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12 Extraordinary Real Life Stories About the Kindness of Strangers

Sometimes all it takes to restore your faith in humanity is a random act of kindness. These 12 real life stories demonstrate the life-changing power of a single selfless act.

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12 real-life stories of people showing strangers exceptional kindness.Illustration: Kinomi

Real Life Heroes: Forged In Fire

By Andrea Bennet

On a December morning in 1951, Kip Malone, then age 12, left his home in downtown St. John’s to buy some butter for his mother. When he turned the corner onto Central Street, he saw smoke coming from one of its three-storey houses. A woman leaning out its window yelled, “Save the children! Save the children!”

Malone raced toward the burning house, through the front door and up a flight of stairs, where he found a five-year-old girl. “I grabbed the child,” he says, “but she screamed, ‘No, no, my sister! You’ve got to get my sister!’”

Malone suddenly felt compelled to cross the hall and check the other bedroom on that floor. “God told me,” he says. He reached under the bed and found the girl’s frightened, silent three-year-old sister.

As the flames intensified, Malone carried the siblings safely out to the street and their waiting family. Then he hustled off—he was late picking up the butter for his mom.

Over the years, Malone thought about the fire and the children he had rescued and wondered what had happened to the girls from Central Street.

Malone and his wife, Liz, spent four decades in Ontario, where he worked in the airline industry—until last October, when they returned to Newfoundland. The couple settled in Conception Bay South, 30 kilometres from St. John’s, in a house overlooking the water.

Shortly after they moved in, two of their new neighbours stopped by with a housewarming gift—frozen cod and salt fish. Malone and Liz invited Margaret Fowler and her husband, Kelvin, in for a chat, which is how they discovered a connection: Malone and Fowler, who are both in their 70s, had grown up right around the corner from each other.

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Kip Malone with sister Margaret Fowler and Barbara Earle.

Forged In Fire

“I have a story I’ll tell you about Central Street,” Malone offered.

Fowler’s ears perked up as she listened to Malone describe a fire. “I said, ‘Now, how long ago would that have been?’ And he said, ‘Let me see. That would have been 1951.’ I thought, My gosh, that was our fire!”

Fowler, who was five at the time, had a clear memory of their house fire, but she and her sister never knew how they’d been saved. Of their six siblings, three were at school that day. Fowler, her three-year-old sister, Barbara, infant twins and a 21-month-old were home with their mother and grandmother.

Sadly, Fowler’s grandmother, who had called out to Malone to catch his attention, died as a result of the fire. The firefighters found her on her knees by her bed, praying. They managed to get her out, but not in time. Fowler, who assumes her three youngest siblings were saved by their mother, says she grew up knowing very little about the fire—it was too traumatic a subject.

“When I finished my story, Margaret said, ‘I was that little girl,’” recalls Malone. “I got goosebumps.”

“He was on his way to the store to get a block of Good Luck butter; my father worked delivering Good Luck butter to stores for the Newfoundland Margarine Company,” Fowler says. “It was really like God was working in wondrous ways to bring us together. It seems like a miracle.”

Above, Kip Malonen (centre) with sisters Margaret Fowler (left) and Barbara Earle.

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Noodle enthusiast Everett BotwrightPhoto: Reed Botwright

Force For Good

By Melissa Martin

Seven-year-old Everett Botwright is a bright, imaginative kid. Like many children on the autism spectrum, he also struggles with the texture, smell and taste of many foods. So when the boy developed an affinity for Star Wars Kraft Dinner, his parents were thrilled. “It was amazing,” father Reed Botwright says. “My wife cried. She hadn’t seen him interested in a new food in a long time.”

There was only one problem: after buying all the boxes they could find in their hometown of Nanaimo, B.C., the family still needed more. In February, Botwright issued a plea on Facebook, asking for help tracking down the limited-edition pasta.

The request went viral. Thousands shared Botwright’s post on social media, including Star Trek legend William Shatner. Star Wars Kraft Dinner flooded in from across North America. “People have reached out and many thanked us for sharing our struggle,” Botwright says.

Kraft Heinz Canada donated $10,000 to autism charities, delivered 144 boxes to the Botwrights and even asked Everett to select the next Kraft Dinner shape. On his birthday, March 7, he chose the Minions. Nanaimo’s Real Canadian Superstore donated 411 packages, and a class of Quebec teens sent a shipment; other boxes came from as far away as Florida.

The final tally: over 800 boxes, and Botwright says, “We’re still counting.” Everett is signing thank-you cards for every donor, and Botwright says the outpouring has taught his four kids, ages three to eight, a lesson: “There is good in the world.”

 

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Eileen Eagle Bears and her house Mr. SmudgePhoto: Peter Douglas

Hero On Horseback

By Katie Underwood

When she checked the road conditions on local traffic cams on a snowy morning this past March, 18-year-old Eileen Eagle Bears spotted something unexpected: a truck (and its frustrated driver) marooned on an icy hill just south of Brandon, Man. Worried about the man’s safety, Bears hopped on her horse, named Mr. Smudge, and made her way through the storm to deliver coffee—and, about seven hours later, homemade hot stew for supper—to the driver three kilometres away.

The driver was eventually rescued by a tow truck after being stranded for 28 hours and was, by Bears’s account, “surprised and really thankful” for his equine-borne deliveries.

Read: River Rescue, The Hero Dog Who Saved a Drowning Girl.

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James Wilson gives away 250 bikes a year
James Wilson at his bike shop in North Vancouver.

