“When have you experienced the kindness of strangers/neighbors in a time of need?”

good people
Photo by PoPville flickr user Jim Havard

“Dear PoPville,

I’ve read many stories here about the kindness of strangers in times of trouble. I myself experienced this last week after a car hit me head-on while biking home near the National Mall. At least half a dozen people stopped to make sure I was ok, offering names and numbers as witnesses to the accident. An out-of-uniform cop make sure I had the information of the driver and asked a least of dozen times if I needed medical attention.

I thought this would make a good question at some point. Something like “When have you experienced the kindness of strangers/neighbors in a time of need?”

tree
Photo by Paul B Jones

A very good example arose yesterday – Paul wrote us:

“@PoPville rock creek pkwy closed because of crash below Calvert. Photo looking at Connecticut bridge”

Mike Lenahan filled in some details:

“@PoPville I was directly behind the car that got hit. Came out of nowhere. Tree simply went from standing to horizontal in a second.”

“Car was crushed. I pulled over, called 911, & helped lift the tree off the car with maybe 15 other people.”

Dozens of people helped. Runners, commuters, a NPS ranger, and – of course – first responders.”

“A jogger who happened to be a doctor spoke to the man through the shattered window and kept him talking.”

“EMS starting tearing into the vehicle to get the man out. A bystander had a chainsaw that he used to cut up the massive trunk.”

61 Comment

  • ArchbishopofHillEast

    Not nearly as heroic as the examples listed, but I experienced the true warmth and kindness of many Washingtonians over the winter. I suffered a rather severe leg injury and was on crutches for just shy of two months. Over that period of time, people from all walks of life were more than willing to offer me help.

    There was a bus driver who noticed that I would hobble two blocks after getting off the bus to get to my office. From then on he created a special stop directly in front of my office. Multiple times, people getting into ubers and rideshares would ask where I was headed and give me a lift. One woman, seeing me failing to flag down a cab gave me a lift, even though it added at least 20 minutes to her drive. While I would rather not have lingering pain from my accident, it really showed me that people here do care. Everyone likes to talk about how people in DC are mean, but all I experienced was a city full of warm and caring people who look out for their neighbors.

  • This isn’t as dramatic, but it’s stuck with me years later.

    When my oldest kid was about five weeks old, I had taken her to the park to get out of the house. While at the park, she was hungry so I started to breastfeed her. As any new mom knows, trying to balance a nursing cover (I wasn’t comfortable without it yet) and a very young infant who still takes 30 minutes to eat is quite difficult. We also had had a pretty rough nursing relationship causing lots of supply issues and stress for me.

    As I’m nursing, it starts to rain. I dig out an umbrella from my diaper bag, all while trying to keep feeding. I’m trying to hold the umbrella and feed, and it’s going nowhere. I start trying to balance it on the stroller and continue to fall mighthly. I’m struggling with what to do in the situation, and I must have looked stressed.

    Another mom, with a 2-3 year old, came over, sat down next to me, and offered to hold my umbrella for me. She asked me a few questions about how it was going, and I completely unloaded on her and started crying in the park. She was calming and reassuring, when she didn’t need to be.

    I never got her name or really ever thanked her properly (I was too frazzled to ask her name), but it was just a beautiful moment of a mom trying to help out another mom who was clearly struggling.

  • Minor example, but my 6yo pulled our shopping cart on to herself at the 14th St. Trader Joe’s a few months ago and I swear every person in that store was all over us in under 1 second. Between staff and customers they had us tucked back in a little room with a drink and cookies and all of our stuff before I’d even fully registered what happened. It was quite lovely.

  • I can’t think of a story off the top of my head, but I can’t get past the last sentence of this post: “A bystander had a chainsaw that he used to cut up the massive trunk.”

    • I thought that part was awesome! I want a chainsaw but just can’t justify buying one.

    • Haha. I was thinking the same thing. Who just happens to have a chainsaw on them?

      • I assume a landscaping company vehicle driving through at the time of the accident, but the quote makes it seem like someone was out strolling through Rock Creek Park with a chainsaw.

      • ah

        +1. Really begs for more details. The landscaping truck theory makes good sense though.

