From Reader’s Digest: We asked readers for firsthand accounts of compassion. Here are 24 stories that touched your lives—and our hearts.
The Man at the Market
When the supermarket clerk tallied up my groceries, I was $12 over what I had on me. I began to remove items from the bags, when another shopper handed me a $20 bill. ‘Please don’t put yourself out,’ I told him. ‘Let me tell you a story,’ he said. ‘My mother is in the hospital with cancer. I visit her every day and bring her flowers. I went this morning, and she got mad at me for spending my money on more flowers. She demanded that I do something else with that money. So, here, please accept this. It is my mother’s flowers.’ (Here are some things you should never do when visiting someone in the hospital.)
Leslie Wagner, Peel, Arkansas
Jim and the Job
My neighbor, Jim, had trouble deciding if he wanted to retire from the construction field, until he ran into a younger man he’d worked with previously. The young man had a wife and three children and was finding it difficult to make ends meet, since he hadn’t worked in some time. The next morning, Jim went to the union office and submitted his retirement paperwork. (By the way, these are the ten best places to retire in America.) As for his replacement, he gave them the name of the young man. That was six years ago, and that young husband and father has been employed ever since.
Miranda MacLean, Brutus, Michigan
A Family’s Food Angel
While going through a divorce, my mother fretted over her new worries: no income, the same bills, and no way to afford groceries. It was around this time that she started finding boxes of food outside our door every morning. This went on for months, until she was able to land a job. We never did find out who it was who left the groceries for us, but they truly saved our lives. (These 12 heartwarming stories will restore your faith in humanity.)
Jamie Boleyn, Emmett, Idaho
Color Me Amazed
I forgot about the rules on liquids in carry-on luggage, so when I hit security at the airport, I had to give up all my painting supplies. When I returned a week later, an attendant was at the baggage area with my paints. Not only had he kept them for me, but he’d looked up my return date and time in order to meet me. (Here are some things you should never, ever do on a plane.)
Marilyn Kinsella, Canmore, Canada
Seven Miles For Me
Leaving a store, I returned to my car only to find that I’d locked my keys and cell phone inside. A teenager riding his bike saw me kick a tire and say a few choice words. ‘What’s wrong?’ he asked. I explained my situation. ‘But even if I could call my wife,’ I said, ‘she can’t bring me her car key, since this is our only car.’ He handed me his cell phone. ‘Call your wife and tell her I’m coming to get her key.’ ‘That’s seven miles round trip.’ ‘Don’t worry about it.’ An hour later, he returned with the key. I offered him some money, but he refused. ‘Let’s just say I needed the exercise,’ he said. Then, like a cowboy in the movies, he rode off into the sunset. (You NEED to see these incredible photos of heartwarming moments.)
Clarence W. Stephens, Nicholasville, Kentucky
The Little Lift
One evening, I left a restaurant just ahead of a woman assisting her elderly mom. I approached the curb and paused to see if my arthritic knees could climb it. To my right appeared an arm to assist. It was that of the elderly mom. My heart was so touched.
Donna Moerie, Goldsboro, North Carolina
Bounty For a Navy Wife
I was balancing caring for a toddler and working a full-time job, all while my Navy husband was on extended duty overseas. One evening, the doorbell rang. It was my neighbor, a retired chief petty officer, holding a breadboard loaded with a freshly cooked chicken and vegetable stew. ‘I’ve noticed you’re getting a little skinny,’ he said. It was the best meal I’d had in months. (Here are some random acts of kindness you can do right now.)
Patricia Fordney, Corvallis, Oregon
My Granddaughter’s Dress
I saw a dress in a consignment shop that I knew my granddaughter would love. But money was tight, so I asked the store owner if she could hold it for me. ‘May I buy the dress for you?’ asked another customer. ‘Thank you, but I can’t accept such a gracious gift,’ I said. Then she told me why it was so important for her to help me. She’d been homeless for three years, she said, and had it not been for the kindness of strangers, she would not have been able to survive. ‘I’m no longer homeless, and my situation has improved,’ she said. ‘I promised myself that I would repay the kindness so many had shown me.’ She paid for the dress, and the only payment she would accept in return was a heartfelt hug.