Pitching in for Pets

By Andrea Bennett

As residents fled the raging blaze in Fort McMurray in May 2016, Marty Frost knew he had to stay back to help. With his training in firefighting, he quickly found a purpose: transporting fuel and water to responders on the front lines and busting down doors to save family pets. He estimates he rescued a few cats, four or five birds, one bunny and up to 20 dogs—including Laura Sellars’s two pups, a year-and-a-half-old beagle mix named Buster and a seven-year-old Jack Russell named Baby Girl. After being forced to evacuate, Sellars received a text with her dogs’ location and this note: “I have your puppies. Just know they’re safe.”

Skating Lessons

By Andrea Bennett

A little house cleaning can lead to discovery, as was the case in October 2015, when six-year-old Peyton unearthed her mother’s old skateboard. The girl was curious, so she and her mom, Jeanean Thomas, hit up a skate park in Cambridge, Ont.—only to find it full of smoking, swearing teenage boys who made Peyton nervous. Just as Thomas was about to caution a kid with dirty blond hair and a baseball hat who was approaching her daughter, she realized he’d stepped in to offer Peyton some lessons. “He showed her how to balance and how to steer the board,” says Thomas. “He gave her the confidence that her environment is safe and supportive and that she can try new things and not be scared of failing. And it showed me that I live in an open community of people who help each other.”

Youth Cycles

By Andrea Bennett

James Wilson vividly recalls the joy of receiving his first bike—a battered hand-me-down—as a child in Winnipeg. “I still remember my dad letting go of the seat and me riding straight down the street and then wiping out when I tried to navigate a corner,” he says, laughing. Now the owner of a high-end cycling shop in North Vancouver, Wilson fixes up donated bikes to give to kids and teens each December. He estimates that he and his staff distribute about 250 bikes per year, giving kids a means of transportation and a sense of freedom.

Read: Rescue on Highway 63, How One Good Samaritan Saved a Woman’s Life.

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The Jamaican bobsled team in CalgaryPhoto: Jamaican Bobsled Team

Snowed in at Vi’s

By Andrea Bennett

Heather McNeil and Jillian Sexton were accompanying a quartet of Spanish international students to the Halifax airport from Cape Breton last December when their bus got stuck in a blizzard. The Nova Scotia International Student Program homestay coordinators and their charges pulled in to Vi’s Restaurant for lunch—where they stayed for close to 24 hours. Thanks to the accommodating staff, the stranded travellers enjoyed three square meals and some off-menu items, namely blankets.

“Our agency stands for welcoming the world into their homes and making friendships that last a lifetime,” McNeil says. “Well, here was Vi’s welcoming our students into their home. Cape Bretoners are kind people. What they did for us just reinforced the goodness of the community and how we’re always there to help each other.”

He Shoots, He Shovels

By Katie Underwood

Who better to deal with icy conditions than a superstar hockey player? When he found his truck stuck in a snowbank in March, Montrealer Lawrence Huang got some highly qualified help from Canadiens captain (and generous everyman) Max Pacioretty. After being passed by several unhelpful drivers, Huang said Pacioretty was the only one willing to stop and shovel him out. Talk about an assist!

Cool Samaritans

By Katie Underwood

The Jamaican bobsled team’s inspiring but ill-fated 1988 Calgary Olympic bid is well documented (see: Cool Runnings). But the crew recently found themselves in another YYC-based pickle: while driving to B.Cfrom New York last November, the group’s van broke down. The stranded athletes’ pleas for help on social media were shared widely, and they were picked up by a passing motorist and given a lift to their race in Calgary. Soon after, Driving Force, a vehicle rental and leasing company, loaned them a van and chipped in $2,500 for food and gas so they could continue their tour. “We started in Calgary in 1988, so that community has always been so great to us,” said Kathleen Pulito, the team’s PR director. “We’ve really relied on their support.”

Read: Great Canadians, Ordinary People Making a Difference.

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12 real life stories about the kindness of strangersIllustration: Kinomi

The Tailor From Aleppo

By Katie Underwood

A jammed zipper is usually no big deal—unless it’s your wedding day and you’re an hour from your vows. With local tailors closed on Sundays, Guelph bride Jo Du needed a fashion intervention—quickly. In search of pliers to unstick the stubborn zipper, one bridesmaid knocked on a neighbour’s door. David Hobson had a better suggestion: his house guest, master tailor Ibrahim Halil Dudu, who had immigrated from Syria with his wife and three children only days prior.

The wedding photographer, Lindsay Coulter, was impressed by Dudu’s skills and solicitude. “They clearly belong in Canada,” said Coulter of the newly arrived family. “If it were our time of need, we can only hope other people would open their doors to us this way.”

Friends in Faith

By Katie Underwood

In the aftermath of the horrific attack on a Quebec City mosque in late January, members of Holy Blossom Temple, the oldest Jewish congregation in Toronto, extended a literal hand in solidarity. Led by Rabbi Yael Splansky, who borrowed the idea from the 2015 “Ring of Peace” composed of more than 1,000 Muslims in Norway after a string of anti-Semitic attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, members of several faiths formed symbolic, protective circles around several GTA-area mosques during afternoon prayers. Of the gesture, Splansky says it “sent a message that Muslims should feel safe in their houses of worship” and that “one good thing leads to another.”

Instruments of Power

By Melissa Martin

P.E.I. music instructor Courtney Mullen wanted to start a new program that would teach Miscouche Consolidated School’s kids, aged nine to 14, to play rock—currently popular among the island’s youth. She just needed the tools. The school’s request yielded an impressive response: instruments flooded in from across the island, with some folks even donating brand-new guitars and amps. All told, Miscouche collected approximately 30 instruments.

“The kids are definitely enjoying them,” Mullen says. “It’s all about giving the children skills and experiences on these instruments that they find exciting and engaging, especially if it turns out to be something they might carry on with as they get older.”

Read more stories about everyday heroes!

Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada