There are many people out there who do nice things for others in the hopes of getting something in return. Then there are people who do nice things for others simply because it’s the right thing to do. True kindness is a beautiful thing, and witnessing it can be an inspiring and heartwarming experience like no other. Don’t believe me? Here are 42 stories of modest people and the secret acts of kindness they provided for others.
1. A Muffin a Day Keeps the Blues Away
I work in a large office and I like to buy a muffin or two per week, and then leave them anonymously on a random employee’s desk.
2. From My Hand to Yours
I spent my last $5 on a sandwich and a Coke, just in time to run into a homeless guy who asked if I would go and buy him some food. I told him that I didn’t have any more money, so I gave him my sandwich and coke instead.
3. Slow and Steady Wins the Race
I stopped traffic with my car for a turtle crossing a road. I put my car at serious risk of being clobbered just to get out and help the turtle get across safely. I would readily do this again any time I see an animal in danger. I’m a six-foot-tall, old macho type guy with a street attitude. Nobody who knows me knows about this secret little mission of mine.
4. Looking Out for Our Furry Little Friends
I pet dogs whenever I see one on the street. They’re always wagging their tails when I pet them and I feel so happy. I just know it makes them feel good!
5. Walking On Sunshine
If I’m ever at an intersection as a pedestrian and want to go diagonally across, I’ll always pick the direction that doesn’t have a car coming so that they don’t have to wait for me to cross. If there are cars on both sides, I’ll walk behind them so that they can go right away. I expect a call from the sainthood committee any minute now…
6. Being Remotely Helpful
I work for an electronics store, and I always try to do small things for the customers that they don’t realize isn’t normal. For instance, if I install a TV in a couple’s bedroom, I usually leave a remote control on each of their nightstands for them. Little things like that may just make things a tad easier for them, and I’m always happy to do it.
7. Leaving Behind a Paper Trail
Wherever I go, I turn the toilet paper rolls around in the bathroom so that they’re actually sitting correctly and not making life difficult for whoever is trying to use the facilities. You’re welcome, everyone!
8. Being Pre-Emptively Nice
I almost never criticize people’s characters, not even as gossip, and I try to go easy on them if they make mistakes. I always try to see things in the most positive light, so as to not make bad assumptions. For example, if someone does something wrong, I won’t scold them for being an idiot or anything similar. I will at first assume that it was probably just some sort of mistake.
Many times, this turns out to be right—and it often prevents things from getting unnecessarily awkward. Don’t get me wrong, I think many people are total idiots, jerks, and savages! But I rarely see the value in getting in their faces about it, as opposed to just ignoring it and coping with it. I never tell anyone that I do this, I just kind of do it—and it regularly helps my relationships with everyone around me.
I’m not sure that this is considered an act of kindness per se, especially since I do it more for my own sake than anything. Nevertheless, there you have it.
9. Just in Time
I heard a fight outside my apartment one night. I looked outside and saw the fight, but couldn’t tell if it was a man beating up a woman or a teenage boy since I couldn’t find my glasses. I called 9-1-1 and told them what I saw. While I was on the phone the man started dragging the other person around the corner of the building. I told the operator that I couldn’t see them anymore and that I had to go.
Contemplating bringing a weapon with me as I threw on my shoes and pants, I decided that it would be best to go bare-handed. If the other guy had a gun or something, he would have already used it to subdue his victim. I ran outside and quickly scanned the area. Bam! There he was on top of this woman. He was about to assault her.
I hollered at him to get up and told her to come stand behind me. It was January, and she was freezing. I quickly took off my coat and gave it to her, never taking my eyes off the guy. Now, at the time, I was in very good shape and probably looked a lot tougher than I do today, as this was nearly 20 years ago. The guy looked like he might try to fight me, but I told him that I had called the cops and that they would be there any minute, so he had better get in his car and get the hell out of there while he still could.
Obviously, I got his license plate number as he drove off. The first thing that the girl said to me was “Could you please get my clothing?” So, I climbed the fence next to the hedge and got all of her stuff. I let her go into my apartment and lock herself in the bathroom while we waited for the cops.