      • Heh, me too!
        .
        I figured there was a rational explanation for it, but I liked the (crazy) idea of someone just happening to have a chainsaw on them. Some people carry a Swiss Army knife, some carry a chainsaw? 😉

    • Hi. Mike Lenahan here. I wrote these comments quickly last night on my phone after a long day. What I meant by that was, as you guessed, a man ( I presume a landscaper) who had a chainsaw in his pickup bed happened to be one of the people trapped by the accident. He was not one of the known saw-wielding maniacs roving Rock Creek Park at 6pm on a Monday.

    • I came here to talk about this!

    • dude, same.

    • Since this is a feel-good thread, I am glad for Mike’s clarifications.

      However, part of me wants to believe that a horror-movie serial killer was walking through Rock Creek Park with his chainsaw and decided to balance the scales a bit by helping someone out. Halloween IS just two months away.

  • A far less dramatic moment than lifting a tree but this morning at about 8:45 I was running for the S bus at 16th and V streets and I tripped and fell flat on my face on the sidewalk. I scraped my knee which was bleeding. Not only did multiple people stop to make sure I was okay after I got on the bus a nice gentleman came over to give me his stash of clean tissues so I could mop up my bloody knee.

  • Two examples I’ve witnessed come to mind:

    A few years ago, my roommates and I had just moved into our rowhouse in NE and were burglarized during the day while everyone was away. Right after that, our neighbors stopped by and offered anything we needed to get through this time. Offered money, food, whatever. Thankfully we had renter’s insurance, so were able to get things replaced, but the thought really struck a chord and we’ve become friends even after moving away.

    I was at a bar for a work-related happy hour and it was dusk. A cyclist was struck at the corner of 9/U and the driver tried to speed away. Instead, bystanders not only came to the cyclist’s aid, but also blocked in the driver til the cops and paramedics came.

  • I’m blessed to have some wonderful neighbors. I’ve probably already told this story in the RRRR, but back in March, I was cat-sitting for a friend nearby, when I was hit with one of my worst migraines ever – so bad I considered calling an ambulance for myself because I couldn’t see and could barely stand. Instead, I called my next-door neighbor, who walked several blocks, found me at a random (to her) house, and she sat with me outside for a while until I could at least see by keeping one closed. She then helped me walk back to our building, gave me some dinner so I could take migraine medicine, and helped keep me calm. Same goes for my awesome yoga teacher a month ago, who helped me remain calm when a migraine hit in the middle of class – kept me calm, helped me walk back to my place, just wonderful. It’s not quite the kindness of complete strangers, but I can see that that exists, too, and I find it so encouraging. Thanks for running this question, PoP!

    • I have similar effects with migraines. I once had one hit in the middle of a WABA ride. I was 30 miles away from the starting point, and I couldn’t call my wife to come pick me up because I had driven our car to the starting point. I let a group of cyclists catch up to me and asked the one in back if I could follow him so that I didn’t have to look around much. It was also just reassuring to be near other people.

      Migraines are the worst, and I’m glad to have had people help you during them.

  • Not life saving, but had a neighbor walking a dog notice something fishy happening behind my house and called the cops, and also confronted the young guy for attempting to break into my house. My immediate neighbors next door added their assistance and called me to alert me. The one day I don’t have my alarm on…
    .
    This is why you talk to your neighbors.

    • Heh, a few years ago I got a call at work from one of our neighbors, who reported that somebody had just backed a moving van into our car that was parked on the street. I called my husband immediately, who told me that our other neighbor had just called him to tell him the same thing!

  • This is so small, but it has stuck with me an really meant the world. My mom had recently passed away and I was having dinner with my in laws for the first time since. I got there early to grab the table and a family next to us was having a similar meal. The mother struck up a conversation with me and we chatted for a few minutes before my in laws arrived. My in-laws aren’t fond of “non-family” so our relationship isn’t warm. As the table next to us was leaving the mother reached around and squeezed my shoulder with a look that said “It’s not you, and its gonna be okay.” I needed someone in my corner at that moment, and some comfort and that little squeeze meant the world to me.

    • Awesome. I enjoy the silent connections that pass between strangers. I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of many.

  • Walking home one winter night (after a really, really horrible day), I slipped and fell badly on a patch of ice. My legs flew out from under me, so my face hit the sidewalk hard. My jaw and teeth hurt and I could feel and taste blood. Between the cold, pain, and panic (I thought I had definitely broken at least a few teeth), I couldn’t manage to get up and make sense of what happened. A neighbor ran up to me as soon as he saw and helped me get up and on solid footing. He helped me figure out what happened (my lip and cheek were bleeding badly but only one tiny chip on one tooth–not the carnage I was expecting) and waited until I assured him I was okay to get home the rest of the way where I could assess the damage. It was a freezing cold night and he had just stepped out to let his dog out quickly and was not dressed to be out in that weather for very long, yet he was still completely focused on making sure I was okay and didn’t rush. I moved out of that neighborhood a few weeks later and I never got a chance to thank that gentleman, but he made a really big difference in how that experience played out for me.

