Stranger angels

A friend posted a meme in her FB group today that read: Some stranger somewhere remembers you because you were kind to them.

That’s such a lovely thought, and being the recipient of kindness from strangers, I know it’s true; at least for me it is.

I’ve used the term stranger angel for decades to mean someone I don’t know at all who serendipitously crosses my path and bestows on me an unexpected kindness. (I was surprised not to find it mentioned online beyond this one quote. Did I make up this term?)

Who’s to say that a smile or an outstretched hand from a stranger is not an act of an angel in disguise.

Unknown author

Let me tell you one of my stranger angel stories to illustrate.

I remember clearly a time in the fall of 1986, long before China developed into the modern nation it is today, I was on a CAAC plane on a late afternoon flight from Beijing destined for Guangzhou when it landed instead in Changsha, capital of Hunan Province. The pilot announced in both Mandarin and (stiff) English that Guangzhou was shrouded in fog and the plane couldn’t safely land there. Instead, we’d be bused to a hotel to wait for the weather in the south to clear.

When we arrived at the state-owned hotel, an old, grimy, joyless structure, we were informed that we’d have to pay for our stay. That came as a bit of a shock to me, not only because it deviated from international aviation practice, but because in those days I did not carry credit cards (and anyway, they were probably not yet accepted in such a non-touristic town) and I had completely run out of cash. I had to find a solution.

After dumping my small suitcase in the room allocated to me, I ventured down to the dingy hotel bar I’d seen located off the lobby. There, as I expected, I found a small group of gweilos (foreign devils, as Cantonese call white people) drinking tepid local beers. I joined them, and after some small talk, I explained my predicament. One of the men, an Australian engineer (whose name I don’t remember), readily offered to pay my hotel bill for me, no strings attached. I slept without worry that night.

This one story has a second stranger angel.

We were told to be ready to leave for the airport by 6 am. The hotel did not serve us any breakfast. So we arrived shortly after and were made to sit and wait in the stone cold and cheerless departure lounge. One hour passed, two hours; no sign of movement, no plane in sight, no announcements. My only joy was sitting and chatting with the same group of Aussies I’d enjoyed the beer with.

Finally, a middle-aged Chinese man in the standard blue Mao jacket approached our group. He was carrying some paper cups and an oversized classic Chinese aluminum thermos flask. Handing each of us foreigners a cup (I noticed the Chinese passengers got none), I anticipated we’d get either just the boiling water or maybe some tea leaves. Even that would be welcome as a remedy against the chilly early morning and the morning hunger pangs.

Then he put his hand in his pocket and pulled out something I had not seen before: packets of 3-in-1 instant coffee! While today I might find them vile, believe me, little has ever tasted as good to me as this coffee right then!

We were made to wait another six hours, without food, without information. But this stranger angel came by every couple of hours to give us another cup of instant coffee.

We’ll never know what was really wrong. When we landed in Guangzhou later that day, the sun shone brightly and I learned there never was any fog that day.

But I had met two stranger angels. And today I think of them fondly and sincerely thank them again, as well as the many others who have made my life more bearable in times of trouble.

Have you had encounters with stranger angels? Do share…

I have never met a person whose greatest need was anything other than real, unconditional love. You can find it in a simple act of kindness toward someone who needs help. There is no mistaking love, it is the common fiber of life, the flame that heats our soul, energizes our spirit and supplies passion to our lives.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

I hope you’ll join me in subscribing to—and endeavoring actively to engage in—random acts of kindness. The kindness can be as simple as smiling openly to a stranger on the street, connecting with the check-out clerk (filling your own grocery bags, saying thank you, and wishing them a nice day), or donating your time or a few dollars/pesos to a charity doing good work.

Let your kindness ripple out. Someone will thank you for it.

How do we change the world? One random act of kindness at a time.

Morgan Freeman

7 comments

  • You call them stranger angels while I call them by another name: my guardian angel. They come in different guises – sometimes a friend, but most other times, yes, they are total strangers. When their act of kindness is done, they go on their way, not leaving a name for me to remember but leaving instead a thankfulness in my heart that I will never forget.
    For so many, many acts of kindness I have received, especially where I could not reciprocate at that moment, I pay it forward with a smile, a little help, an extra mile to walk for someone else in need. Sometimes I also do not leave my name, but hope that I leave instead a thankfulness in their heart that they will never forget. 💗

    • Yes, indeed these kind acts you experience could be the work of your guardian angel, Gigi, coming through different bodies and souls in times of need. Paying a kindness forward is how we both make this world a more joyful place to live. 💮🙏💮

  • I will make you happy today.
    This time I totally agree with what you wrote. I travelled the world extensively (probably not as much as you) and I must say I have met angels everywhere I have gone. Perfect strangers who showed me kindness and offered me help without expecting anything in return. Those kind and friendly people were often the highlights of my travels. Especially that in my younger years I was travelling more to meet new people and locals then to visit museums, churches or old buildings.
    Some of those stories are almost unbelievable to tell but all those people are still in my heart.
    I am also glad to say that I met more friendly people than unfriendly people during my travels.

    I try to do the same. Be friendly and extend as much help as possible to any stranger who need it.

    • Yaaay. 😊 In fact, I know this about you, Sidney, and it’s no doubt why we are kindred spirits, our small and lesser important disagreements aside. You are kind, considerate, and generous to all you meet. You walk that talk. (Besides, on the bits we don’t see eye to eye, we both enjoy the banter.) 💮🙏💮

By Francisca

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