10. Another Kind of Social Security
When I lived in the city, an older lady of about 90 years of age had recently had her apartment robbed in my building. They went in, stole all of her cash, and took some valuables that she had as well. She did not have a bank account, so the thieves took about $30,000—in other words, the lady’s entire life savings. She was afraid of being evicted for the apartment because she wouldn’t have the rent money, and she did not want to end up in a state-run nursing home.
I called the landlord and paid her rent in full for the rest of the year, five months’ worth. I also told the landlord not to tell her that it was me. I also had groceries delivered to her once a week for the next two months, until she had some money saved up from her social security checks. I never told anyone what I had done for her and I don’t think she even knew my name, because the apartment building had about 50 apartments in it.
The landlord was the only one who knew, and he wanted to tell her what I was doing, but I told him that I would just deny it if he did. I did not want her to feel indebted to me. She posted a letter in the lobby of the building to thank whoever had helped her. I took the letter down and kept it. The landlord still writes to me every few months to tell me how she is doing. She is still living in the apartment seven years later. I never told anyone about this.
11. Out to Lunch
When I am heating up my lunch at work and I retrieve it from the microwave with 0:01 remaining, I clear it back out to 0:00 for the next person. I try!
12. A Christmas Miracle
I’m 19 years old. This happened to me just a few days ago. I went to a diner and, while ordering some food, I couldn’t help but notice that the waitress was starting to cry. I asked her what was wrong and she started explaining to me that about 20 minutes before I came in, a few customers flew the coop without paying the bill. She told me how it was likely going to come out of her paycheck and that she may even get fired if she tells the manager about it.
Not to mention the fact that she had children and Christmas was coming up. This deduction from her paycheck was the very last thing she needed. After I finished my meal, I paid the bill and left her a $50 tip (everything that I had in my wallet) and a note saying “Merry Christmas.” I quickly walked out of the diner before she saw and never told anyone about it.
13. Drive My Car
One time, I was feeling very generous. So, I decided to pay for the lunch of the car behind me in the drive-thru as a nice surprise for whoever the person was.
14. Dog’s Best Friend
I was driving back from dinner with some family one time when I saw a homeless man holding up a sign which read “Need dog food.” I got home, took a trip to the grocery store, and bought at least 20 or so dollars worth of dog food and drinks for the unfortunate dog owner. I went back to the intersection and walked over with 30 lbs. of food and drinks for the dogs and their owner.
I walked past the 20 cars waiting for the light to turn green, and wondered if anyone there would ever have helped him by more than just giving him some spare change. As I got closer, his two dogs started to cry and whine. They clearly had no food and didn’t seem like they would make it past the winter. I gave him the dog food and drinks, and he thanked me profusely.
15. I C What You Did There
I secretly replace chrome ornaments that fall off of people’s cars where I work. A while back, someone at work (no idea who) had gotten a brand new Cougar, and the C fell off of the back so it just said “ougar.” I passed the car every day for about a month, and on the way home one time I stopped at the Ford dealership and ordered a new chrome letter set (they wouldn’t let me get just the C).
Then, I quietly put the C back on when no one was around. Can you imagine coming out to your car one day and something that had fallen off of it was now magically back on it? I try to look for missing letters and badges all the time now, and I secretly replace them just to make people’s lives a little more surreal and magical.
16. Special Delivery
One of my best friends lost over $800 in overdraft fees and didn’t get paid for 2 weeks. He called me up crying, so I told him to call the bank and see if they could sort anything out. Meanwhile, I went to the bank and deposited the amount that he said he was missing. To this day, he still thinks that the bank reversed the overdraft fees for him. This was about a year ago, and (at least from what he tells me) he’s never over-drafted since.
17. Living a Double Life
My great uncle was a quiet guy. He wasn’t around much, as he lived pretty far away in a small town. But when he passed away, a LOT of people showed up for the funeral. Way more than we had expected. It turns out he had spent a lot of his time volunteering, visiting with old folks, talking with people in hospice, visiting the food pantry, etc.
He never told anyone he knew about any of it. When he died, all of the people from these different volunteer organizations showed up to pay their respects, along with the people who he had helped through his work. The entry line for the funeral was all the way out the door and around the block at one point. Rest in peace, uncle. You’ve done well.
