From the time we are young, we're taught not to interact with potentially “dangerous” strangers. But who says that they can't be positive influences?
Sometimes, strangers can prove helpful and be motivating in moments when we need support the most. Whether they provide much-needed hugs, help us recover from public embarrassment, calm us down in our distress, or make us laugh until we forget our senses, experiences with people we don't know can leave a surprisingly lasting impact. And when it comes to five-minute friendships, there are some that are unforgettably important!
When it comes to experiences with strangers, most interactions don't end up being very significant. However, there are times when small gestures and conversations can be incredibly transformative.
These people had some life-changing encounters with other people they'd never met and never saw again. Their experiences will make you wonder: whoever said not to talk to strangers?
Don't forget to check the comment section below the article for more interesting stories!
#35 Communicating In A Super Cool Dead Language
I was a horticulture student on a botanical tour of Europe in 1979. I am at a flower market in Munich and see a plant I don't recognize. The lady working it doesn't speak English; I don't know any German. I see a plant I do know; touch the leaf and say the Latin name for it. She nods and smiles. I name another plant I know. Her smile gets bigger. I point at the unknown plant and look at her with an expression that I hope says, "Your turn." She tells me the Latin name. We don't speak each other's language but we can communicate in a language that has been dead for over a thousand years. Cool.
#34 "Our Souls Are Forever Linked"
Years ago, I was at the bus stop super early one morning. It was really cold as well.
Anyway, there was a guy that I used to see every time I would get the 7 AM bus. He looked like a builder, and he always got off near one of the large building sites by the university. We were on "nodding terms".
One morning, there was a fireball/disintegrating meteor. We both saw it, he turned to me and said with a super serious face, "You know our souls are forever linked now". We went back to nodding terms, and I never saw him after I quit early morning classes.
#33 Comfort From A Stuffed Puppy
My son was in a pretty serious accident. I was a wreck in the ICU waiting room. A little girl maybe about nine- or ten-years-old was with her family, saying goodbye to her great-grandmother. She waltzed right up to me and said, "Sir, why are you crying?" I explained my son was very sick. She handed me a miniature puppy doll and told me it was lucky and my son would get better. She was.right, he did and I still keep that little puppy on my dresser and think of that sweet child.
#32 A Severely Needed Hug
The day I found out my grandmother had a stroke and would never walk or talk again, I was away at college. I finally broke down in a bathroom. A girl came in and asked if I needed a hug. I was crying so hard that I really didn't get a look at her face. I cried on her shoulder for about ten minutes and then had to pull myself together and leave for class. I never explained myself and she never asked. I never recognized or spoke to her again. I wonder if she sometimes saw me on campus and wondered what was up and if I was okay.
#31 Creepy Fortune-Telling Match Maker
NYC bar: I was on a first date and there was an old guy at the bar—he looked like an old fisherman from a novel—and he was convinced my date and I were already married. He went on and on about it. We said we weren’t married and he told us we were meant to be together and would be married a long time. He talked with us for a good 15 minutes about this.
My date and I did get married about a year later and have been together for almost 25 years now.
#30 Flock Of Friendly Women To The Rescue
The day my dad died I was holding it together pretty well. Late that night I went to Target to have a moment to just zone out, and buy a few groceries.
As I got to the checkout with my arms full of stuff, I dropped a container of sour cream and it exploded everywhere. I completely lost control of myself and started to cry. The ugly cry. I was instantly surrounded by a group of women who just took charge of the whole situation. They helped me get everything paid for, cleaned up, and one lady even got a new sour cream.
No words were spoken, but their compassion and take-charge attitude have stayed with me since.
#29 A Precious Dance Through Disneyland
When I was at Disneyland a few years ago, a woman approached me out of the blue in the middle of Main St. and asked if I'd like to dance. I obliged her, and we spent the next few minutes chatting while her friends filmed us dancing.
It turns out it was her birthday and she was traversing the park on a birthday scavenger hunt, and one of the items on the list was to dance with a stranger. I wished her a happy birthday, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.
I never even got her name, but it still makes me smile when I think about it.
#28 A Super-Friendly Driving Buddy
I had about a two-hour drive from Columbus to the Cleveland area. I tend to drive on the faster side, and therefore pass a lot of people. I noticed about 20 minutes into the drive that the car behind me was still the same one that got onto the highway right behind me. We ended up driving the entire two hours right next to each other or in front of/behind each other. We created space in lanes to help the other pass the slower cars and made sure the other wouldn’t fall behind. As I was getting off the highway, he honked his horn, gave me a big smile, and waved. It has been my favorite driving experience so far.
