A Memorable Snowy Day: Remembering Acts of Kindness

Last week I wrote how my doctor’s “compliment” about my ear canals gave me an unexpected – and disproportionate! – morale boost. It’s funny how seemingly insignificant moments (or comments) can take on extra weight and stand out for years to come. Why do some memories and words have extra sticking power?

I have been on the receiving end of many acts of kindness, yet some experiences that could be dismissed as unremarkable have left the biggest mark.

Here is the story of one of those acts of kindness!

Years ago, when Levi was still a toddler and Abby was attending preschool, John was away on an early spring work trip. We had two vehicles, but only one of them had been fully winterized. John headed off with that vehicle since his trip involved lots of highway driving. I didn’t think much of this decision until, overnight, our area was hit by a snowstorm. Waking up to a world of white, I realized there was no way I could get Abby to preschool – a route that involved several steep hills – in our car without snow tires.

I didn’t relish the thought of being stuck home with two kids in our apartment all day and decided I would simply have to get Abby to preschool the old-fashioned way. Human power.

I bundled up both kids in the relevant cold-weather gear and headed out.

The snow was deep. And heavy. Under summer conditions, getting to preschool required a 20-minute walk. Under snowy conditions, with a toddler in tow (without the option of a stroller – the snow was too deep), I figured it was likely to take me over an hour. Abby was content to tromp bravely ahead, but I knew her little legs would tire eventually and she’d need to join Levi on the sled.

While still in view of our apartment, I was a sweating, exhausted mess. Levi was so young that his gloved hands couldn’t grip the sled handles properly. I focused every ounce of my concentration and energy on moving forward through the snow, but what I really wanted to do was collapse to the ground and have a nice, long cry.

Then, miraculously: This is getting easier!

I looked behind me only to realize Levi had fallen off the sled and was sitting in a snow drift 100 feet back. No wonder my burden felt lighter.

Best case scenario we were 500 meters into our trip. Then one child (maybe both?!) started crying, and I felt completely and utterly defeated.

At that exact moment a black SUV pulled up beside us. With AWD. And snow tires. It was another parent from preschool. She had her own kids buckled up in the back, and asked if we might be interested in a ride the rest of the way.

I will never forget how wonderful it felt to settle my kids into her vehicle and drive the rest of the way to preschool. By the end of the day the sun was shining, the roads had been cleared, and Levi and I were able to use the car to collect Abby.

The feeling of overwhelming despair and exhaustion that was so quickly and completely relieved by that random act of kindness – the preschool parent seeing us struggling through the snow and stopping to help – stands out distinctly in my mind from that season of life.

I suspect she didn’t think twice about her actions and, if I asked her today, chances are high she wouldn’t even remember that morning from years ago.

But I remember. And I’m forever grateful she stopped, loaded up my kiddos and our sled, and drove us past kilometers of snow-covered sidewalks.

Your turn. Does a particular act of kindness from your past stand out in your memory? One time, in a store lineup, I commented to the kids I had forgotten my reusable bags in the trunk of the car. I was frustrated with myself – now I’d have to buy a bag – when the woman in front of us handed back an adorable reusable bag and told me she had plenty and that I could keep it. I still have this bag and every time I use it, I remember that random act of kindness.

These are not from that particular snowy day (same era) but I couldn’t resist including a few throwback pictures. When did these two get so big?

Look at all those baby teeth!!
This was 2015 – right after Levi was born – a year it snowed continually for weeks and weeks and weeks.

Header photo by Ali Inay on Unsplash

35 thoughts on “A Memorable Snowy Day: Remembering Acts of Kindness”

  1. One of the nicest things someone has done for me was my father-in-law. We were on vacation together and our toddler got up every day at 5 a.m. or earlier. FIL volunteered to take him several of the mornings. My own parents were also on this trip but did NOT volunteer help, so this really stuck with me. I was so tired and so appreciated those extra hours of sleep.

    1. Extra hours of sleep (or even just awake time WITHOUT attending to a toddler’s needs) is an ultimate act of kindness to show a parent of a young child. I’m so glad your FIL acted on his idea.

  2. In 1999 before marriage and kids, I was backpacking in Italy on my own. I could not find an internet cafe and a kind senior asked where I was going (through gestures and me showing him a map). He then proceeded to walk with me to the place but it was Sunday and it was closed. He then proceeded to walk me back to the train. All I could do was say grazie.

    1. And I bet he felt wonderful for helping you, too!
      Also, isn’t it amazing what can be conveyed through body language and other non-verbal cues?
      What a wonderful memory from your time in Italy.