18. A Loyal Friend
My best friend’s girlfriend wanted to hook up with me, and I turned her down. At the time, they were taking a break from one another. I basically used the opportunity to tell her how awesome of a guy he is and explained that she needed to realize what she was doing and why it was wrong. They got back together shortly after that. I never told him about it. They got married this past summer and will hopefully live happily ever after.
19. A Fella With an Umbrella
I gave my umbrella to a tourist during a downpour. I was getting into my car and he had at least a mile to walk (based on where we ran into one another). He said, “Thank you for your kindness” and bowed like 10 times. I felt pretty good that day!
20. Star Crossed Lovers
I once let go of a girl that I really loved and broke up with her so that she could be happy, as I knew that our relationship was not what she had wanted it to be. She never found out that this was the real reason that I had ended things with her. I hope she is doing well now.
21. Trashy People
I like to pick up paper towels off the floors in public bathrooms. The people cleaning those bathrooms are probably making a lousy wage and have to deal with enough disgusting garbage to begin with, without inconsiderate people giving them extra. Some of these jerks can’t even be bothered to get their towels into the trash can.
22. Putting a Good Word In
I talk my coworkers up pretty often when they’re not around. Spreading a positive impression of people can go a long way. From allowing them to meet new people, getting future job offers, even landing dates—I like to know that I’m potentially helping them out down the line.
23. Food for Thought
I decided to secretly plant a bunch of seeds that grow edible food in public parks throughout my city—things like tomatoes, carrots, beans, peas, etc. I did it thinking that hopefully if anyone is ever hungry and can’t afford to buy any food, they will always at least have a small snack available to them. So if you ever randomly see asparagus growing in some hidden corner of a public park, that could have been me!
24. Will You Be My Valentines?
Back in high school, we had a Valentine’s Day card and rose delivery system that I think was meant to raise money for charity or something. I would secretly pick a few people every year that I didn’t know, and would send them an anonymous delivery—just to make them feel good. It had such a huge impact on the people who got them that I kept the tradition going right up through college and law school. I’ll still organize random flower deliveries to this day for people that I kind of know, but who seem like they’re having a bad week.
25. A Little More Conversation
I like to stop and talk to homeless people. Even if I can’t spare any change, I try to have a conversation with them. You’d be surprised at how invisible they feel and how, often times, they are actually incredibly interesting and intelligent. I have met plenty over time who have said that it meant the world to them to just have someone acknowledge them with a smile, or a hello. As the saying goes, a lot of hard-working people are just one paycheck away from being homeless.
When I’m in a bookstore and I see that one of the books on a stack has a paperback cover that’s starting to curl outwards, I rearrange the entire stack to put that book in a better position so that the cover doesn’t end up getting bent out of shape or warped. Therefore, some of you out there may be enjoying some books in perfect condition, all because of little old me! No need to thank me!
27. Keeping the Volume Down
I often work night shifts where I might finish anytime between 12 and 3 at night, and sometimes I work overnight shifts where I finish at about 6 or so in the morning. I’m always as quiet as possible when coming home, so as to not wake up my housemates. Whenever I’m sleeping, they’re really loud and consistently wake me up. I never say anything though, because it’s their time off and I know how lousy it is to have to be quiet all the time on your time off. It’s small, I know, but it makes me feel good to know that I’m doing something nice without needing anything in return.
28. A Bloody Good Job
I donated blood. I have no idea who got it or what happened to them, and they have no idea who I am or why I gave it. I’d do it again in an instant.
29. The First Supper
While walking through South Station in Boston, waiting three hours for a connecting train to Worcester, I met a beggar by the name of “Fast Eddy.” Fast Eddy was a rather hideous man, dirty as the ace of spades, teeth rotting out of his head from meth use, and without even a pot to pee in to his name. I have this habit of connecting with the dregs of society, since I myself have been not only homeless, but a criminal in the past.
So, he started by coming up to me and saying “I bet you that I can tell you three things if you’ll give me a dollar!” It was a three-part riddle, something about the state you were born in, where you got your shoes, and one other thing that I can’t seem to remember. I told him after he told me his riddle that unfortunately, I didn’t have a dollar, but that I did have a debit card and three hours to burn before I had to catch my train to Worcester.