#27 Helping Out A Homeless Harmonica Star
I was leaving the gym and walked down a long hallway, and didn't remember having any money on me.
As soon as I stepped outside, I heard a coin drop and looked down and $2 seemed to have fallen from somewhere on me. It was strange because I didn't have any money on me, and it would have fallen off of me inside while walking, I thought. It rolls and I pick it up. I was confused because I don't know where the $2 came from.
I look up and there's a homeless man in a wheelchair playing harmonica who I otherwise would have passed by. I gave the $2 to him. He said thank you, I said no problem. I began to walk away and he said, '"Good, and you?". I played along and said, "Oh, good! Where did you learn to play the harmonica?'"He proceeded to tell me that he used to play all sorts of instruments until he had his stroke and showed me that one of his arms didn't work anymore.
He was a nice guy, and it made my day a bit better. It was a nice and humbling moment.
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#26 Utterly Destroyed By A Pokemon-Wielding Brat
I was playing on my Nintendo DS in the subway when I caught a random connection. I looked up to see if I could spot the other person with a DS and wound up locking eyes with this incredibly intense little boy who was seated a few benches away from me.
"DO YOU HAVE POKEMON," he asked, and as it turned out, I did, in fact, have Pokemon. With that, our fate was sealed. There's this thing in the Pokemon games where, if you meet the gaze of another trainer on your journey, then you must do battle. I had just experienced this in real life.
He destroyed me. All level 100s. Felt like I was an extra in the anime doing battle with the protagonist.
#25 Joyfully Returning A Lost Balloon
I was in the US Navy at the time and we pulled into port in Norway. We had a couple days to explore and I went to the closest city, Bergen. While in the main square area of town just down the road from their fish market there was a small boy, maybe three-years-old, and his father. The boy had a large red balloon but it was windy and it got away from him. His father made a grab for it and missed but obviously couldn't run after it and leave his kid. It was blowing generally in my direction and I made a quick dash for it and managed to catch it out of the air before it blew away. I then crouched down and held it out for the boy. He looked like he was about to start crying but immediately brightened up with the kind of happiness only a child can have. He took the balloon and his father just gave me a small smile and a nod. I returned the smile and nod and we went on our way. This moment always sticks out to me.
#24 Ruining The Roman Ruins
A few years back, my wife and I visited Italica, a roman ruined city a few miles from Seville. The ruins are glorious and we had them to ourselves, so when as we emerged from the gladiator gate in the amphitheater I stalked out into the sunlight, threw out my arms and roared, "ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?" It rang off the old seats in a satisfying manner.
Turns out we weren't alone. I spun to find a Japanese tourist staring at me in wonder, who then grinned nervously, snapped a picture, and gave me a thumbs up.
My wife: "You're an idiot."
#23 Getting Their Heely Swagger Back
I was about ten=years-old and I had a pair of Heelys and they were the coolest thing on the earth. I would roll all over on those things and thought I was so cool.
We were in China, spending a few weeks in Beijing. I was rolling around in Tiananmen Square, hit a crack and lost one of the wheels. I looked around for about an hour but to no avail. I was probably visibly bummed, as my Heelys were now ineffective and basically ruined. The next morning, I was walking through the square on the way to meet my friends, and an older gentleman ran up to me and stopped me— he had found my wheel. He said that he had seen me rolling around and saw me looking for the wheel after I fell. He saw that I gave up, and stuck around for another hour to keep looking after I left. He came there the next morning with no expectation that I'd pass through but wanted to be there just in case. I'm not sure who was happier, me that I got my wheel back or him because he didn't think he'd see me in literally the world's busiest square. I said thank you and... that was about it. We both had places to be and that was that.
#22 Hitching A Ride On A Stranger's Scooter
I was 13 and waiting for a taxi. It was raining and I had no umbrella, so I got soaked. This guy next to me sheltered me from the rain with his umbrella. We talked while waiting for the taxi and he was so easy and fun to talk to! (Note: I was a shy kid with few friends so this was a unique event). After about 15 minutes another guy came up on his scooter. My guy told him that I was a friend of his and if he could drop me at my destination. So yeah, I just climbed on this stranger's scooter and took the lift home. Perhaps that was dumb looking back on it... Anyway, I still think of this guy and the kindness he showed me to this day even though I don't even know his name or remember his face.
