How did a small act of kindness from a stranger make a big difference in your life/situation?

I haven't really told many people this story... but it might help people understand the impact that even very small actions can have on people.

So I undertook my Masters research while working full-time. As you can imagine, I was quite busy... and I was studying Criminology, so my thesis was on sex offenders including paedophiles. At the tail-end of my Masters everything came up at once, I basically did my analysis of an enormous amount of pretty nightmarish data in about 6 weeks. Following that, I was working and then writing and going through the multitude of hoops that the degree required.

Finally, I was finished. I'd sent in an order for the bound copies of my thesis, and took an hour or two off work to go to my university and deliver them to the various people who needed it. That was it--I was done. By this stage I was exhausted, emotionally and mentally drained.

I'd always suffered from depression as well. I'm actually a lot more content and settled in life right now than I was back then. But those weren't good days for me, for a bunch of reasons I won't go into... so what tended to happen after any emotional high would be a terrible, black low--a pit of despair always opened up after a celebration or accomplishment.

That day was the same. My exultant mood at finishing the work of the degree lasted until I left work for home. I went grocery shopping first, which always makes me tired and grumpy, then I got to the bus and it was packed. We're talking sardines here. I stood holding onto a pole with one hand, balancing my shopping bag on top of my backpack on the floor, trying desperately not to let anything slip and fall. Around me were school students and the regular after work commuters, all trying to put up with the fact that they're stuck in a bus. The bus I caught was the slower one, too, so it bumped and ground along the route home as night fell.

I was exhausted. Physically and mentally just gone. I ached all over, and the crash hit hard. When I'm down, I tend not to show it on my face, so I was just standing there looking completely blank. Inside, however, I felt the pit opening up. I thought of how little my thesis really meant, how little it'd change anything in my life or anyone else's. I thought of how I'd started hoping it can help law enforcement and Criminology as a discourse, but it'd just end up consigned to the dust bin of academia. Worst of all, none of what I spent the last two-three years doing would help the victims and survivors of the crimes I'd studied. I was just a face in the crowd, and my work meant nothing.

It was silly, of course. But when the black dog latches onto your brain, it's hard to think straight.

I was almost near collapse as the bus continued on.

And then I felt a hand touch my arm. I looked up in surprise, and this high school student said to me, "Do you wanna sit down?"

My thoughts completely derailed. I automatically said, "No, it's ok, I'm fine!" even though I was far from fine.

But she stood up and insisted. When I tried to protest, she said, "No it's cool, my friends are back there anyway so I'll go and talk to them." and she dissappeared, leaving me the seat.

I sat down, feeling completely floored. Normally, people don't offer me a seat, even when I was balancing my shopping and my backpack (as a young male you generally don't get offered a seat). It was one of the very few times in my life that I'd been offered a seat, especially on a crowded by.

I sat there and it occurred to me that of all the people on the bus to offer me a seat, it was by a child. Criminologically, children are one of the populations most vulnerable to victimisation by the offenders I'd spent the last couple of years studying. One of the things that drove me in my research was to try and prevent these crimes from being committed on children.

Now, I don't believe in signs from the universe, or god, or anything of that nature. But I couldn't help thinking, "Well... damn."

Of course, she just took pity on the stranger trying to balance groceries and a backpack on a moving bus. She obviously felt she should give up her seat as well, since school students are required to do so. So she did. But a lot of her fellow students did not, without consequence.

I don't know who you are, young lady on the bus, but you effortlessly stopped me from falling into despair. And probably from falling on my face too, the way things were going.

Now I work in the field I studied. Whenever the work gets to me (and it does from time to time), I think of her small act of kindness and it helps me go on.

/r/AskReddit Thread