So, I invited Fast Eddy out to lunch with me. I walked over three blocks with him to a restaurant called Shabu Zen. It’s a delicious Chinese food restaurant that serves “hot pot” style cuisine. He ended up eating a LOT! Three platters of beef and three bowls of Udon later, he started to loosen up a little bit. It turns out that Fast Eddy has a Master’s degree in economics.
He lost his wife in a car accident three years earlier and turned to drugs to kill the pain. What started out as weed and hard liquor turned into more serious substances. He was living in a homeless shelter and had nothing but the clothes on his back. He spent all of his money panhandling on women, booze, substances, and hotels, constantly perpetuating his bad habits.
We sat for a while. After we finished eating but before we walked back to South Station, I asked him what he would do now, if he had the chance to turn things around. Eddy looked right at me and said that he couldn’t turn things around, as he could never get over his losses. I asked him about his family. His mom lives in South Carolina from what he confessed, and his dad passed away six months before his wife did.
I asked him when the last time he had talked to his mom was, and he told me it had been about three and a half years before. I thought to myself about the amount of money that I had in my bank account. $650 was approximately what I had in my checking, and my savings was pretty low too. I asked him if he had any interest in going home to see his mom and to get out of the harsh New England winter.
He told me time and time again that he couldn’t go back to living with his mom, as he was 34 years old and his pride just couldn’t take the hit. I pointed out to him that he was strung out and that I wanted to put him on a bus back home so that he could get better. He teared up as soon as I said it and kept saying, “thank you” as he hugged me.
It was a long, somewhat awkward hug for me—not because I didn’t feel like I was doing what was right, but because I was doing what I felt that any decent human being would. Before I put him on the bus, I cashed out all but $40 of the money in my checking account and went to a few stores to get him some respectable clothing.
He ended up looking a lot more human once he shaved, washed up, and got into some clean clothing. I pulled out my cell phone and told him to call his mom and to tell her that he’s coming home. The phone call lasted a little over 20 minutes, which made me end up missing my train. I didn’t really care about that at this point.
I knew that, even if this man went back to drugs in the end, at least for this brief moment he was happy. I put him on that bus on February 23, 2005. A letter arrived in my mailbox along with a picture about five years later. It was from Fast Eddy, and the picture included him, his mom, his new fiancée, and their newborn child.
In with the photo was a note that read: “Once, you told me that if I ever needed help, you were just a call or a letter away. Now, I’m writing to you to let you know that it was your help that has saved me from myself. God bless you.” It went on into more personal details about his old habits, his new girlfriend, his relationship with his mom, his new job, and his new life.
I’ve never told anyone about any of this because I don’t see it as doing anything spectacular. I bought someone lunch, a bus ticket to go home, some new clothes, and a phone call home to his mom. I don’t see why we as people can’t all be more civil to those in need. Sometimes, there is infinite potential right behind a broken smile. Always pay it forward.
30. Something’s Buzzing
Whenever I see a bee on the sidewalk or ground, I know that it is probably just tired and not looking to hurt anyone. I bring or make a mixture of two parts white sugar to one part water, and make a little pool of 20 drops right in front of them. They ALWAYS drink it up and then fly away. It’s pretty magical to watch.
31. In a Difficult Spot
I was in a hurry one time and stopped at a gas station to fill up. While I was outside my car, a man came up to me and asked if I could spare a buck or two for gas since he, his wife, and his daughter were traveling, but were broke and had barely made it to the station. They had a broken down old Volvo and it was clear that they were vagabonds of some sort who lived in their car.
The kid was at most only two years old. I was pretty low on cash myself, but I thought hey what the hell—I could use some affirmation that people can be kind in case I was ever in their situation. So, I swiped my card at their pump and said, “Fill it up. Good luck to you and your family, I hope this can get you where you’re going,” and walked away.
He started crying as I left, and I would have lost it too if I wasn’t too proud to do so in public. To see a grown man cry like that, both for having received an unexpected gift and for having to be put in the position of begging to keep his family safe, was one of the most profound experiences of my life. I have never told a single person about it until now.
32. Day Tripper
I was day tripping to Vancouver from Seattle and stopped in for lunch at a little cafe. From my window, I saw a young teenage girl out in the cold, squatted down in a closed up business’s doorway, holding a small bundle in her arms. She was panhandling, and people were mostly walking by ignoring her. She looked just utterly broken.
