Despite the depressing headlines that dominate news coverage, there are often some acts of kindness that help to dispel the gloom and brighten our days. Selfless acts of compassion from strangers shine like a beacon of hope and help to restore our faith in the inherent goodness of mankind. Here are ten incredible acts of kindness that travelers have encountered across the world:
In November ’15, Mrs. Laura Genovich, from Michigan, boarded a flight to Orlando, Florida. She was flying in to see her mum, who had just suffered a stroke and was unlikely to survive for much longer. In addition, to the last farewells, she also wanted to be there to support her dad. Unfortunately, the flight was delayed for an hour and then cancelled, leaving her in tears. Distraught and hopeless, Laura’s spirits were about to be raised, as a woman in front of her turned around to comfort her. The stranger had overheard Laura’s phone conversation with her husband and stepped in to make sure that she would get a flight to Orlando. After promising to help, she didn’t just accompany Laura and carry her baggage for her. She followed her right up to the gate for the next flight and insisted on buying her ticket. She refused to be reimbursed and said it could be considered a Thanksgiving or Christmas gift. Thanks to the kindness of this stranger, a daughter was able to get home to see her mother one last time.
For Australian student, Leanne Truong, a cab ride from Dadar to Colaba proved to be a defining experience in India, as she first met her taxi driver, Rakesh Tiwari. Despite the language barriers, Tiwari was a gracious host, exchanging pleasantries, sharing stories and his business card. Soon after she met her friends in Colaba, she realized that her belongings had been left behind in the cab. She managed to contact him over his cell phone and, with the help of hotel staff, conveyed her plight. By this time, Tiwari was in a train, on his way home to Nalasopara, a good distance away. Without any thought of the inconvenience it would cause him, he got off the train and returned to Churchgate to look for her possessions, in his cab. In no time at all, he was back where he had dropped her earlier, along with her belongings. With this single act of selflessness, the honesty of a Mumbai taxi-driver helped restore our faith in humanity and India’s reputation of hospitality.
Saba Ahmed, a resident of Karachi, Pakistan, suffers from Wilson”s Disease, a rare genetic condition, for which she needed treatment that could only be provided in Mumbai. Unfortunately, the costs of air travel and treatment are prohibitive, putting her in dire straits. When NGOs in Mumbai, India, first learned about the plight of the 15 year old they instantly decided to step in. To make the three-month treatment possible, a group in India started an online crowd-funding effort to raise the lakhs that would be needed. They were soon overwhelmed by the generosity of Mumbaikars and Indians, from across the country. More than INR 10 lakhs was raised just through this single initiative and Saba was able to undergo treatment at Jaslok hospital. The experience didn’t just change her life; it also left her with a newfound love for Indians. With stories of animosity between the two neighboring countries normally dominating the newspapers, this story of cross-border humanitarian aid speaks volumes about the spirit of brotherhood between all men.
Travelling with a baby for the first time is always stressful for parents, even more so if you are travelling solo. For young mom Rebekka Garvison, it was the first time she would be taking her infant, Rylee, on a flight. She was on her way to Alabama, from Michigan, to surprise her husband. She was filled with apprehension, as she was worried about her baby and also about the reactions of other travelers. Most passengers do not take too kindly to having the peace disturbed and she could sense the wary glances of other fliers as soon as she boarded. When Rylee started to cry before the flight even took off, it looked like things were going from bad to worse. This is when she moved away from the other passengers to an empty seat she found next to Nyfesha Miller. Far from being irritated, Nyfesha greeted her warmly and even offered to soothe her baby. But Nyfesha wasn’t just polite; she actually held the baby for the entire duration of the journey and even helped get a car seat and stroller at the airport, allowing the baby’s mum to catch a breath.
With the threat of global terrorism and irresponsible politicians feeding the paranoia, Maher Khalil and his friend Anas Ayyad endured what hundreds of other travelers do – if they are of Middle Eastern descent. When boarding a flight at Midway Airport, they were detained as another passenger refused to fly with them. The passenger had overheard them speaking Arabic and was terrified. The two American citizens of Palestinian descent were finally allowed to board the flight, but were still subjected to humiliation from fellow-passengers. Fliers on board went so far as to insist on them displaying their belongings, right down to the contents of a small white plastic box. In an act of generosity and kindness that may be viewed as ‘turning the other cheek’, Khalil retained his cool and proceeded to share his homemade sweets with the very passengers who had racially profiled him. The white plastic box that had aroused suspicion was in fact filled with Baklava, a Middle Eastern sweet that had been given to him by his family.