  • Was driving to work one winter during a snowfall – my usual route is plowed quickly so I figured it would be easy enough to get to the office. The street I relied on was closed and I had to turn off into a neighborhood. My poor little car couldn’t handle the uphill unplowed neighborhood road and I couldn’t go any further up. Then, I start slipping and can’t go any farther back without hitting a parked car.
    A woman in the neighborhood came out and told me she knew the owner of the car. Unfortunately, no one was home to move it. But instead, she flagged down others in the neighborhood to help push my car far enough up the hill so I could back down it without hitting the parked car.
    As if that wasn’t kind enough, one of the guys stopped traffic at the intersection I was backing into so I could get back on the road. They also let me know which street to use that ISN’T uphill. Literally have no idea how long I would have been stuck on the street if it wasn’t for those kind people. They also all said “Come visit us again!” as I drove off so embarrassed.

  • a motorcyclist was hit by a car this morning at 11th St and F. DC Fire/EMS and MPD hadn’t yet arrived when I came upon the scene on my way to work, but a number of bystanders had stopped to help the injured motorist, including several construction guys nearby who had put out orange cones to block off the accident area/redirect traffic.

  • My mom tripped on the sidewalk while visiting me and bashed up her face. Superficial, but impressive in the moment. There was a house being flipped nearby, and every one of the guys working on it sprinted across the street, half-carried her (to her amusement and chagrin) to a shady place to sit, gave her water, gave her whatever take-out napkins they had in their trucks, and then walked her back to my house a couple blocks away. Of course she was protesting the whole time that they didn’t need to, she was fine, it was just scrapes and bruises. But they would’t hear of it. THEN two of them knocked on my door before leaving work for the day to check on her.
    As for me, I appreciate every stranger who chased me down the block to hand me the sock/ bottle/ toy that my kid dropped.

    • When I got hit by a car in 2015 two women on opposite sides of the street stopped and called 911 for me and stayed around to be talk to police and verified that the driver was in the wrong. I was too frazzled to properly address them, but I clearly remember seeing the one on the side opposite from me on the phone, and the one on the same side as me gave me a bottle of water and encouraged me not to move (nothing was broken, but I was worried about a possible head injury). I remember she had a young child in her car and when she jumped out to see to me I remember her saying, “Stay right there, I just need to check on my son” and then she came right back with water. I always wonder if people who help others in crisis know how grateful we are even though we are too stunned or otherwise unable to thank them properly. I hope they never feel like “I didn’t even get a thank you out of that”. People who help strangers really are the un-song heroes of the world. Usually they don’t get direct thanks and their names are never known. As an aside: I did get a police report and I have the name/contact of one of those women – at the same time it happened I was in the process of moving and ended up accidentally putting the police report in with a bunch of papers that went into storage and has not been opened still. I have never forgotten her and as soon as I get my storage unpacked in a few months I’m going to send her flowers even though it’s been over a year. If you ever get in an accident be SURE to get a police report. It’s usually available within a couple of weeks of the incident. The name and contacts of witnesses are listed.

  • +1 to that comment about dropping kid stuff. Although when my wife dropped her keys, I kinda wish someone would have turned them in instead of stealing her car.

  • On the giving end, I witnessed a car accident during my lunch break last week. I asked the driver who was struck if she was ok, went and bought her some cold water, and stayed on the scene to give a report to the police. I also have sat with a cyclist who was in a collision and with an older man in medical distress, even holding his hand, until paramedics arrived. Because it’s what I’d want others to do for me.

  • I had a broken leg and experienced many kind offers of help. But snow around here definitely brings out the best in people!
    During one snow day while I was still hobbling, a neighbor called to let me know that another guy that he didn’t know was asking which house was mine. The neighbor wanted to make sure that I was okay and not being stalked. Then we found out that the guy that asked for my house was a friend of a friend (now a dear friend of mine too) who heard about my accident and came to shovel my garage entrance in the rear.