I finished up my meal and went outside. I then went through my wallet and thought I’d give her $5 for some food. When I got up to her, I saw that she was sobbing. She looked like she was only about 14 or 15 years old—and that bundle in her arms was a baby wrapped up. I felt like I just got punched in the chest seeing that.
She looked up at me, putting on a game face, and asked if I could spare any change. I asked her if she would like some lunch. Right next door was a small quick-trip type grocery store, so I got a can of formula for the baby (who was very young, maybe only 2 or 3 months old) and took her back to the cafe where I had just eaten. She was very thankful.
She ordered a burger and just inhaled it. Then I got her some pie and ice cream. She began to open up and we talked. She was 15 and had gotten pregnant by mistake. Her parents were angry and she was fighting with them all the time, so she eventually ran away from home. She had been gone almost one full year at this point.
I asked her if she would like to go home and she got silent. I coaxed her, and she finally said that her parents wouldn’t want her back. I coaxed further, and she admitted that she had stolen over $5,000 in cash from her dad when she was running away. As it turned out, $5,000 doesn’t last very long at all and the streets are tough on a 15-year-old. Very tough.
She clearly did want to go back, but she was afraid that no one would want her back after what she did. We talked a bit more. I wanted her to use my phone to call home but she wouldn’t. I told her that I’d call and see if her folks wanted to talk to her. She hesitated and gave a bunch of bad excuses, but eventually agreed. She dialed the number and I took the phone.
Her mom picked up and I said hello. I awkwardly introduced myself and said that her daughter would like to speak to her. I heard silence on the other end, and then I suddenly heard crying. I gave the phone to the girl and she began just quietly listening to her mom cry on the other end, before finally saying hello. Then she began to cry.
They talked, she gave the phone back to me, and then I talked to her mom some more. I drove her down to the bus station and bought her a bus ticket home. I gave her $100 cash for incidentals, as well as some formula, diapers, wipes, and snacks for the road. I got to the bus, and she just cried saying thank you over and over again.
I gave her a kiss on the forehead and a goodbye hug, kissed her baby, and she got on the bus. I now get a Christmas card every year from her. She’s 21 today and in college. Her name is Makayla and her baby’s name was Joe. I’ve never really told anyone about this. I just feel good knowing that I did something good in this world. Maybe it’ll make up for the things I’ve messed up over the years.
33. Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire
This is a story about my father. I was awakened by my mom one time around 1:30 am. “Get up, there’s a fire, we have to go outside!” she said. I’m freaking out, but I don’t smell smoke. I assemble outside with my mother and my younger brother and sister. Down the street, a townhouse in the same row as ours is visibly engulfed in flames.
I don’t see my father around, so I ask my mom. “He went over to see if he could help” she says. I can hear the nervousness in her voice, my father is known to be rather bold. The story as it was told to me as an adult goes like this: My father arrived after the fire department and learned that a man was alive inside, possibly lost.
The fire department wouldn’t go in after the man because they did not feel that it was safe to do so yet. My dad was like, “Well, screw that!” and (clad in only his long-johns), he broke a window and entered the home. He found the man at the top of the stairs, badly burned and unable to walk. He carried the man down the stairs and out the front door.
The firemen treated my dad briefly for smoke inhalation and the cops took a statement. The man he carried from the house died after about a week in the hospital, but his family was grateful that he had gotten the chance to say goodbye. The county awarded my dad a plaque and Comcast gave us free cable for a year.
He never talks about it and it was so long ago that no one he knows is aware that it ever happened. About a week ago, my 5-year-old child asked me if superheroes are real. I told him the story of the day his grandfather was a superhero and I almost couldn’t finish. I hope that one day my son will feel that kind of pride in me.
34. Laughing Out Loud
When someone sends me a meme that I’ve already seen, I still pretend that I haven’t seen it yet and give them a hearty “LOL!” I hope they appreciate it!
35. Meter Made Better
I once saw a parking ticket on someone’s car, so I removed it before they got back. I was hoping to prevent their day from getting ruined. Hopefully, it worked!
36. The Lone Ranger
I saved two people from drowning on two separate occasions and refused to give my name to anyone to be published in news stories.
I have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to do many different things in my life that have allowed me to meet people that I could support, with no questions asked. But there is one small thing that always sticks out to me above all the other things that would seem like much bigger deals to most on paper.
