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Relying on the Kindness of Strangers

Jaine Toth | Jan 29, 2017

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Jaine Toth | Jan 29, 2017

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Have you ever had to rely on the kindness of strangers?

The kindness of strangers can offer the most profound in-the-moment assistance, whether physically, emotionally or spiritually. These experiences result in treasured memories, and often in lasting friendships.

Angel Mott, while shopping on Black Friday in a store in Iowa, received a call that her mother had passed away. Her mother had been ill, but wasn’t expected to die so soon, so the shock paralyzed her. Mott collapsed in tears and for several minutes sat crying uncontrollably while other buyers passed her by, some staring, others studiously trying to ignore her, until finally one woman stopped to ask what was wrong. When she heard the anguished reply, she sat herself down, drew the sufferer into her embrace, held her, and even cried with her. After a while, she helped Angel up, took her to the front of the line, explaining to those already queued up why it was important to let her get through with the bed needed for an ailing pet, and then they parted as the grieving woman headed to her car and on to her mother’s nursing home.

She realized later that in her dazed state of mind, she’d neglected to get her comforter’s name. The incident was constantly on her mind and she felt the need to thank her, so she put a description out on social media and it kept being reposted until it was seen by Sara Ross who wrote: “The lady she is looking for is my lovely sister Stephanie Uhlenberg. She just saw her there crying and couldn’t just walk by. She had to make sure she was OK. Once she found out why she was crying her heart just went out to her. Doesn’t matter if a stranger or not no one needs to be alone when receiving news like that.”

Mott and Uhlenberg reunited, again sharing a huge hug, and this time with smiles.

In Arizona, Linda Jaimes came upon an accident scene. She noted two women arguing with each other while a third lay in the road unattended and ignored. Eloy Enterprise reporter Tanner Clinch quoted Jaimes as stating, “I didn’t know anything medical to do for her so I just held her hand because I didn’t want her to be alone like that. I put my hands on her and prayed to the Lord to send an angel to be with her.”

This reminded me of an incident that took place when I was 18 years old. Riding with my dad and a friend along Highway 101 in Los Angeles, we witnessed a motorcycle policeman be cut off by another driver who just kept going even after the cop lost control and crashed into the bushes along an off-ramp. We pulled over and Dad and his friend immediately began to try and remove the officer’s boot, which they feared would cut off circulation as his injured leg rapidly swelled. It was a difficult task and agonizing for the ginger-haired, freckled-faced officer, who looked so young and helpless. To distract him, I held his hand and repeatedly asked him questions. This kept his attention from his pain until the ambulance arrived. After giving our names and contact information to responding police, we continued on our way.

Shortly thereafter roses accompanied by a thank you note arrived at our home. The men who may have helped save his foot, if not his entire leg, seemed not to have been noticed by him, as they received no notes of appreciation. It seems only the emotional comfort was remembered. At the time, I found that curious, but now, 52 years later and hopefully much wiser, it makes perfect sense to me, especially in light of the Baha’i teachings that tell us to:

Care for the stranger as for one of your own; show to alien souls the same loving kindness ye bestow upon your faithful friends. – Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 34.

Baha’is believe that every human being is a part of the human family, and that we are all related to one another. That means, according to the Baha’i teachings, that “no one is a stranger to the other, all are friends:”

The only real difference that exists between people is that they are at various stages of development. Some are imperfect—these must be brought to perfection. Some are asleep—they must be awakened; some are negligent—they must be roused; but one and all are the children of God. Love them all with your whole heart; no one is a stranger to the other, all are friends. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 165.

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  • Billy Simpson
    Feb 13, 2017
    thank you
  • Melanie Black
    Jan 30, 2017
    Too many wonderful strangers have helped me that I can't count them all. I try to do the same for others when I can, but always long to do so much more. Thank you for such a thoughtful article.
  • Jan 29, 2017
    Tq wonderful notes on the writings of Abdul'l-Baha and on living Baha'i life Allah'u'abha
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