The Kindness of Strangers
By: Maureen Atwell, Executive Director on Feb 3, 2021
Throughout my life, people have shown me incredible kindness – many examples come to mind, but the one I remember most is when I was young in my career, alone, earning minimum wage, and desperate to make ends meet.
I worked as a home health aide at the time, assigned through a Medicaid program to care for an elderly woman in a family of modest means. The family gave me two bottles of milk every week, saying they had to order extra to get delivery and didn’t want to see them go to waste. There were times when that milk was the only meal I had, and I’ll never forget the relief and gratitude I felt at receiving it. I later learned that the story about milk delivery wasn’t true; the family didn’t need to order more, they did it because they knew I was hungry and they wanted to help.
I tell this story because it reminds me that even a small act of generosity can have a lifelong impact, and I see it every day in our shelters. In the height of the pandemic, I got a call from a woman who had a single bottle of hand sanitizer to donate. She said she didn’t have a lot to give, but wanted to help because she found shelter with us many years ago. She told me, “You saved my life and I’ll never forget it.”
Similarly, I recently got a call from a couple who thanked me for helping their adult son, who struggles with addiction and mental illness. They had exhausted their ability to help him, and were devastated when he became homeless, but at Jeremy House he stabilized his mental health, and has been sober for several months for the first time in his adult life. Both of them cried when they told me this.
These stories move me, but more importantly they remind me that acts of kindness have an impact beyond what we can see. I’m inspired by the people we serve, the community that supports us, and most importantly, the amazing kindness of strangers.
Your kindness changes lives. Please consider donating a one-time or monthly gift.