When it seems like the whole world has gone mad, we need reminders that people are generally good. That humanity trumps inhumanity. That kindness and generosity are the rule, not the exception.
Naturally, anyone can point to stories of inhumanity and cruelty to negate such a positive worldview, but even in those stories, there are almost always examples of people doing the right thing, the kind thing, the just thing. When we shift our gaze to the people doing good, we find oodles of them.
Writer Lauren Hough shared one such story on Twitter, and a veritable deluge of faith-boosting stories followed. Hough's story alone was uplifting, but seeing example after example of ordinary people going out of their way to lend a helping hand to strangers, asking nothing in return, is enough to soften even the Grinch-iest of hearts.
"One register open. This lady couldn't get her wic card to work and I shit you not, every single person in line behind her tried to pay the bill. Dude in front of me won. And pulled out an extra $100 to give her. In case you needed to know, a lot of people are actually alright."
"No one even made a big deal about it. It was like they didn't want witnesses," she added in another tweet. "But I mean, it's the shopping at midnight on a Monday crowd, mostly people who've been there."
Then the stories, both from people who've been there and those who haven't, poured in.
One woman wrote about how, when she was around nine, a woman bought her a lime green shimmer hat she'd been admiring but didn't have the money for.
I grew up poor. Once, when I was around 9, I was admiring a lime green shimmer hat in the store (early 90s). Of course, no money. A few mins later, woman put the hat on my head, handed me the receipt, and said I looked great. It was incredible.
— Foucault's unwanted stepchild (@foucault_s) December 17, 2019
While a former Dollar General employee wrote about how a kid's card wasn't working one day, so the guy in line behind him paid for it.
I worked at a Dollar General when a young kid came in and his WIC card didn't work when he tried to buy milk. The guy in line behind him paid. #FaithInHumanity
— Urgle Burgle 🧐 (@Urgle__Burgle) December 17, 2019
Indeed, those who have been through periods of poverty are often the first to help others because they know how it feels to be in their shoes.
I'm a graveyard shift cashier in a rough part of town. Yet, every night people leave their change and say, "Pass it on," which is our way of saying, "Pay it forward."
Most of those who pass it on are homeless or addicts, and an occasional drunk... because they've been there.
— Terry Varga Φ (@Dateofey) December 17, 2019
I rang the Salvation Army bell in my hometown for several years at Christmas time, and I knew almost everyone who gave. And the ones who gave the most were the ones I knew could afford it the least.
— M Hamilton (@HamiltonMelissa) December 17, 2019
Several people shared pharmacy stories of both customers and pharmacists themselves helping pay for people's medicine.
I once started to cry when insurance denied me my anti-depressant, both out of frustration & fear of the cold turkey withdrawal. Pharmacist handed me a bottle of 5 pills for free and said “do no harm!" I'll never forget him. His kindness bought me 5 days to deal with insurance
— ky ky (@girl__kyle) December 17, 2019
I work in a pharmacy and a lady last week gave us $50 and said, "Use it to pay for someone's prescription who needs it." We were able to use it later that day to help a patient whose old insurance had been terminated and new insurance wasn't active yet. Made my day!
— janel christmasen (@janellie57) December 17, 2019
An elderly lady at the pharmacy and had left her wallet at home. It was clear it was hard for her to get to the back of the store; she was in pain. I bought her meds. The pharmacist told me I was the third person that day who bought meds for someone. People are basically good.
— Dot (@ceep29) December 18, 2019
Another person shared how a couple of police officers buy food for homeless people, even asking the person to make sure they "pick good ones."
"Everybody counts, or nobody does," they added, which seems to sum up the sentiment in the entire thread.
I work at a food shop two days a week, and there are a couple of cops who come in to buy slices for some homeless people. What's even cooler is that they ask me to make sure I pick good ones. I love those guys. Everybody counts, or nobody does.
— M Hamilton (@HamiltonMelissa) December 17, 2019
And another person shared how a stranger stuck up for them when someone was criticizing them for being on public benefits.
Once upon a time I was on benefits and someone started chewing me out for "spending their tax dollars" when someone else stepped in and said, "They're not spending your tax dollars, they're spending mine, and with my blessing."
I've paid that forward, for sure.
— Jenrose (@jenrose) December 17, 2019
How about this teenage boy buying flowers and cake to surprise his mom? "His debit card wouldn't work," wrote Aloysius Olberding. "Mind did."
There was a teenage boy in my line who was buying roses and a cake to surprise his mom when she got home from work. His debit card wouldn't work. Mine did.
— Aloysius Olberding (@foraloysiussake) December 17, 2019
Another user shared how a homeless man asked if he could buy her husband's coat, and he gave it to the man instead. That story inspired another person to load up their car with old coats to give away.
You just gave me the idea to load up my car with some old coats I no longer wear so that I can pass them out to people who need them on the street.
— Pallas Tweet (@PallasTweet) December 17, 2019
Even those who appear to be Grinches can surprise us, as this story of a scowling man paying for someone's lunch without a word shows.
I've had many random acts of kindness bestowed upon me. I try to help others as much as possible. One favorite. We had lunch at a nice restaurant. I smiled at a grouch as we were seated. He scrowled back at me. We finished lunch our bill was paid by grouch who had left. No words.
— D. K. Mason (@Scorpio_57) December 17, 2019
When we're going through a difficult time, random acts of kindness can feel particularly reassuring. These two people had lost a parent and had strangers pay for their meals. "Everything felt alright, even if just for a moment," one wrote.
When my mom died, we drove from VA to OK in late December w/our 6 kids. We stopped at a Waffle House on I-40. I was worried about how to pay for everything (trip, funeral, etc). A stranger paid for our meal. I wish I could hug that person. It was something my mom would have done.
— Dee (@DeeCeeTalks) December 17, 2019
Though generosity means not expecting anything in return, sometimes karma steps in and rewards people anyway. One person shared how their significant other used $200 he'd saved for a tool to buy groceries for a mom and three kids in need. A few days later, the tool he'd wanted fell out of a truck in front of him, and no one ever claimed it.
A few days later we were at a stop light when a trailer went by and bounced hard going too fast. The very tool he wanted make & model literally landed in front of our truck.
He put up a notice. No one ever claimed it. #Karma
— Liberally Thinking (@libthinking) December 17, 2019
But the real beauty of generosity and kindness are how they get paid forward. It's like a perpetual chain of goodness that just keeps going and going and going.
A dad and his young kids were in front of me the other day and didn't have enough to cover their bill. I paid their tab. Later, I was buying beer and my card wasn't working. The person behind me bought my beer.
Politics is fucked but we gonna be alright.#FaithinHumanity
— The Angry Academic (@HomeInTheSticks) December 17, 2019
As "The Angry Academic" points out, "Politics is f*cked but we gonna be alright."
Yes we are. Faith in humanity restored.