Everyone in the customer care and service sectors has heard the phrase ‘going the extra mile’, but an air hostess on a Chinese flight took this to a whole new level. 71-year-old passenger, Mr Niu, had recently suffered a paralytic stroke and was traveling aboard the flight from Zhengzhou to Hainan in south China. As in-flight meals were served, Miss Fan noticed that the disabled elderly man was struggling to eat his food. Without any hesitation, she knelt before the man and began feeding him gently with his spoon. She was extremely patient throughout, replacing his food with something easier for him to chew, and waiting for him to chew each morsel slowly. Mr Niu was overcome with emotion, touched by this act of rare compassion. He broke into tears, but Miss Fan grabbed some tissues and dried his cheeks. Some travelers on board, who witnessed the event, were equally touched and they went on to share the story later.
In November 2015, a group of children were returning home to London, from a trip to Cyprus, along with a teacher and parents. They were due back in school on the 2nd of November, which is why they boarded a flight that was scheduled to reach the United Kingdom on the 1st. Unfortunately for them, the flight was delayed for 20 hours because of thick fog. This meant that they would miss their classes on the 2nd and get in trouble with school authorities. To lighten the mood aboard the aircraft, pilot Wayne Mott indulged in some light-hearted banter and jokingly offered to even write personalized absence notes for each of the students. Much to his surprise, all 31 students and their teacher requested leave notes to excuse themselves from school. Rather than disappoint them or go back on his word, Captain Mott obliged them by writing out 32 personalized absence notes. This act of kindness, with a busy captain, taking time out of his schedule to help his passengers earned him many admirers and an invitation to speak at the school.
In 1947, the Hamlins celebrated their wedding night with a stay at the Poinsett Hotel in Greenville. At the time, Poinsett Hotel was the best hotel in town and Charles wanted to spare no expense for his new bride Frances. Over the years, the couple traveled extensively, across the country and the world. Having celebrated 67 anniversaries together, battling melanoma, and more recently cancer, Charles voiced his desire to revisit Westin Poinsett and he half seriously wondered if he could get it for the same price. Despite the skepticism of most people, Charles decided to try. The Hamlins, they were greeted by the Westin Poinsett’s director of sales and marketing, Mr. John Geddes at the hotel. While the rate of USD 8 for a room was considered expensive back in 1947, today the rates at the hotel average around USD 300. Nevertheless, Mr. Geddes decided that a 68th wedding anniversary is no small occasion and he was willing to waive the fee altogether. Instead of giving them the room for free however, he decided that to make the experience even more authentic, the hotel would charge them, as per the rates in 1947.
Anand Baid and Punita Baid, along with their children Yash and Dhriti may seem like your typical Indian family, but they are far from typical. The 38 and 36-year old husband and wife call themselves L.I.F.E (Little Indian Family of Explorers). They didn’t pick the name for no good reason. During the summer of 2015, the Bengaluru-based family set out on a road trip to France. Yes, the road trip would lead right from the city of Bengaluru, winding through the whole of Europe, before finally ending in Paris. During their travels their hearts were touched by a simple gesture of generosity from a stranger in Uzbekistan. When passing through the town of Samarqand, in the country, they were surprised to learn that the pizza they had just eaten was already paid for. When they learned that woman who they did not know had paid for it, they were intrigued and ran out of the store to find out who this mysterious woman was. The kindly stranger was taken aback and insisted that it was just a small gesture because of her great appreciation for India and her love for the Taj Mahal that she hoped to see some day.
In a lesson of kindness that should resonate with all of us, a store owner in Pakistan reacted to indignities and injustices not with angry outrage, but with patience and kindness. Iqbal Latif operates 26 stores of the international Dunkin’ Donuts franchise in Pakistan and decided to take an unusual step, when he learned about the treatment meted out to a Pakistani family in Mumbai. The family had been denied accommodation at any hotel in the city and had been forced to sleep on the pavement, since several hotels refused to file the mandatory ‘Form C’ document.. Instead of following the self-righteous path of politicians or even protesting peacefully, he decided that it was time to mend old wounds and build new bridges. He initiated a goodwill gesture towards his neighbors from across the border, by offering a free meal to any visiting Indian at Dunkin Donuts stores across several cities. To his surprise many Indians who were traveling in the country did show up, and Pakistanis in the cities were also deeply appreciative of the effort to foster closer ties with their neighbors.
Small acts of selflessness can go a long way in making life better for everyone around and we hope that these incredible acts of kindness warm your heart and fill you with hope and compassion.