  3. That is awesome; sometimes those little kind things make me want to shed a tear, even though where I come from they are actually pretty normal. I grew up in a small mountain town where people know each other’s names and will definitely pull over to help you. A few years ago I went home with some friends of mine and it snowed an my friend had never driven in the snow before. Of course we spun out and nearly went off of a cliff, luckily hitting a tree that kept the car from going down the side of the hill. Generally there is no cell service in the area but luckily I got through to AAA. However, in the next hour that it took for AAA to come, everyone who drove by slowed down to see if we needed help. It made me realize that although I hated the familiarity (even though I did not know any of the people who stopped) of a small town, I do sometimes miss it when I am in the city! (Although I have fallen while running and if people are around, although embarrassing, they almost always stop to help)

    1. Small towns are wonderful for this sort of thing. It can feel claustrophobic to have everyone know everyone…but there are definite perks to this level of familiarity.
      Also, what a scary situation! I’m so glad you were okay – yikes!!

  4. I was a speech path major in college, which requires getting a Master’s degree. It was super competitive and most schools had recently moved to an online centralized platform to apply. I’m kind of embarrassed saying this, but at the time I wasn’t great with navigating websites and I had missed some really big parts of the application. I was sitting in the student union with a friend- she was really more of a friendly, familiar face from my classes and we both had some time to kill. We were talking about the application process and she saw I had missed some things on the website and took my computer and started showing me what I had missed. I was so shocked that 1. She was willing to help me on something that I was technically competing with her for and 2. What a difference she had made in my life because I never would have gotten accepted if I had been missing those parts! 3. we hardly knew each other and she still took the time to help me. I still remember her face- she didn’t even hesitate, just started helping me!

    1. Wow! What a story and how incredible that this literally impacted the trajectory of your life. I’m sure she didn’t think of that when she offered to help, but what a testament to her character <3

  5. This is a great reminder to perform acts of kindness. It’s so easy to pass by and think “someone else will help.” But you could make a huge difference in someone’s day (or life, in Katie’s case above!) It’s also always amazing to me what a kind word can do to boost spirits- even if it’s something silly like complimenting your ear canals. It really does provide a little jolt of happiness.

    1. Little jolts can have a disproportionate impact. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I gather this is the main premise of A Man Called Otto!

  6. What stands out in my mind is a time, years ago, when I got a flat tire on a bitterly cold day in November when I was leaving my parents to go to a wedding. I wasn’t far from home so called my dad to come and help. But in the time I was waiting for him, another person stopped and offered to change my flat (embarrassingly, I don’t know how to change a flat… and I was in formal wear on a subzero day).

    Another time, my car broke down when I was on my way home from the lake. I was about 20 min from my parents and luckily, my sister and her husband were leaving shortly and could give me a ride back to Minneapolis. In the time I spent waiting for them, 3 different people stopped and asked how they could help!

    Both of those things happened in a rural area. There are a lot of things I didn’t love about growing up in a very very rural area, but one big upside is how kind and generous people are!

    And I can just imagine that always experience of pulling 2 kids in a sled and having one fall off!!

    1. I can’t change a flat tire either (or, really, anything related to car maintenance). I really should learn some of these basic skills; I have CAA (the Canadian equivalent to AAA instead), but I also know that I could learn how to use jumper cables. Now, with YouTube and cell phones everywhere, I also feel like in a pinch I could look up a tutorial video, but there is something satisfying about knowing how to fix an issue – or be able to provide that random act of kindness.

  7. “Then, miraculously: This is getting easier!
    I looked behind me only to realize Levi had fallen off the sled and was sitting in a snow drift 100 feet back.”
    Made me laugh so hard!
    I remember one time when I was flying with my oldest as a lap baby; she was a little over a year at the time. I was on my own and so exhausted and kept nodding off, and the lady across the aisle from me said, “Do you want me to hold her so you can take a nap?” It was such a kind gesture. So I handed her the baby – I figured, “It’s a plane, she can’t really kidnap the baby or anything.” And I took a much needed nap.

    1. This exact thing happened to us! When my daughter was around 18 months, a stranger volunteered to hold her and occupied her by playing her music on his headphones.

    2. It would be hard to kidnap a baby on a plane! I’m so glad her act of kindness paved the way for some much-needed shut-eye.