#21 Crushing Chores With Christmas Spirit
It was the night before Christmas Eve, about 8:30 PM. My mom was trying to sell our place, we’d moved a few blocks away in with my new stepdad. The driveway needed to be clear and there was about a foot and a half of snow to shovel. I was still pretty young and it was going to be a big job.
I trudged over there with my shovel, and just started the first row when a random guy in a snowplow turned in and cleared the whole driveway in two minutes easy. He was wearing the red plaid jacket and toque combo— classic Canadian look.
I was worried as we hadn’t hired a snow removal guy, but he just waved and said Merry Christmas and drove off. Thanks, snowplow guy, you taught me a thing or two about Christmas spirit.
#20 Thrilling Gesture From A Fellow Book-Lover
When I was a kid we didn't have a lot of money, so we often shopped at thrift stores. What I loved about that was that you could get ten books for a dollar, so I would plant myself in front of the book section and make piles of which ones I wanted to get and then decided after I'd gone through them all.
One day an older lady saw me sitting with my piles and asked if I liked to read. I told her I did and showed her a few of the books I found that I liked. She smiled and then pulled a dollar out of her purse, handed it to me and said, "Promise me that you'll keep reading." I was so happy and immediately stood up and said that I would. She smiled and walked away and I went back to my piles able to pick out an extra ten books to take home.
It was just a small act of kindness for her, but for me having a random stranger encourage my love of reading and making me promise to never stop definitely had a lot to do with my continued love of reading. This was over 20 years or so ago, but I still think of her whenever I buy a new book.
#19 Exchanging Glances With A Goofy Stranger
I was in an ice cream store with a few friends, and I made eye contact with some random guy walking to the counter. For some reason, neither of us broke eye contact, and for those few seconds, he made an incredibly goofy face, to which I responded with another goofy face. For the rest of the time we were in there, he and I didn't even look at each other again.
#18 Babysitting A Random (And Adorable) Puppy
Back when I rode the bus everywhere, I was at the bus stop outside the mall and this guy comes up and goes, “Will you hold my puppy while I run inside and find my wife?” And he produced this little white puppy.
So I held it while he went inside. The puppy was so soft. Guy came back with his wife. Took the puppy. I got on the bus and that was that.
#17 Yes, It Was Worthy Of A Fist Pump
Back in the late 90s, we drove a dark blue '84 Volvo wagon. Hardly ever saw another car like it. One day at a grocery store we see another couple in the exact same car. I rolled down the window and raised my fist in the air. The other driver saw and raised his fist. Solidarity!
#16 Rescuing A Shivering Stranger
When I was studying abroad in Lithuania, I volunteered at a soup kitchen and every now and again there would be an older lady helping out who dropped off supplies. We would smile at each other and say hello even through the language barrier.
Well, one night I went to Easter mass in the town I was volunteering in and it was warmer during the day so I didn’t think about bringing a heavier jacket once it got dark, not to mention the church was this old massive building. So I’m sitting through mass and I’m getting colder and start shivering pretty noticeably when all of a sudden I feel someone drape a scarf over my shoulders. I turn around and it’s the lady who would drop off supplies at the soup kitchen! Once mass was over I tried to return the scarf but she refused to take it back. I did my best to extend my gratitude through the language barrier but I’m sure she knew.
It was the most beautiful and kindest thing that has ever happened to me. The was the last time I saw her and I will never forget her kindness towards me. It still tears me up thinking about it.
#15 Joining In On A Friendly Bonfire
I was out at a beach with my family for a bonfire. The only problem was that we got there too late and there were no more open pits. We sat about on the sand for about an hour until a man came up to us telling us that he had run out of logs. Seeing as we had no pit and that they were freezing without a fire, we took him up on his offer and joined his family around their pit. We sat until midnight talking about music from the 70’s and talking about our lives. Coolest bunch of people I’ve met in a while.
#14 An Incredible Trip Down Memory Lane
When an older gentleman knocked on my door one day and asked if he could possibly come inside and revisit the home in which he had lived over 55 years ago.
It was a pleasure to show him around and to hear his recollection of things that had happened within those walls many years ago— some of which were eye-openers.
I never saw him again because he was visiting from the other coast, where he now lives. Still, he told me tales of the house and neighborhood I won't forget.