Stacy Lee, Columbia, Maryland
A woman at our yard sale wore a perfume that smelled heavenly and familiar. ‘What are you wearing?’ I asked. ‘White Shoulders,’ she said. Suddenly, I was bowled over by a flood of memories. White Shoulders was the one gift I could count on at Christmas from my late mother. We chatted awhile, and she bought some things and left. A few hours later, she returned holding a new bottle of White Shoulders. I don’t recall which one of us started crying first. (Here are some ways to be nicer to people.)
Media Stooksbury, Powell, Tennessee
Last December, before work, I stopped at a deli and ordered an everything bagel with cream cheese. It was toasty warm, and I couldn’t wait to dig in. But as I left the store, I noticed an older indigent gentleman sitting at the bus stop. Knowing it would probably be his only warm meal of the day, I gave him the bagel. But all was not lost for me. Another customer from the deli offered me half of her bagel. I was so delighted because I realized that in one way or another, we are all looked after.
Liliana Figueroa, Phoenix, Arizona
‘I Can Still Help’
As I walked through the parking lot, all I could think about was the dire diagnosis I had handed my patient Jimmy: pancreatic cancer. Just then, I noticed an elderly gentleman handing tools to someone working under his stalled car. That someone was Jimmy. ‘Jimmy, what are you doing?’ I yelled out. Jimmy dusted off his pants. ‘My cancer didn’t tell me not to help others, Doc,’ he said, before waving at the old man to start the car. The engine roared to life. The old man thanked Jimmy and drove off. Then Jimmy got into his car and took off as well. Take-home message: Kindness has no limits and no restrictions. (These are some little compliments you should be giving every day.)
Mohammed Basha, Gainesville, Florida
When my husband died unexpectedly, a coworker took me under her wing. Every week for an entire year, she would send me a card saying ‘Just Thinking of You’ or ‘Hang in There.’ She saved my life.
Jerilynn Collette, Burnsville, Minnesota
He Kept an Eye on Me
Driving home in a blizzard, I noticed a vehicle trailing close behind me. Suddenly, my tire blew! I pulled off the road, and so did the other car. A man jumped out from behind the wheel and without hesitation changed the flat. ‘I was going to get off two miles back,’ he said. ‘But I didn’t think that tire looked good.’ (Being kind to strangers is great, but don’t forget about being kind to yourself.)
Marilyn Attebery, Spokane Valley, Washington
My Commander’s Call
It was one of my first missions on a gunship during the Vietnam War. I was scanning for enemy fire when I spotted a bright object that looked as if it were coming straight at us. ‘Missile! Missile!’ I shouted into my interphone. The pilot jerked the airplane as hard as he could, dumping guys from one side of the craft to the next. Well, turns out the ‘missile’ was a flare we had just dropped. Suffice it to say, the guys weren’t pleased. Back at the base, my commander put an arm around my shoulder. ‘Sergeant Hunter,’ he said, ‘you keep calling them like you see them. Better safe than sorry.’ That kind act gave me the confidence to be one of the top gunners in my squadron.
Douglas Hunter, Fort Walton Beach, Florida
21 Apples From Max
When my grandson Max told his mother, Andrea, to donate any check she would give him for his 21st birthday, Andrea got an idea. She handed Max’s brother Charlie a video camera. Then she took out 21 $10 bills from the bank and bought 21 apples at the supermarket. When they spotted a homeless man, Andrea told him, ‘Today is my son Max’s 21st birthday, and he asked me to give a gift to someone to help him celebrate.’ She handed the man a $10 bill and an apple. The man smiled into the camera and announced, ‘Happy birthday, Max!’ Soon, they passed out their booty to men and women waiting in line at a soup kitchen. In a unified chorus, they wished Max, ‘Happy birthday!’ At a pizza parlor, Andrea left $50 and told the owners to feed the hungry. ‘Happy birthday, Max!’ they shouted. With one last $10 bill and apple, they stopped at Andrea’s sister’s office. Unable to contain her laughter or her tears, she bellowed into the camera, ‘Happy birthday, Max!’ (Don’t miss these 21 acts of kindness that changed these people’s lives.)
Dr. Donald Stoltz, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
How Did She Know?