I ran a summer-long day camp for kids in a neighborhood that has always been labeled as “troubled,” “violence-ridden,” and other similar adjectives. You know the type. The media loves it. There was this one 8-year-old boy there who drove me up the wall. Not a day would go by when he wouldn’t steal, or kick, or punch, or bite, or be verbally abusive towards myself, my team and/or the other kids.
Not a day went by where I didn’t have to send him home early. But every morning, he was the first kid to arrive—sometimes even showing up an hour early. So, every morning, I would give him a hug, look him in the eyes, and say “I’m so glad that you’re here today!” Let me tell you, most days, my emotions did not line up with what I was saying.
I mean, this kid caused me so much grief. But every day, I still did it. Every day, I sent him home early because of his behavior, and every morning I welcomed him back warmly without question. That was one of the hardest nice things I’ve ever done, and I still think about that kid every day. There was no way he knew the true extent of what I was trying to do for him and how hard it was for me, but I gladly did it anyway. I later learned more about his family life, and it was hell. Absolute hell. So, I hope that for a couple of hours a day, he was able to feel like someone wanted him around.
38. Pennies From Heaven
This is small, but any time that my girlfriend comes across a penny on the ground, she always turns it to heads so that the next person who finds it will have a bit of good luck. It’s seriously the cutest and sweetest thing I’ve ever seen, and she obviously never gets the chance to tell the people who find it that she was looking out for them. The first time she did it in front of me and I found out her reasoning behind it, it just made me fall even more in love with her than I already was.
39. This Is No Game
When I was 14 years old or so, I went with my dad to Target one time. He was doing some general Christmas shopping, but also had a list from an impoverished inner-city family. It was hand-written with notes from each of the four children in the family. They were instructed by the charity running the program to keep their requests reasonable, but my dad read every single one and went way overboard.
One kid asked for a video game for a previous gen system. My dad instead bought him a PS2 (which was new at the time) and a bunch of games. One of the daughters asked for a modest desk to do her schoolwork on. He bought her a really cool one and threw in every kind of school supplies she could ever possibly need. It was no different for the other two kids.
He ended up spending a lot of money on this family that he didn’t even know. When he saw how jealous I was of the PS2 (since I had really been wanting one badly for a while), he looked at me and said, “I want you to stop and really think about who this is going to and what their life is probably like and what it will feel like for them to open this on Christmas. If you do that and still want it, then I’ll give it to you instead.” And so that’s the story of how I got my rad new PS2. Just kidding! It’s how I learned about the joy of giving, and that my dad was secretly a pretty cool guy!
40. The Money Keeps Rolling In
There’s this really poor girl that I work with and she’s got a few kids at home. She works really hard and does her best, but just doesn’t have enough money to do anything for herself. So, once a week or so, I secretly slip some cash into her purse or jacket pocket or locker. She’d never ask for it or accept it if I gave it to her openly, so I always just make it seem like she found it by accident.
41. One Last Request
When I was working a summer job in our local hospital, I got paged to a room by a patient. Usually, what they wanted me to do when they called was to shift their position or get them some water or something similar. This time, the old lady asked me to come to her and take her hand. She told me “I don’t want to die alone.” I assured her that she would not die alone. After a few silent moments of her just staring at me and smiling, she finally said “Thank you so much, goodbye!” and then she died on the spot.
42. A Five Star Stay
When I got my massive settlement check for getting my finger cut off at work, I kept $2,000 dollars for myself and put the rest in the bank. That night, after dinner and drinks, I was coming home and saw a homeless man in his mid-20s who I had seen several times before. He was posted up against a wall near the intersection and was shivering from the cold.
Since there were three hotels at that intersection, I stopped, rented a room for a week on my debit card, then put the key in an envelope, replaced it with $1,700, and walked over to the gentleman to hand him the key and cash. No lie, I saw him a month or so later working at a gas station nearby. He was now clean, shaved, and had a nice haircut.
I’m not sure if he recognized me, but I’m glad that I recognized him. He appeared to be very happy and doing well, which was enough to make me happy with the decision I had made. I haven’t seen him in several years, but I like to think he’s back on his feet now—maybe with a family, a house, and whatever else he needs, hopefully just doing well.