  8. I was having A DAY. Things were going relatively well until I tried to start our car in a parking garage after work. It would not start. I had to call a friend of a friend to jump my car, but then traffic was really bad and I was almost out of gas. I didn’t want to go to a gas station because I didn’t want to turn the car off again until I got home in case we needed a jump (I was fairly sure we could count on one of our neighbors to help us start it). ANYWAY. I ended up needing gas to get home and sure enough, the car wouldn’t start. The lady who was manning the cash register at the gas station called her husband and he came and gave me a jump and followed me home to make sure I made it safely and I was in tears because they were so nice and helpful and they didn’t have to be.

    A couple of weeks later, I wrote her a thank you note and put in a small gift card to Amazon and when I saw her car at the station, I stopped by and gave it to her and told her how much they helped me that day. She started crying and said she was having a bad day and this was making her day and we were both crying and it was silly and stupid and then I think she stopped working there because I never saw her again.

    I still go out of my way to go to that gas station because of her.

    1. Wow! What a great story, made even more wonderful by the fact you brought things full circle. Also, I LOVE (love, love, love) that you still go out of your way to fuel up at that gas station (though I’m so sad that lady isn’t there anymore). I can definitely see myself crying over that exchange too, and I’m so glad you followed up and showed your appreciation and that it happened to come on a day when she really needed a boost.

  9. What a nice story!
    I have to tell you, this exact thing happened to me as a baby! When I was very small my family lived in Mayerthorpe Alberta, and it is very snowy up there. My mom was taking me – a baby – and my brother – who was about four – somewhere, and because it was so snowy my mom was pulling us on a sled, rather than drive. Anyway, apparently I fell off in the middle of the street somewhere. My brother kept yelling “MOM MOM MOM MOM MOM” and she ignored him which, we have all been there. She was probably frazzled. Anyway, finally she snapped and was like WHAT? “Nicole fell off the sled.” I was BLOCKS away! My brother was a lot heavier so I guess she just didn’t notice. Or maybe she did – I was a handful of a baby, let me tell you! Lol.
    Acts of kindness stay with us so much! There is a wonderful woman in my neighbourhood who never, ever commented on Barkley’s giant lump. Every time I would walk him, someone – or many people – would comment on it, sometimes quite rudely (what’s wrong with your dog?). And I was always on the verge of tears, in those last couple of years, but I walked him every day. Every time I would see that woman, she would smile and say “He’s getting around great!” or “Well, that pup is doing great!” or something like that. It meant so much to me, and after he died and I had Rex, the lady said to me “It’s nice to see you with this guy – and you gave your other dog just the best life. He was so loved.” Just those comments meant so much to me, after such a difficult few years with an obviously dying dog.

    1. There is so much great stuff to unpack in this comment.

      I laughed very hard when you said “we have all been there” because I AM THERE TODAY, Nicole!!
      And the fact you were blocks away is hilarious (since you were, I’m assuming, found safe and sound with no long-term frostbite or other ill effects). AND the fact that you were a “handful” – I’m over here conjuring up an image of tiny Nicole wailing and/or getting into all sorts of mischief.

      That neighbour sounds so, so lovely. And so insightful in knowing just what to say. And I bet she didn’t even have to think about finding the right words, because someone with that much emotional IQ saw Barkley for who he was – a very special dog, so deeply loved by his family <3 And to greet Rex with such enthusiasm and reflect on how much love you gave Barkley. So lovely. We all need people who show kindness like this...

  10. This is such a lovely anecdote! Thank you for sharing it with us. Acts of kindness are special, always, but when we are in that dark near-crying place they mean so much more!

    The acts of kindness that spring to my mind almost all took place during my pregnancy. I remember how kind and helpful the pharmacist was, when I was so sick with morning sickness that I could barely stand, and my insurance refused to cover the number of pills my doctor had prescribed me — an amount that just barely got me through the work day, in an office where I’d just started, surrounded by people I hadn’t yet told about the pregnancy. That pharmacist was so kind and figured out how to fix it, somehow, and I just love her still for seeing my agony and addressing it.

    I am also so thankful for my boss and his boss. I wasn’t even going to be at my job for a year by the time I had the baby, so they barely knew me, and paid maternity leave was only for employees who’d been there a year or more, and FMLA wouldn’t cover any maternity leave at all. My boss and his boss made a case that not only should I get maternity leave, but that I should get the entire six months that other employees got. (I took three, which was glorious.) They were both fathers and I think my boss’s boss had had a bad experience when his wife was pregnant, so he took it upon himself to make it okay for me. I am getting all choked up about them doing that, without me asking. It was such a gift.