#13 Empowered Old Lady Destroying A Bully
I was at this event in a nearby provincial park that offered a shuttle service in and out of the park. They got more interest than bargained for I guess and people ended up having to wait about two hours for a ride out of the park. This made some people very angry at these poor rangers who were obviously just kids in their summer jobs. This big dude was just screaming at this young looking girl, just going at her about "doing something productive". The poor girl was in tears just apologizing over and over again and trying to get to her co-workers but he wasn't letting her pass.
This made me mad, so I yelled, "What is she supposed to do?" And this older lady a few people down joined in with me to pretty much shame the dude back to his family.
Of course, when the busses finally came he sat down on one of the priority seats despite there being a woman with a walker almost falling down right beside him. The old lady from before swoops in and manages to kick him off and sat the woman down.
#12 An Angel In An Earthquake
When I was fourteen, I was trapped in the rubble of an earthquake. I spent six hours crawling toward a man whose face I never had the opportunity to see... he was a citizen who didn't leave his name with anyone and never came forward, after the fact. It has always bothered me that I will likely never find out who he was or tell him how much comfort his voice gave me during those horrible hours. When I saw pictures of the space I ended up in, much later, I couldn't (and can't) understand how he was able to stand where he stood for six hours without injuring himself or suffering some sort of emotional trauma himself. He's my hero.
#11 Epic Stories With An Army Brat
As a teenager, I caught a bus into town. An old chap took the one free seat next to me and somehow we started chatting.
He started telling me how he took part in a battle during WWII where he was one of only a handful of survivors— it was fascinating listening to him, especially being an Army Brat myself.
I wish I could have spent longer on the bus with him and remembered more of the conversation, but it’s lived with me now for 35 years.
#10 A Real-Life 'High School Musical'
My touch football team was sponsored by a local bar that does Karaoke on the same day of the week that our games are. We went for a beer after our game. I don't sing well but I enjoy singing and I'm not shy. I sing the occasional song, but not often. I wasn't planning on singing this time but a girl went up on the stage and asked if anyone would sing that song from Grease, "You're The One That I Want". I thought, why not? Went up and we nailed it. People were dancing and cheering. We finished the song. We both sort of said good job like stuff. She went back to her table of friends. I went back to my football team. She and her friends left shortly afterward. That was over 20 years ago. I still think about that night from time to time.
#9 An Amazing Bathroom Fart Battle
This was about two years ago when I was in university. I was having some gas pains, so I went to use the bathroom. I was the only one in there, but someone came in shortly after, so I decided to wait until she was done. She apparently was in the same situation as me, so we were both just sitting in silence waiting for the other to leave, occasionally letting out tiny toots.
Finally, she says, "Can we both just fart?" I laugh and say "Yes, please!" And for about a minute after, both of us are simultaneously laughing and farting. Laughing because we're farting, and farting because we're laughing.
We finished at about the same time and said "hello" as we washed our hands. I never saw her again. I still giggle every time I think of it.
#8 Sometimes You Just Need A Break
I met a young woman who was crying her eyes out in the back of the train station's CVS while I was there picking up stamps before heading onto the train to catch my flight home (had to get some bills in the post before I left or I'd forget about them). She had a very young child with her and the kid was getting progressively more panicky that his mom was losing it in public. She was underdressed for the snowstorm outside, though the kid was bundled up properly in oversized clothes that looked like they might have been hers.
They both only spoke Spanish, but I was able to go up and ask what was going on. The young mom wailed, but the little boy was very interested in my big rolly suitcase. I offered, in Spanish, to watch him for a few minutes while she got things sorted out and cleaned herself up in the bathroom, then took him on a walk through the food aisles and let him pick out some snacks, which I bought for him.
About fifteen minutes later she came out of the bathroom looking like a different person. She cried again when I offered her the bag of groceries and a twenty, which was all the cash I had on me, and tried not to accept it until I insisted. She thanked me profusely, the little kid hugged me, and they left into the Boston winter.