  • In October 2013, I had a house fire in Bloomingdale while I was out of the country. The initial news was devastating, but the resulting actions from the neighborhood truly warmed the hearts of everyone who
    heard the story and really provided some perspective. First a homeless man who I knew well broke a window and entered into the burning house – placing himself in quite a bit of danger – to save my
    dog. He is truly my hero! As soon as the flames were extinguished, other neighbors went into the dark, drenched, smoke-filled house, with ceilings caving in, to find my cat and also grabbed what valuables
    they could to safeguard them. The neighbors continued to take care of my animals and the house until I could make it home a week later. We are back in the house now and very happy to be in Bloomingdale!

  • I was the sick passenger on a train pulling into Shady Grove (i.e. end of the line) several years ago. Food poisoning and dehydration got the better of me, and I just puked everywhere and almost fainted. A very nice man helped me off the train and put me in a taxi to to go the 5 blocks home. This was before they took cards and I didn’t have cash, so he gave the driver at $20 (because I was covered in vomit). The nicest thing a stranger has ever done for me.

  • Once I witnessed two pedestrians get run over. As I stood there looking at the victims lying in the street, I did something I normally wouldn’t have thought to do – go over and hold her hand, talk to her, reassure her, called her family, got her purse and shoes together, kept her calm, etc. until the medics arrived and then some. We kept in touch afterward. Was amazed at how most people reacted by just freezing up and standing there. One other person jumped out into the street to direct traffic, two other more bold people went to the aid of the other victim who was much more injured than the lady I helped. Very glad I didn’t just freeze up as I normally would. Was heartening to be part of the good side of humanity, if only for 10 minutes. Made a difference I hope. (side note, turns out I actually personally knew the other victim in the road, but she was so messed up I didn’t recognize her at all. Found out later when I read the police report and saw her name. The laptop in her backpack likely saved her life. It was totally crushed by the truck wheel. Her spine remained intact!).

  • houseintherear

    A neighbor, Mr. Junior of V Street for those Bloomingdalers who may know him, came to my house to get me once when I forgot it was street cleaning day. Missed a tow by about 1 minute- phew. Not a big deal but omg it saved me so much hassle and money!!

  • On my commute yesterday my bike chain jammed halfway between my home and office. I struggled unsuccessfully to fix it myself and was so grateful when another cyclist (Dave) stopped to help me out. He was able to fix it and didn’t seem to be bothered by getting his hands covered in grease to help a stranger out.

    It may seem like a small deed compared to some of the examples on this feed… but I would have missed an important meeting if I had been delayed any longer. Dave totally made my day.

  • I got my car stuck on a lingering patch of ice at the bottom of a steep alley hill in the back end of Mount Pleasant a few years ago. It was the first (and so far only) time I’d ever managed to do so and I felt both very frustrated and not a little silly about it. Three separate neighbors whose homes backed onto the alley came out with their own bags of sand/grit, salt, and shovels and spent a good 30-45 minutes helping a young, dumb Southern transplant get on her way again without once passing judgement. I was (obviously) running late to something really important at that point and forgot to get their names, but it meant a great deal to me as someone who had only just left the college-dorm bubble for life in the Real World.

  • Minor bike crash (darn train tracks) in middle of starburst intersection. Multiple people stopped in their cars in middle of intersection to make sure I was all right.

    Haven’t seen this mentioned, but if you ask me to find a helpful friendly person, I’m going right for a Metrobus. Never met an unpleasant Metrobus driver. Given what they deal with while driving a giant box through DC traffic all day, I want to shout out to them.

  • A few years ago, I was hit by a car on my bike and the dude drove off without stopping. Thankfully, multiple people drove up immediately after the accident and stopped to help. Pulled my bike out of the street, made sure I was OK and conscious, called 911, offered to call my gf/parents. One woman explained she was training to be a nurse, so she went through the whole trauma protocol with me on the side of the road. Everyone stayed until the cops and ambulance showed up and offered to be witnesses, but unfortunately all of them had gotten there a moment too late to see the car’s license plate. Nice to see so many drivers being so helpful to a cyclist (that they probably secreted hated haha)

  • Fell off a BikeShare bike a year ago near Thomas Circle. Hit my head. Young woman (total stranger) was among those who stopped to help me. She walked with me for several blocks to make sure I was okay. She wore a blue dress and had long black hair, and to this day I am convinced she was the Virgin Mary because she seemed to come from nowhere and was so pleasant.

