Kind­ness of Strangers

Some­times a sim­ple hug makes all the dif­fer­ence An­drea Gaisa lives in West­ern Aus­tralia, is an artist and writer, and loves yoga and the great out­doors. Her big­gest ad­ven­ture has been learn­ing about the mys­ter­ies of hu­man ex­is­tence through oth­ers and her

Reader's Digest Asia Pacific - - Front Page - BY AN­DREA GAISA

ON A MON­DAY MORN­ING, back in 2015, I re­mem­ber park­ing my car under a shady tree in the carpark out­side my doc­tor’s clinic in Broad­wa­ter, West­ern Aus­tralia. I was ner­vous and care­fully re­hears­ing what I wanted to tell my doc­tor. Heart­break, grief and the loss of the idea of a com­plete fam­ily left me not cop­ing well. I knew that I was de­pressed – it was some­thing I’d ex­pe­ri­enced in the past when life had thrown big chal­lenges my way. I had tried to pick my­self up; tried to throw my­self into my work as an ed­u­ca­tor in be­fore-and-af­ter school care, and also tried to fo­cus on my art. De­spite th­ese ef­forts, my de­pres­sion hadn’t gone away. It kept grow­ing like a cancer in my in­ner world. I wanted a life. I wanted to be healthy as my son, Kai, was de­pend­ing on me. I took a few deep breaths and went to my ap­point­ment.

When I re­turned to my car, an hour and a half later, I got in as quickly as I could, shut the door and started weep­ing un­con­trol­lably. My doc­tor had di­ag­nosed me with se­vere anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion. He said I needed to take sev­eral weeks off work and pre­scribed

an­tide­pres­sants. My life had been turned up­side down: as much as it was a re­lief not to have to keep it to­gether any longer, I was griev­ing the loss of my life as I knew it. I had to make some dras­tic changes in order to get bet­ter.

Still sob­bing, I was star­tled to hear a knock on my car door. A pe­tite lady with short fair hair, prob­a­bly in her 40s, gen­tly opened it and be­gan to speak calm­ingly and kindly to me. “I don’t know what you’re go­ing through right now. But know this, I will pray for you, you are looked af­ter and what you are go­ing through will pass,” she said. “Can I give you a hug?”

There I was, a weep­ing mess, grate­fully ac­cept­ing this kind stranger’s re­as­sur­ing hug. All I man­aged to reply in a choked-up voice was “thank you”.

This was the most sig­nif­i­cant act of kind­ness that I’ve ever ex­pe­ri­enced from a stranger. It gave me hope in the world, in peo­ple and for me. My re­cov­ery started right there.

About a year later, when I was do­ing a lot bet­ter, I bumped into the same kind stranger at the opening of an art ex­hi­bi­tion. She recog­nised me and smiled. She said that she could tell I was do­ing well. We hugged again, and once more I was able to ex­press my ap­pre­ci­a­tion for her ges­ture – this time a lit­tle more ar­tic­u­lately. Share your story about a small act of kind­ness that made a huge im­pact. Turn to page 5 for de­tails on how to con­trib­ute and earn cash.

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