#7 The Ultimate Leap Of Faith (At A Crashed Wedding)
I crashed a wedding when I was 18 because it was on my bucket-list and ended up dancing with a woman who was maybe 24 or 25. Her name was Natalie. We danced for a couple songs then the DJ put on a slow song, and I was thinking in my head that's my cue to leave but I have this habit of when I think I shouldn't do something because of negative thought, just do it, so I grabbed her hand and we slow danced. I didn't know anything about this woman, beyond her name and here I was slow dancing. After that, I bounced because people were starting to look at me suspiciously so I left without saying goodbye. Honestly, I look back and think I wonder what Natalie is doing. This was in October of 2013 and honestly, that was the first time I did what my heart wanted instead of my head, life has been better ever since.
#6 An Unexpected Midnight Protector
I'd locked myself out of my flat once when I was taking out the rubbish. It would have been close to midnight. I am female, early twenties, and just out of the hospital. I had no way to get in and no money, phone, or nearby friends. I don't remember this boy arriving or explaining myself to him, but he sat with me until morning the whole night long beneath my block. He had limited English so we barely spoke, and he shared a tin of pineapple with me he had in his bag. He was calm, empty of ill intent, quiet but watchful. Friendly, a big, open smile. When the sun came up, he walked on. I'll never forget him, or how kind he was to do that. Some people are so in tune with the world, they protect it. I hope he was okay too.
#5 Fixing A Birthday Gone Horribly South
It was my 21st birthday and I went to Moe’s for my free birthday burrito. As I was walking out, I slipped on one of the mats (they had just mopped and put the mats back down before the floor dried) and I busted my butt. I was so embarrassed and in so much pain but a few people helped me up. One middle-aged woman helped me into the booth she was sitting in and took charge of the situation. She had them remake my food and bring it to the table as well as a first aid kit and a manager. She bandaged up my hand and knee and elbow all while getting the managers information in case I needed them to pay for doctors bills and got me like $100 in Moe’s coupons. When my food finally came out she made me sit with her and eat. We ended up talking for like an hour, she told me about her and her family and she said if it was her daughter in my situation, she’d want someone to step in and take care of her. When we were finished she helped me hobble to my car and gave me a huge hug and told me happy birthday. I was so beyond thankful for her and her small act of kindness towards me.
#4 Hysterically Perfect Polka Dance Partner
Hubby and I were in Munich at the Hofbräuhaus and the band was playing. I love to polka but Hubby wasn’t having it so he suggested I find someone else to dance with. At that moment I locked eyes with a patron at another table and through hand gestures and facial expressions I somehow managed to find a dance partner.
Me: tall, white, middle-aged American woman.
Dance partner: petite, Korean, college-aged girl.
#3 A Stranger End To An Almost-Fight
Was pretty sloppy one night, out at the bars with a couple of friends. We were walking to the next pub, and I hear some guy across the street, don’t remember what he was saying though. I pipe up and yell “you talkin'?” And he responds “yea I’m talkin'”. I start walking across the street with my arms stretched wide, like bring it on. I hear my friends behind me telling me to stop and asking what I was doing. The stranger walks towards me too, and when we get up close we both just go in for a huge hug. Never met the dude before, and honestly, I’m surprised I didn’t get punched. I’ll always remember that.
#2 An Epic Case Of Instant Karma
Hubby and I were clubbing one night, many moons ago. We stepped outside so hubby could have a smoke and I spotted a girl sat on the curb next to our car, crying. I asked if she was OK and she explained that she’d arrived with her friends but when they tried to get into the club, she discovered she’d forgotten her ID. All her friends ditched her and went into the club anyway, leaving her alone. We ended up driving her across town to pick up her ID from her boyfriend’s place, then we took her and her boyfriend back to the club.
When we got back to the club, we were talking with them for a bit and somehow managed to lock our keys in the car. The boyfriend managed to bend the door back enough that we could slip an arm in and unlock it, before popping the door back into place with no outward signs anything had been done to it. We didn’t ask too many questions about how he knew to do that but it did really help us out. He was glad to repay the favor!
#1 Bonding Over Shared Sickness
I'm a type one diabetic. I was on a cruise ship with my family, and sometimes I would be stopped on my way out of the ship because of my insulin pump (it can't go through an x-ray scanner). I was stopped at one point with this other guy, who jokingly asked me, "What are YOU in for?" I said insulin pump. He said no way and took out his pump! We laughed and shared diagnosis stories. The next day, he came up to me in the buffet, thanking God he found me. His pump wasn't waterproof and he'd jumped into a pool, and forgot to bring insulin vials that could fit into a manual pen. I was able to give him insulin and we got some coffee together. Never traded contact info and never saw him again. He was a cool dude.