    1. Oh Suzanne. I remember morning sickness like that – a dark near-crying place indeed. And I’m so glad the pharmacist saw a need and worked behind-the-scenes magic to make things work.
      And getting that paid maternity leave is such a gift, indeed. (Incidentally, if I could wave a magic wand, paid maternity leave would be one of the first things I would provide to ALL parents because having a baby is no joke and we need time to recover and bond and why doesn’t the corporate world respect this?!)

  11. I can just imagine the relief!
    When I was working at that same preschool while pregnant I remember being offered a ride by a parent on their way there. My did I enjoy not trudging up the hill in the snow!

    There was also a moment when I was on the phone inquiring about some help I needed for postpartum depression. The administrative person on the other end heard my explanation and before taking down the practical details to make me an appointment said, “I’m so sorry you’re going through this.” It still brings me to tears to think about it. It was so simple and she could have skipped it entirely but that small kindness gave me a boost.

    1. Those front-facing positions can make or break an experience when meeting with a medical professional. A rude or cold administrator can be such a harsh encounter; on the flip side, they really can – even in just a few words – make us see heard and understood.

      My family doctor (lovely) has some of the most wonderful office administrators. Every time I call I feel so safe and secure…and loved. They can’t always answer my question or get me the appointment slot I’m hoping for, but I always, always feel like they’re in my corner.

      One time I went into the office coming back from an OB appointment. It was the first time I was told I should have a hysterectomy. John was out of town, and the kids were relatively young. The physical exam had been excruciatingly painful (trying to find an IUD that – turns out – my body had spontaneously expelled) and I was an emotional wreck. I didn’t think I could handle a phone call, so stopped in the office to make an appointment to see my family doctor. The admin working saw me, listened to what happened and was so sympathetic. The doctor had already left for the day, but she said: I’m going to get her to call you at home tonight. I promise.
      And my doctor did call.

      Also…that same day, I texted you about what happened and you said: You shouldn’t be alone tonight and came over. And I’ve never forgotten that you didn’t leave me in a puddle of tears alone on my couch, but showed up on my doorstep. As I remember it, we actually laughed a lot that night <3

      1. That sounds truly awful and I do have a memory of you telling me about it but not of coming over. Thank you for reminding me.

        As long as we’re sharing, I remember the immense relief and gratefulness I felt when Tim told me in the hospital after Manny’s dramatic entrance, “Elisabeth organized a meal train for the next few weeks”. The concern and care from that time still bolsters my spirits when I think of it. Thanks friend. ❤

        1. It’s interesting how quickly we can forget these moments where we spread love to others – they can have an impact on recipients we just don’t realize!

  12. Wow. I can imagine you that day, your desperation to get those kids out of the apartment, confronting that snow… and the relief to catch a (safe!) lift… what a memory!!

    The thing that springs to mind for me is a comment from a colleague recently. We were discussing our Clifton Strengths, and he said “whenever there’s a system that needs to be created, I always think in my mind ‘that’s a Katie job’, you just create systems really well and I wouldn’t know where to start.”

    It was such an awesome, meaningful and unexpected compliment… I think of it often and it makes me smile every time 🙂

    1. Awww. What a lovely and insightful observation from your colleague and how great to know that your skills are appreciated by others!!

  13. Ok, your kids in snow gear are truly adorable 😉

    And I love stories of random acts of kindness, esp. if we remember them years later. We never know what kind of gesture – no matter how small – can turn somebody else’s day around!

    I remember this one occasion when I was traveling alone from Germany to the US for the first time (which I have done so many times by now, ha) and I was super-nervous and a little scared and probably wanted to bail on my big adventure abroad. I got to chat with another German girl at the gate and even though she didn’t know it at the time, she really helped to calm me down by distracting me with conversation and being so excited for me about what lay ahead. We ended up exchanging information and we’re still friends on Social Media to this day.

  14. Just a couple years ago I was on a business trip. I took the train to another city. When lunch came around we wanted to head out to pick something up when I realized I had forgotten my wallet back at home. One colleague handed me a 50€ bill and asked if that would be enough to cover my expenses until I am back home. I was so thankful. Of course I paid him back asap . And I set up Apple Pay…

    1. I have not set up Apple Pay…I really should for experiences just like this one. But I’m so glad your colleague didn’t think twice about helping you out!

  15. What a lovely, lovely story. Kindness really is all around, even when it feels like the world is (literally) cold and weighing us down. <3

    1. Yes! And those acts of kindness can come from the unlikeliest of spots and at the most unexpected times…which is exactly what happened to me that morning…

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