gave it to his lady love. I was outraged and ran into the house, yelling that someone had “stolen” one of my grandmother’s flowers. She calmed me down, held my hand and said, “That’s what flowers are for.”

— Clare Poth, Buffalo

I was walking to the post office. An older, masked couple walked slowly on the other side of the street. During the pandemic, people walk fast, avoid contact and try to get their things done quickly. For a moment, the couple stopped. They kissed through their masks and continued walking. It gave me some hope, that even in these times, love and human connection prevail.

— Susi Reichenbach, Brussels

We were at the beach on Martha’s Vineyard. The sun was bright coral and hanging over the horizon. Just as it was about to set, there was a commotion a few yards in front of us. A young man had just proposed to his partner, and everyone around them just turned to watch them take the first step into their new lives.

— Harriet Bernstein, West Tisbury, Mass.

When I was little, my parents and I flew to Seattle often to visit their friends. Once, while at the airport, I saw what I presumed to be a husband and wife embrace, kiss and tearfully say goodbye. That surprised me. My parents had just divorced and had never been overly affectionate. I think about that couple often.

— Margaret Anne Doran, Charlottesville, Va.

I was standing in a crowded subway train, facing a woman who was sitting. I was going through a terrible week. I was exhausted and overcome with emotion. All of a sudden, I started to cry. It almost didn’t occur to me that anyone could see me. But the seated woman did, and she handed me a tissue without saying anything except for giving me a comforting, knowing look.

— Nicole Shaub, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn

My mother often traveled for work when I was in high school. She could be away for weeks at a time. During one of her trips, I wandered into my parents’ room. My father was smelling one of her scarves. Blushingly, he put it down and said, “I was just missing your mother.”

— Sarah Hughes, Rockville, Md.

While I was driving, something up ahead brought everyone to a standstill. There was restlessness and frustrated honking. But when the cars in front of me moved into the next lane, I saw that a woman in one car was repeatedly stopping, getting out, grabbing brown-bag lunches and distributing them to the many homeless people on the side of the road. She offered them conversation, care and warmth, and seemed not to care about the frazzled drivers behind her.

— Sam Alviani, Denver

Several years ago, I was walking in the East Village when a biker got clipped by a car. The biker was hurt and bleeding, and the car drove away. Within seconds, dozens of New Yorkers sprang into action. Several people ran down the street to note the car’s license plate number. A ring of people surrounded the biker to administer first aid, ripping off sweatshirts to stanch the bleeding. In under two minutes, ambulances and police cars had arrived on the scene. There was not a second of chaos. It was a beautiful ballet of competence and confidence. New Yorkers care for each other.

— Elizabeth Brus, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn

We’re back in school, and we’re at choir rehearsal. Scrupulously adhering to guidelines, my students are singing outdoors, in masks, 10 feet apart. It’s January in New England, 34 degrees and overcast with an icy breeze.

Two high school senior boys, young men now, members of the choir I direct, inseparable since forever and never silent in rehearsal until Zoom muted them, chatted and laughed and danced together unselfconsciously between singing verses of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

They look like there’s nowhere in the world they would rather be.

— Scott Halligan, Longmeadow, Mass.

As I was headed to the drugstore, a high school-aged boy walked out carrying a bouquet of yellow daffodils. Someone yelled from across the street: “Are you looking to get lucky?” He answered: “No, I think I’m in love!” This happened probably 40 years ago, and I still think about it.

— Sallie Wolf, Oak Park, Ill.

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