Your stories evoked appreciation for not only strangers, but for your cities at large.

Last week, we asked readers for their best stories of strangers saving the day, and several (including a couple of CityLab's own) wrote in to contribute. Especially great were the tales that evoked an appreciation for not only the kindness of strangers, but for your cities at large. Below are some of our favorite random acts of urban kindness from 2014, to carry into the new year.

Wilder S. in Los Angeles:

One time a guy rode up to me on a bike, and his basket was filled with tacos. He gave me two and went on his way.

Melissa L. in NYC:

While I was walking down Lexington Avenue on a busy, crowded afternoon, I crossed paths with a lovely woman who was pushing her baby in a stroller. She seemed hurried, like most people in New York. But in the midst of all the chaos she stopped her stroller, looked me in the eye and smiled, and motioned to me that I needed to button my shirt. Sure enough, my shirt was unbuttoned and my undergarments were in plain view for all to see.

Despite the fact that there are so many people in New York who are so wrapped up in their own worlds, this woman, baby in tow, full of responsibilities and short on time, took a moment to save a stranger from embarrassment. Little things like that remind me why I love this city.

Michael A. in Boston:

I was working late in Boston last year, and, as any Bostonian knows, the subway stops running fairly early. So, I finally left work and entered a tunnel to a platform that's about 200 yards long—just as the last train of the night pulled into the station. I broke into a run but inevitably slowed as I realized I wouldn't make it: All of the disembarking passengers had exited. However, just at that moment, one good Samaritan who had exited the train and walked 20 feet laid eyes on me and my futile effort, turned, SPRINTED back to the door, and propped it open as the subway conductor yelled at him to stop.

I know you're likely to say that propping the door messes with delicately balanced schedules and can be dangerous, but that stranger was the heroic highlight of one long and terrible night of work. And that moment has stayed with me long after those numerous troubles that were plaguing my night.


Shane A. in NYC:

One time I high-fived a total stranger for no reason and with no real warning. We were just passing each other walking across 6th avenue, put our hands up at the same time and slapped!

Michael W. in San Francisco:

I was on my way back from work in SF on a route that took me underneath a freeway. I usually biked it but I had gotten a flat on the way in to the office so I was walking my limping bike back. It was getting dark and I was a little spooked to walk alone under the overpass.

I'm passing through and I hear a bunch of spooky echoing noises. It turns out to be a brass band of somewhat older dudes with that kind of burner/pirate Bay Area style. One of them calls me over and asks about the bike.

They tell me about how they practice down there every week because they can be as loud as they want, since the cars passing over are loud enough already. One of them shows me the right way to fix a flat, which I'd never been that good at. His technique is still what I use, and it's great.

I stayed and listened for a while and just totally loved SF in that moment. When I turned to ride off, the guy who called me over shakes my hand and says, with total seriousness, "Ride fast and take chances." While that sounds a little hokey now, it was really wonderful to hear in that moment from this kind stranger who, with his overpass brass band, had obviously figured some things out in life.

I love San Francisco.

Dmitry D. in Moscow:

It was freezing in Moscow and I was wandering around the city. I asked a woman to borrow her lighter. She said take it and just kept walking. My hero.

Shauna M. in Washington, D.C.:

I live on a street that is rapidly gentrifying. For decades and as long as me or my parents can remember, it's been a solidly middle-class African-American neighborhood, with single-family homes and families. (I am white and live in an apartment on the block.) About 10 years ago, the homeowners started to age, and as they move on, the neighborhood is getting overhauled by developers.

One day, when I was running for the bus, I ran by a very old man who was walking very, very slowly with a cane and sunglasses. I asked if he needed some help across the major road we were about to cross, and he was very surprised that a young person stopped at all, and said so. Well, it took us about 30 minutes to get up the tiny hill to even get to the street. He told me his name was Ulysses, and that he was 90 and had lived on our street his whole life.
I asked what it was like back then, and he said that when he was a child in the 1920s, the entire street was white. You could not live there if you were black. The police would do "neighborhood checks" of the houses to see who was living there. Ulysses was the only black kid on the block, living there as a charge of a neighborhood dance studio. He mostly stayed out of sight and didn't play with the other children. He said that black homeowners didn't move in until the '60s. I had no idea how the neighborhood had changed, only that it was changing again.

I was really late for work that day, but grateful to feel more connected to the neighborhood. Ulysses is still around, but I don't see him very often.

Warren. L in NYC:

Super Bowl week last year. Bicycling from the office to yet another Super Bowl press event at the Sheraton, I dropped my wallet en route.

Tal F. at West Village General Contracting picked it up. He could have ignored it, or kept it, or at least the money in it, or sold the credit card numbers on the black market, or dropped it in a drawer after the first couple of attempts to reach me online did not pan out. He did not. When I offered a reward, he just said, "Pay it forward."

So during the colossal cock-up that was the transit getaway from the Super Bowl that Sunday, when a couple of Broncos fans found themselves not only disappointed by the outcome of the game, but marooned at the Secaucus train station well after midnight without any clear way to get to their hotel 12 miles away (despite being within sight of the Empire State Building, the Secaucus train station is in the middle of nowhere), I bundled them into my car and took them.

I also unreservedly recommend West Village General Contracting to anyone who needs a Manhattan contractor. I've never needed one, but they’re good. They must be.

Kriston C. in Washington, D.C.:

One time a woman in Georgetown came up and handed me a pair of sunglasses that say "Let's Get Weird" on the side. They are still sitting on my desk.

Lex B. in Berkeley, CA:

It was my first week in the Bay Area and I was helping my friend move out of a house in Berkeley. He got pretty busy with some stuff and I was pretty hungry so I left to wander and find this vegan-friendly Chinese food place I had heard about. When I walked into the restaurant, there were two men waiting for their pick-up orders. I barely looked at them. I sat down, ate my food, and got up to pay the bill. Turns out, one of those dudes had paid for my meal. I never saw his face. He didn't leave a number or anything. He just did it. And my mind was blown.
Top image courtesy of Flickr user mendrakis.

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