Stories of Kindness from Around the World

The Story of Karen


--by gilbert100, posted Nov 22, 2018
After working an inhuman 8-hour shift at a nameless, dirty factory, I got on the bus dirty, tired and hot. It was a beautifully sunny day but most of mine had been spent in the back of a dimly-lit warehouse, unloading freight cars that were filled to the top with parts for cheap office furniture. It was all metal parts, so they coated these parts with a thin oil that protected the metal and inhibited rust.

Needless to say, I left that place every day looking like I worked in a coal mine. However, even with my addiction at that time, I still felt a bit proud of myself. I had held this temp job for 3 months which was extremely rare and as I took my seat on the bus going home, I decided that the depressing thoughts of my real life would not dampen my spirit today.

I lifted my head and smiled at the two elderly ladies sitting across from me and they smiled back and nodded. To this day they have no idea how they validated my very existence with a one-second smile and acknowledgement.

I sat back in my seat, fantasizing about a better and new life but was rudely interrupted by our new passenger. I would guess she was about thirty but the streets and being homeless had taken their toll. She was filthy, her hair was matted, and she was missing most of her front teeth. She got on, aggressively and rudely pushed her way into a front seat, told the driver to proceed being that she had no money and then turned her gaze, her misery and anger on whoever dared to look her way.

All I could feel for this woman was sympathy. There was no revulsion and/or disgust. Only pity and the familiar knowledge of being faceless, nameless, homeless, invisible and mattering to no one. As if on cue, she turned her threatening gaze towards me and very loudly yelled: "Why you so dirty man?"

Not missing a beat and with a smile, I said "I just came from work." She then loudly asked if I worked in hell and broke out in laughter...so I laughed too - with her, and told her that was funny. Then I asked her her name as I explained what I do at work and why I was so dirty all the time using. Her name was Karen.

In front of all of us on the bus that day, the miracle and power of kindness showed its regal beauty. In front of all of us this woman transformed. Her language, her posture, the tone and lilt of her voice-even the way she tilted her head when I spoke to her as a friend and a fellow human being changed.

As me and this woman became instant friends, I didn't know of the beauty taking place around me. Everyone had been watching our interchange and as Karen was exiting the bus, she made it a point to touch me softly on the arm as she asked with a tear-filled and pleading eye whether or not I'd be riding the bus tomorrow. I promised that I would. We waved to each other as the bus drove on and then I turned and got what my aimless life had needed all along: affirmation.

The two old women were holding each other with tears of joy in their eyes as the one nearest to me spoke: "Son, that was the kindest, most beautiful thing I ever seen. God got his hand on you son, you just changed that woman with your heart. She ain't gonna ever forget how you treated her, young man. You a child of God boy."

The two old women nodded in agreement as well as other passengers who gave me thumbs-up signs and other things showing their admiration.

That day was the first day of my conscious battle in recovery and reclaiming who I am needed and destined to be in this world. People say I gave Karen something that day but she gave me so much more. I now work in the field of mental health and substance abuse and in some of the groups I facilitate, I often tell the story of the power of kindness, how it can get pregnant and infectious, and I talk about Karen and unlimited possibilities.
 
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Readers Comments

lindariebel wrote: A ray of light came to you, and you passed it on.
HighFlyer wrote: Wow — thank you for this beautiful story!
Rajni wrote: Your kind and compassionate heart did a wonderful job. You also showed us by example how to treat other people the way we wanted to be treated. Your power of positive thinking is commendable. Thanks for sharing.
Kris wrote: So beautiful power of lovekindness
Deepak wrote: Thank you for sharing. You not only inspired and touched another human being , but also transformed your own life with the interaction with karen.
Virginia Reeves wrote: Tears in my eyes and this special interaction and where it led you. Congratulations and best wishes in all you do. Acknowledgement and validation are critical to well-being.
Mohandas wrote: That was remarkable , in spite of your misery and hard life, thinking and communicating a few words if love and showing empathy to a lost human being. Very touching incident. Congrats brother, gif bless you and your family.
MysteryMonk wrote: All we as humans really want - really want - is validity in our lives; that someone sees us and perhaps can look beyond our state or infirmity to accept that we even exist.

From the best to the worst, this is all we actually desire: confirmation of our humanity.

Even if you don't have a coin or dollar to give that person in need, you can at least look them straight in the eye and acknowledge their existence.
As someone who has been there, i can tell you that this simple gesture is one of the greatest gifts you can give.

Well done sir.
Joan wrote: Thank you -- we must remember simple.
Bonnie j Eldredge wrote: Isn't it true! All we really want is affirmation of our existence; everyone needs it! When did it stop being important to wish someone you meet "good morning? " perhaps it's fear?

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