This and That

Musings on Being a Writer and My Life

The Kindness of Strangers

  • July 9, 2012 4:09 am

“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

Tennessee Williams, American playwright


Kindness. Being kind. Qualities that I value in other people.

Maybe I’m unusually lucky, but I have many kind and understanding people in my life: husband, daughter and daughter-in –law, sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews. I have a loving family and many caring friends. I know that not everyone can claim that—in fact I have firsthand experience with a less-than-kind sister-in-law. And her behavior toward me frequently brought me to tears and made me question myself. But thankfully, she was an exception.

So when my husband and I began his battle for survival against the monster called cancer five years ago, we were sustained and lifted up by many kind acts by a myriad of friends and family. After several years of relatively good health, my husband faces another cancer battle—one that is a Pyrrhic victory at best. Yes, the cancer is gone—he survived the surgery, but cancer has devastated his body to such an extent, that his very survival is in question.

For the last five months, we have tried to bring him back to health. The results are uncertain. He may survive, but there is a question of how long and what kind of a life he will have.

As part of that battle, he has spent the last month in either a hospital or Hospice. And that’s when I, too, depended on the kindness of strangers.

When he was in the hospital, I lived away from home, alone in a hotel near the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.

The hotel staff greeted me by name every day. The waitress and restaurant manger remembered that I like iced tea. They asked how my husband was and promised to pray for him. The restaurant manager, Sylvia, chatted with me every morning, offering her moral support. The front desk staff treated me to a lovely cheese and fruit plate one afternoon which was delivered to my up-graded room.

They became my support system and their many kindnesses helped to sustain me every day that I stayed there.

The doctors, nurses and nurses’ aides at the hospital comforted and informed both my husband and me at our bleakest moments. They were gentle and nurturing in their care of my husband. The social worker was an unending source of information and support.

Family members of other patients reached out to me when I sat in a darkened room weeping. One patient hugged me—her body as frail as my husband’s, her thinning hair covered with a bandana. Her sister looked for me every day and we chatted about the burdens we were both carrying. The hospital chaplain saw me and opened the door to allow me to talk about my fears.

When Dan was moved to Hospice House, we were surrounded by the love and nurturing of more strangers, the nurses and staff of Hospice House, who soon became our support system. Their compassionate care and gentle support will never be forgotten.

The presence of these strangers helped me and my husband cope with some of the darkest moments of our lives.

They were all perfect strangers in every sense of the word.




  1. Betty Lisec says:

    Angels unaware!
    So happy that you have this support! You must have felt so alone so much of the time!

  2. Eleanor T. Coan says:

    I am so glad that you were able to find the much needed compassion from strangers when you needed it. My Prayers are with both you aqnd Dan at this trying time. God Bless

  3. Marsha says:

    God bless you and Dan and also the wonderful “angels” who entered your life when you needed them the most. Know you are in our prayers and may you continue to be surrounded with gentle thoughts and hugs from those who care.

  4. Barbara says:


    It’s great to know in times of overwhelming tragedy friends, family and even strangers are there to give you confort and support


  5. Barbara says:

    There are some very kind and caring folks around. I am glad you were surrounded by so many of them at this difficult time. You and Dan are on my prayer list. God Bless.

  6. Melanie says:

    I think these strangers were angels from heaven sent to comfort and support you and Dan at your time of greatest need. I pray that God continues to send these angels. God bless you both.

  7. Bonnie Byrne says:

    Kathy, you are such a “gentle soul” that you naturally attract those light-workers, like yourself! You are always there for whoever needs help, nurturing, loving, or just a pat on the back. My sweet Mom always said, “What goes around, comes around.” You are getting back all that you have so generously given out all of your life. Enjoy it, you have earned it! God bless you and Dan! XX00 Bonnie

  8. Dear Kathy and Dan,
    We pray that family, friends and strangers will continue to support you during these challenges that you face. Kathy, strangers are attracted to help you because you exude warmth and compassion yourself.
    Blessings to you both for strength and courage.
    Bobbi and Al Mastrangelo

  9. About strangers making us welcome:
    All and I have had the good fortune to receive acts of hospitality and kindness from complete stangers.
    We had only been married a few months… We drove from Buffalo to Long Island during our senior college “break.” Our job interviews started the next day. But we were tired and hungry. We stopped at a local restaurant only to find it closed for a party. Disappointed we trudged away.
    “Don’t go!” called a friendly voice.
    The restaurant owners were having a private party before their son went off to service in the military. We were treated as royal guests to great food, drinks and warm hospitality. “Long Island is going to be Great!
    What a way to be welcomed by strangers!”

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