I was driving cross-country to start a new job. What began as a fun adventure turned into a nightmare when I realized I had run through most of my money and still had a ways to go. I pulled over and let the tears flow. That’s when I noticed the unopened farewell card my neighbor had shoved in my hand as I left. I pulled the card out of the envelope, and $100 dropped out—just enough to get me through the remainder of my trip. Later, I asked my neighbor why she had enclosed the money. She said, ‘I had a feeling it would help.’
Nadine Chandler, Winthrop, Massachusetts
Children were playing at the recreation area of an IKEA store when my five-year-old granddaughter motioned for a small boy to stop. She knelt down before him and retied his flopping shoelaces—she had only just learned to tie her own. No words were spoken, but after she finished, both smiled shyly, then turned to race off in different directions. (Speaking of cute kids, you won’t be able to stop smiling looking at these adorable father-daughter costumes this man made.)
Sheela Mayes, Olla, Louisiana
When I was seven, my family drove to the Grand Canyon. At one point, my favorite blanket flew out the window and was gone. I was devastated. Soon after, we stopped at a service station. Moping, I found a bench and was about to eat my sandwich when a biker gang pulled into the station. ‘Is that your blue Ford?’ a huge, frightening man with a gray-and-black beard asked. Mom nodded reticently. The man pulled my blanket from his jacket pocket and handed it to her. He then returned to his motorcycle. I repaid him the only way I knew how: I ran up to him and gave him my sandwich.
Zena Hamilton, United Kingdom
Just Driving Through
When my friend and I were injured in a car accident, a family from out of state stopped to help. Seeing we were hurt, they drove us to the hospital and stayed there until we were released. They then took us home, got us food, and made sure we were settled in. Amazingly, they interrupted their vacation to help us. (Check out this faith-restoring story of how this generous man let a stranger borrow his car.)
Cindy Earls, Ada, Oklahoma
Butterflies of Support
I was four months pregnant with our first child when our baby’s heart stopped beating. I was devastated. As the days went on, I was nervous about returning to work. I’m a middle school teacher and didn’t know how I could face kids.
This past May, after four weeks of recovering, I walked into my empty classroom and turned on the lights. Glued to the wall were a hundred colored paper butterflies, each with a handwritten message on it from current and past students. All of them had encouraging messages: ‘Keep moving forward,’ ‘Don’t give up on God,’ and ‘Know that we love you.’ It was exactly what I needed.
Jennifer Garcia-Esquivel, San Benito, Texas
Twice as Nice
Two firefighters were waiting in line at a fast-food restaurant when the siren sounded on their fire truck parked outside. As they turned to leave, a couple who had just received their order handed their food to the firefighters. The couple then got back in line to reorder. Doubling down on their selfless act, the manager refused to take their money. (This town is the nicest place in America! Hint: It’s in Tennessee.)
JoAnn Sanderson, Brandon, Florida
I’d pulled over onto the side of a New Mexico road and was suffering a panic attack when a minivan full of kids pulled over. A woman got out and asked if I was OK. ‘No,’ I said. Then I laid out what had happened: I was delivering books for a publishing company. My next stop was way, way up this long and winding and, to me, very treacherous road. I couldn’t do it. ‘I’ll deliver the books for you,’ she said. She was a local, and the roads were nothing for her. I took her up on the offer and never forgot the simple kindness of a stranger.
Doreen Frick, Ord, Nebraska
A Christmas Story
In January 2006, a fire destroyed a family’s home. In that fire were all the belongings of a six-year-old boy, including his Christmas presents. A classmate from his school who had a birthday around then asked her parents if she could give all her gifts to the boy. That act of kindness will forever warm my heart because the boy is my grandson. (These stories of Christmas kindness will make you SO happy.)
Donna Kachnowski, Lebanon, Connecticut
She Gave Me Direction
As I left a party, I got on the wrong freeway and was immediately lost. I pulled over to the shoulder and called my roadside-assistance provider. She tried to connect me to the California Highway Patrol, but that call never went through. Hearing the panic in my voice, she came up with a plan B: ‘You’re near this office,’ she said. ‘I’m about to go off shift. Stay put, and I’ll find you.’ Ten minutes later, she rolled up. She guided me not only to the right freeway but all the way to the correct freeway exit. And then, with a wave goodbye, she drove back into the night.
Michelle Arnold, Santee, California