Monday, January 24, 2011

Sometimes I like people I don’t know better than the people I do know

“Sometimes I like people I don’t know better than the people I do know.”

A friend said that to me the other day. I laughed and told her that she was weird, so she gave me an example of a woman who gave her a stack of bus tickets for free because she got them at work and thought my friend seemed like a nice person.

That got me thinking later on about the things people do for others.

There have been many times when people that I do not know offer to help me with things. Just the other day, I was wheeling myself in the rain from the parking lot to my apartment. A couple was walking out from my building. The young woman saw me and rushed towards me. I didn’t even notice it. She quickly came up beside me and held her umbrella over me and walked with me to my apartment so I wouldn’t get wet.

And there were so many times, in the months after my accident and even to this day, that people I hardly knew really made a lasting impression on me. I have received kind words and sometimes guidance via visits, phone calls, e-mails, and messages. I now consider some of these people “angels” or “saints” for me. Those who frequently visited me in the hospital are included. If anyone from my class is reading this, there are some of you who I have the utmost respect for and you may be unaware of it. It may just due to something you said to me or did for me that you do not even remember.

Why does it mean more to us when these people do things for us?

Because we do not expect it. Perhaps we expect too much from the people we know. We want them—sometimes need them—to do things for us. They were there for us in happy times. Shouldn’t they be here us when we need them? We certainly like to think so.

Also, we do not know the flaws of a stranger. Our impression of them is not clouded by the previous things they have said or done. We only know the benevolent action.

Can we not continue to appreciate our friends and those close to us as if each action is being done with purity? The question, “Can you get this for me please? I’d appreciate it,” becomes the statement, “Get that for me,” after a while with those with whom we are close. We seem to lose our gratitude towards them.

But perhaps that’s the sign that people really are close to us. We understand that certain things are not a burden for them. It took me a long time to be able to ask for help from people—even from my close friends. After my accident, I noticed my closest friends becoming frustrated with me when I asked things politely or thanked them for an action. They should know that although I do not thank them often for the things they do, even the smallest things are appreciated by me. I love you all.

And what makes strangers want to do things for us? What do they get out of it? They may not see us again. We can never repay them.

Perhaps that’s it: the purity of intention. Doesn’t it feel great to help someone pick up some papers they dropped, or offer them your seat when they seem tired, or do any other miniscule action? The smile they may or may not give us in return is more than anything tangible we could ever receive.

When everything seems to be falling down around us, instead of hoping someone does something to help us, why not do something for someone else? I know I feel a lot better when I do this.


  1. You honestly inspire me.

  2. nice insight in human nature. thanks for the enlightenment.

  3. You write the best stuff.

  4. this was amazing, hammad! you're a great writer!

  5. that's deep true! thnks for the reminder

  6. That is so true. I randomly stumbled upon this, and was truly touched by your words. I want to thank you so much for sharing what you are going through. Being you is simply making a bigger difference than you are aware of.

  7. I FINALLY FOUND THE POST! I was talking about this one. I remember once going through something, and spilling my problems out to a completely random stranger. It's nice talking to them, because they can't judge you at all and there's really no reason for you to dislike someone who you don't know anything about. Getting to know people you don't know as opposed to people you do know differs in the sense that you are creating this friendship with this stranger on your own. There are no unconscious judgments made based on what others have said about this stranger because the person is a stranger! Why is it so easy, though? They're like blank slates. It can be as little as someone giving us an opinion on a pair of shoes at the store, and we appreciate the company they provide us for that short amount of time. And it can develop into this lasting friendship. Meeting a stranger is like a new opportunity, someone who lets us spill out our fears and secrets, and they help us understand things about us that we didn't even realize on our own. You don't feel regretful or sorry for saying so much to them, because the stranger is similar to you in this case. Sometimes it is nice to get away, and meet new people and have these kinds of people to keep you company.

    That completely went off the topic you were talking about but oh well. Going back to what you were saying, it's always easier to do nice things for strangers. In addition, it's very rewarding doing something nice to someone you don't know. The more anonymous the deed is, the humbler the person ends up to be. Something as little as keeping them company on a short flight or like the examples you mention can indeed mean so much more than you think to someone.