    • “To this day I am convinced she was the Virgin Mary”. I have no trouble at all believing this. Great story – whoever she was.

  • Once I witnessed a woman being mugged and punched (hard) at 3pm on 14th street on a random Tuesday and I scooped her up, did my best to be a calm presence, and sat with her during the hour following as she filed a police report, called her husband, etc. She was shaking so badly I offered her a Xanax and my husband retells the story like I am some 14th street drug pusher. But in my defense if that happened to me and someone offered me a Xanax?? I would be like THANK YOU! (she didn’t take it, FWIW).

  • Years ago (5 maybe?) I heard brakes screech, a thud, and then a scream a few second later. Ran to the window, and saw that a little kid (far too little to be out and about alone, but that’s a different discussion) had tried to get across the street on his bike and was hit by a car. I ran out, but a young doctor (resident, maybe?) who lived across the street was already there – she stayed with the child until the ambulance came, calmed him down, and made sure he didn’t move. (I believe he just had a broken arm and concussion.) She was great – I never knew her, or got her name, but if she’s reading this, I hope she is doing well, and knows that she was terrific.

  • I got mugged in Shaw last year. A woman who was close by on her bike came to me and stayed with me until the police came. I was alone and her presence was a big comfort.

  • when I was younger, cheaper, and dumber, I once took a nightstand on the metro. I had to get the thing down the escalator, onto a train, change at Gallery Place, and then home. By the time I left my home station I was really tired and bruised up. The lady who helped me carry the damn nightstand down the block was so kind. And I will not do something so foolish again!

    • I did something similar when I was also young and cheap – it was one of those small TVs that had just come out with the VHS inside. I thought it was SO awesome that I got this all-in-one and saved money not having to buy a separate VHS player. The TV was not very big so I decided to carry it the 3/4 mile home. You know how it is – the thing feels so light the first couple blocks so you get fooled into thinking you can get it home no problem. As it got heavier and more cumbersome I was still determined not to pay for a taxi. It got so bad I ended up breaking down and hailing a taxi only 5 minutes from home. My arms and shoulders were sore for an age. Well, since this is supposed to be a feel-good topic: at least the taxi driver didn’t give me attitude for making him take me on an absurdly short trip. Back in those days they could refuse to bother with you.

  • A couple of years ago I left my wallet on a bus in Mt. Pleasant during the rush hour and realized what I had done within a few minutes. I tried to chase the bus on foot and then in a cab (had a credit card in my pocket) to no avail and then tried to guess when the bus would loop back toward Mt. Pleasant while I spoke to WMATA staff on the phone. After an hour of stopping every bus and asking the same question, I gave up and got myself home to Ledroit Park. Not too long after I got home a woman knocked on my door and hand delivered my wallet to me. I immediately recognized her from the bus. She had picked up my wallet after I got off the bus and had driven all the way to my house with her husband and her daughter to bring it to me. I thanked her several times but we didn’t say much else to each other, perhaps because she didn’t seem to speak much English and I was speechless. To this day I kick myself for not asking for her name and address so that I could at least send her a card to thank her for the beautiful gesture.

  • Another small story:

    A couple of years ago I was riding my bike to work. Usually I ride one with regular pedals, but this time I was on my training bike with the pedals that clip to your shoes. As I was riding up Connecticut towards the zoo, I came upon a red light and pulled onto the sidewalk (no one was on the sidewalk). Since I wasn’t used to commuting on that bike, I forgot to unclip my pedals. When I stopped, I had that agonizing moment of starting to fall and not being able to put out my foot. Down I went.

    I popped back up as quickly as possible, bruising my ego more than anything. Two drivers rolled down their windows and asked if I was okay, as did someone crossing the street towards me and one guy waiting on the corner for the light to change. None of them laughed (even though they should have).

  • A few years back I thought I’d be efficient and take my dog on a bunch of errands – we went to the hardware store and bought some filters and lightbulbs, then cruised over to the local Xmas tree lot (about half a mile from my house) and picked up my 5-foot tree. I had been warned this was not a good idea, but no, I knew better. Of course, the dog was terrified of the giant, VERY heavy tree, the filters (in a bag around my wrist) were flapping in the breeze, making it all worse, and it took me about 20 minutes to get 1 block. A police officer, driving a utility-type vehicle (like a closed pickup truck?) saw my distress and drove me home, tree in the back and dog on my lap. It was a really nice holiday gesture.